When Dan Mullen decided it was time to move on, one of the first things we did at FootballScoop was to reach out to a few connections who know Mississippi State athletic director John Cohen to ask what kind of a coach he would be interested in.
Several coaches and administrators responded in roughly the same way, “He’s a ball coach. He’s going to hire a ball coach.”
Mississippi State isn’t looking for a preacher, they are looking for a roll up your sleeves, get to work, bring great energy and enthusiasm in every aspect of your daily life type guy. He’s got to be smart, but there is no doubt the next head coach of the Bulldogs will come to work…and he’ll be scrappy.
With that said, over the past few days word has begun to trickle in of some of the men asked to interview for the position. We hear Jeremy Pruitt was invited, as was Brent Venables. Former State defensive coordinator Manny Diaz is also rumored to be a candidate. If you’re going with a defensive minded coach, those are three of the best available candidates. While all three are top defensive coordinators, Pruitt knows the recruiting area, high school coaches and players like the back of his hand (and would hurt State’s neighbor to the East by taking their defensive coordinator). Venables, a Broyles award and FootballScoop Defensive Coordinator of the Year (as selected by former winners of the award), is salt of the earth, as good a man and coach as you will find. Diaz has history at State and is seen by all in the profession as a rising star, ready for his turn.
From the other side of the ball, names we’ve heard that Cohen asked to interview include Joe Moorhead and Chad Morris. The parallels between Moorhead and Mullen are striking. Moorhead also checks the “ball coach” box. He can outsmart you; but he definitely won’t be outworked either. Morris, who dominated college football defenses as the offensive coordinator at Clemson, has resurrected SMU football from the dead (well, from how June Jones left it at least). Morris can sell (anything to anyone) but also has parallels to Mississippi State (as does Venables) of working at a university hours removed from any sort of “major” city. Both Mississippi State and Clemson built beautiful football facilities to woo talent and are seeing the results on the field.
We understand a number of agents are still working the phones asking for interviews for their clients so we might see another interesting candidate or two get an audience and as they say, “If I get in front of the man, I’m getting that job.”
One interesting whisper we’ve heard is that Larry Fedora might be considered for the position. Fedora had a great run at Southern Miss before ascending to his current position at North Carolina. Word has been that Fedora has been eyeing SEC opportunities for the past year or so. Perhaps this is the one. Larry Fedora most definitely fits the “ball coach” description as well.
Stay tuned as we expect this one to wrap up in the next 48 hours. We’re told Cohen relies heavily on his intuition. When he sees and hears from “his man” he’ll know it and will be decisive.
As always, stay tuned to The Scoop for the latest in coaching job information.