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Arkansas Losing D-Coordinator Ash To Ohio State

chris-ashWhen Urban Meyer arrived at Ohio State two seasons ago, he ruffled the feathers of then-Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema by attempting to woo committed prospects from the Badgers to the Buckeyes.  Wonder how Bielema feels today knowing that Meyer has lured away his defensive coordinator?

Chris Ash — named the Hogs D-coordinator in December of 2012 – is pulling up stakes and joining Ohio State’s staff as co-defensive coordinator.  Ash is the second key coach to leave Arkansas’ defensive staff this offseason.  Charlie Partridge became the head coach at Florida Atlantic.

Here’s the irony in UA losing two coaches from it’s defense — it’s defense struggled in 2013.  The Razorbacks ranked 12th in the SEC in scoring defense (30.8 points per game allowed), 9th in total defense, 11th in rushing defense, and 11th in passing defense.

Bielema attempted to calm any Razorback fan who might be concerned that their defensive coordinator had bolted after one year by tweeting the following: “Have always felt transition on my staff has allowed us to get even better.  Have had success hiring right people and will again.”

He then added: “Very happy for former coaches that decide to move to new challenges, the respect our staff gets nationally will continue to grow.”

Sounds good, but Bielema has previously stated that one of the main reasons he left Wisconsin — in addition to coaching in Barry Alvarez’ shadow — was that school’s unwillingness to pony up big cash to retain assistants.  One can’t blame Partridge for taking a head coaching job, but Ash’s move is different.  Granted, Ohio State is closer to a national title right now than Arkansas, but the Razorbacks — as Bobby Petrino proved — are capable of competing at an awfully high level, too.  And Ash will be moving from a coordinator position to that of a co-coordinator.  In other words, it’s likely the Buckeyes offered the ex-Hog coach more money.

This leaves Bielema in the position of trying to find a new coordinator.  Or does it?  Former Miami (FL) and NFL defensive coordinator Randy Shannon is already on the Arkansas staff, serving in the role of linebackers coach.  Ash worked with the safeties at Arkansas so there is some wiggle room if Shannon fills the coordinator slot.  Taver Johnson, cornerbacks coach, could take over the secondary in full, leaving room for a new linebackers coach to be filled.  Or Shannon could continue to work with the linebackers as coordinator and Bielema could hire another safeties coach.  Or he could just bring in a new coordinator altogether.

One name to keep an eye on?  The once rising star, Manny Diaz.  Diaz has coached safeties and linebackers and became a hot name nationally while briefly serving as Mississippi State’s defensive coordinator.  Mack Brown tossed him overboard midseason in 2013.  He should have recruiting ties to the Lone Star State after three years on the Longhorn staff.

Bielema hired Samford defensive line coach Rory Segrest to replace Partridge.

Ash had worked for Bielema for four seasons, including the coach’s final three years at Wisconsin.


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UT’s Wilcox The Frontrunner For Arizona State?

Yesterday, it looked like June Jones had the Arizona State job in hand.  Rumors hit the messageboards that Jones would target a top defensive coordinator so he could focus on his offense and the name that got the most play was that of Tennessee’s Justin Wilcox.

A day later, Jones is heading back to SMU with his tail between his legs and Wilcox is reportedly a hot candidate for the head coaching job himself.

John Gambadoro of KTAR-AM in Phoenix tweeted the following this afternoon:

“While its impossible to determine how many cooks are in the ASU kitchen — I am being told that Tenn DC Wilcox is a frontrunner for the job”

Wilcox is a West Coast guy having played at Oregon and coached at California and Boise State.  Derek Dooley — who had coached against Wilcox in the WAC — lured him to Knoxville where in his second year he had Tennessee ranked #28 in the nation in total defense and #35 in scoring defense.  Not bad considering the youth and inexperience on UT’s roster.

Last offseason, Texas made a run at Wilcox before settling on Manny Diaz as defensive coordinator.

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Hudspeth Pulls Name From UM Search; Manning Wants Process Done Soon

You can scratch Mark Hudspeth’s name from the list of potential Ole Miss candidates.  Louisiana-Lafayette’s coach — who reportedly interviewed with the Rebels’ search committee on Sunday — has pulled his name from consideration, according to David Johnson of 

Hudspeth — a former assistant under Dan Mullen before moving to UL — “alluded to Johnson” that the committee led him to believe “that Hudspeth’s ties to Mississippi State were an issue.”

If that’s true, then Texas defensive coordinator Manny Diaz might come off the list, too, due to the year he served in Starkville.

Archie Manning has told The Memphis Commercial Appeal that he “very much wants to” have a candidate to take to UM chancellor Dan Jones within two-and-a-half weeks.

“We’re moving fast as we can,” Manning said.  “We’ve conducted some interviews on the phone and in person, and we’ll conduct some more this week.  There are some coaches still playing some games this upcoming weekend that we want to interview.  There are some coaches we’re interested in that didn’t coach this year.”

The coaches still coaching this weekend are likely Larry Fedora of Southern Miss and Hugh Freeze of Arkansas State.

As far as men who weren’t coaching this year, Mike Leach does not appear to be a candidate and Rich Rodriguez has already landed the job at Arizona.

So here’s one for the messageboarders to have some fun with — Who did Archie’s boy, Peyton, play for at Tennessee?  A currently out-of-coaching Phillip Fulmer.

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SEC Headlines – 8/30/11 Part Two

1.  Onterio McCalebb is listed ahead of Mike Dyer on Auburn’s Week One depth chart.

2.  The Tigers have 27 underclassmen listed in their two-deep.  Yeah, 27.

3.  Gene Chizik is talking up big, bad Utah State.

4.  Nick Saban doesn’t want his dueling quarterbacks to be looking over their shoulders on Saturday.

5.  Bama receiver Duron Carter declared “FINALLY! COMING TO A STADIUM NEAR U” on Twitter following his admittance to school.

6.  The head coach likes the attitude of his new Crimson Tide team.

7.  Arkansas won’t have to rely on as many freshman as it did in 2010.

8.  Overall, there weren’t many surprises on the Hogs’ depth chart.

9.  After a good preseason camp, new quarterback Tyler Wilson’s true test begins on Saturday.

10.  LSU will lean on experienced backups to replace injured O-lineman Josh Dworaczyk.

11.  Backup quarterback Jarrett Lee will once again be pulling the trigger for the Tigers.

12.  That’s a good thing, because this writer doesn’t believe now is the time for Jordan Jefferson to return.

13.  As bad as things have been in Baton Rouge in recent weeks, there are some bright spots.

14.  Ole Miss will be looking for a little better start than last year’s loss to FCS-level Jacksonville State.

15.  Houston Nutt wonders how much can the Rebels get out of defensive end Kentrell Lockett on Saturday.

16.  UM’s coach also believes his squad can improve on last year’s turnover margin.

17.  MSU quarterback Chris Relf appears primed for a breakout season.

18.  But Dan Mullen says his signal-caller has “still got a ways to go.”

19.  Just because D-coordinator Manny Diaz has gone to Texas, don’t expect the Dogs to change their blitz-happy ways.

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All Spots Will Be Up For Grabs At MSU This Spring

With spring practice kicking off tomorrow at Mississippi State, Dan Mullen says there’ll be competition across the board for starting jobs.  Even at quarterback.

“It should be a wide open race.  I think you’ll see everybody repping with every groups, just rolling quarterbacks through.”

Last year’s starter, Chris Relf, finished the season with a scintillating performance in the Gator Bowl versus Michigan — 18 of 23 passing for 281 yards, plus 30 more yards rushing and a total of 4 touchdowns.

As for concerns, the Dogs will have two new assistant coaches and Chris Wilson will take over for Manny Diaz as defensive coordinator.  But it’s the loss of some key defensive players that concern Mullen.

“Not seeing Pernell McPhee, KJ Wright and Chris White are going to have me a lot more concerned than any lack of coaches or different coaches out there on the field.”

UPDATE — The threat of bad weather in Starkville forced MSU to start spring practice today rather than tomorrow.  So congratulations, SEC fans.  It’s already time to talk football again.

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MSU Promotes Wilson To Replace Diaz

As expected, last year’s co-defensive coordinator will become this year’s plain ol’ defensive coordinator at Mississippi State.

Dan Mullen announced via release this morning that defensive line coach Chris Wilson will replace Manny Diaz as the Bulldogs’ lead D-coordinator.  But MSU still needs to find a replacement for Diaz the linebacker coach.  Whoever the new linebacker coach is will carry the co-coordinator title that belonged to Wilson this past season.

Mullen also promoted graduate assistant Angelo Mirando to replace receivers coach Mark Hudspeth.

Hudspeth left State to become the head coach at Louisiana-Lafayette.  Diaz left Starkville to become the defensive coordinator at Texas.

Before joining Mullen’s staff last offseason, Wilson spent five years on Bob Stoops’ staff at Oklahoma.

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Diaz Leaves MSU For Texas; But Not All’s Bad At MSU

It’s just not easy for traditional second-tier programs to become top-tier programs.  First you have to find the right head coach.  Then he has to find the right players and the right assistants.  Then they all have to mesh together well.

But as soon as that happens — and for a lot of school that never happens — the traditional top-tier programs start circling like buzzards over roadkill.

In the case of Mississippi State, the buzzards this offseason have included Miami and Texas.  And while the Bulldogs have now lost defensive coordinator Manny Diaz to the Longhorns, the upside is that MSU is now winning enough to get noticed by the big boys.

Fans don’t like losing coaches to other programs, but it beats the hell out of losing games instead.

No one in Starkville should blame Diaz for leaving.  Texas is one of the top five programs in the country.  They have deep pockets and a deeper recruiting base.  They have a history of winning and play in a watered-down league that now (sans championship game) offers an easy route to BCS bowls.  In addition, assistants at Texas move on to head coaching jobs (see: Gene Chizik and Will Muschamp).  MSU simply couldn’t match what Mack Brown had to offer.  Most schools couldn’t.

So now MSU is left looking for a new defensive coordinator — who will be the school’s fifth in five years — as well as a replacement for receivers coach Mark Hudspeth.

The defensive coordinator slot will likely go to co-coordinator Chris Wilson.  In fact, Dan Mullen has already told one recruit that Wilson will get the job.  That should make for at least some continuity as the Bulldogs transition to yet another new DC.

But the bottom line is this: Other schools don’t come sniffing around unless you’re winning.  Winning, by default, increases the chances that those who are leading your school to victory will leave. 

But it’s better to have won games and lost coaches… than never to have won games at all.

I think Tennyson wrote that.

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Report: Diaz Accepts Texas DC Job — the Scout site for the University of Texas — is reporting that Mississippi State defensive coordinator Manny Diaz has agreed to take over the same role at Texas.

Diaz was in Austin interviewing for the job yesterday.

Diaz gave a brief quote to The Starkville Daily News earlier today when he arrived back in Mississippi:

“I’d imagine in the next couple of days this whole thing will get sorted out, one way or another.”

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MSU’s Diaz To Texas “Close To A Done Deal” — the Rivals site covering the University of Texas — reports that Mississippi State defensive coordinator Manny Diaz is inching closer to making the move from Starkville to Austin.

Diaz and his wife were both on the Texas campus yesterday spending time with Mack Brown and his wife.

According to the site:

“Two sources indicated to us on Tuesday that they feel Diaz was offered the UT defensive coordinator position, and though neither had heard direct confirmation from Diaz or anyone at UT, they both felt like Diaz to Texas was close to a done deal.”

Dan Mullen and MSU officials are keeping their mouths closed.  Citing a new athletic department policy, they are refusing to comment on any coach rumored to be talking with another school.

Diaz makes $260,000 a year at State, though he’s certain to get a bump for his first-year efforts if he stays.

Diaz was the defensive coordinator at Middle Tennessee State in 2009.  That’s not a bad rise to the top — MTSU ’09, MSU ’10, Texas 2011 — if he decides to make it.

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Lost Yards Per Game A Key To MSU Success

If there’s one thing coaches can’t stand it’s lost yardage.  Penalty yards.  Sack yards.  Moving backwards is a key no-no at every level of football.

We wanted to see which SEC squads are the best — and worst — when it comes to surrendering yardage.  Below you’ll see the data from SEC games only.  You’ll find which teams have lost the most yardage to penalties, to sacks and to the two combined.  We then take the total number of lost yards and compare it to SEC games played.  This will show you which teams have the most to overcome as a result of their own errors.

Lost Yardage Rankings

SEC Rank
Sack Yds
Penalty Yds
Total Lost Yds
Games Played
Lost Yds/Game
Miss. State
Ole Miss
S. Carolina

* Mississippi State’s 7-2 record has more to do with its defense than its offense.  Manny Diaz’ crew has been formidable while the offense has been pedestrian.  But that offense has avoided moving in reverse… and that’s been key.  If you don’t have a superstar tailback or a strong-armed quarterback, you can’t afford to surrender yardage.  MSU hasn’t.

* South Carolina, Auburn, Alabama and Arkansas all give away yards like suburbanites tossing candy on Halloween.  Together they are a combined 17-5 in SEC play.  Imagine what their records might look like had they not had so many penalties stepped off against them.

* Florida and Tennessee have proven to be the anti-MSUs.  The Gators have talent on offense, but not enough so to make up for nearly 67 lost yards per game.  They are 3-3 in conference play.  The Volunteers, on the other hand, don’t have much talent or depth.  It has been impossible for them to cede nearly 73 yards per game to their foes.  Not surprisingly, the Vols stand at 0-5 in league play.

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