I've been looking at quite a few candidates for 2015 HC the past few weeks as it had become increasingly clear the Hoke is not the answer; something I think the masses have finally agreed upon after Saturday. I will post a few profiles this week in diaries on what I have found on candidates outside the normal cabal regurgitated over and over. Some candidates I have done a ton of work on - some I have done less on. All are current head coaches as I don't believe we can take a chance on someone who does not have HC experience at the NCAA level unless their name is John Harbaugh.
Normal caveats apply:
- I am not an AD nor do I have a full time staff to focus on one of of the most important decisions over the next decade. These are superficial reports based on raw data. If I were an AD I'd be doing a lot of on the ground work on each of these people's backgrounds starting from their playing days on forward to every coaching stop.
- Past results do not guarantee a damn thing. But that is all we can go on.
- These are not necessarily my top candidates (read: Jim Harbaugh) but people we could get and are interesting and not "Sumlin, Shaw, Gundy redux"
- I believe an elite level coach gets results within 2-3 years, by results I don't mean 11-2 but improving a bad program or maintaining a good program
- W/L record is not the be all and end all - what Gary Barnett did for Northwestern is more impressive than what a lot of coaches have done at USC or Bama or Texas over the years. Spurrier went and won at Duke for example early in his career. Or just see John Beilein.
- Adjust everything for conference, level of competition, and ability to get recruits
- I don't care about systems - a good coach will coach up players. It's about the Jimmy and Joes not the X's and O's.
Next candidate.... Dan Mullen, age: 42
Summary: Dan Mullen is the head football coach of Mississippi State. He has been for 5+ years now. Dan Mullen has a wholly unremarkable record at Miss State. He also is in a no win situation in the toughest division in college football. Dan Mullen has somehow gone from a coach large portions of his fan base wanted gone after 2013's 4-6 start to a man Michigan fans are clamoring for and afraid of losing to Florida if/when they extinguish their current coach. I can only imagine the confusion in Starkville.
I have no idea what Dan Mullen is. I see a team that beats up 3-4 baby seals every year. I see a team that finishes either 4th or 5th every year in its division; one that was only 6 teams deep until Texas A&M joined the SEC. I see a team that beats up on the bottom tier SEC teams - the ones that finish in 6th in the West and 6th/7th in the East division, to get to their annual 7 or 8 wins. They then proceed to get blased out of the water most of the time when facing the top tier SEC teams. There is no shame in that. But there is no great coaching greatness in that either. In fact, if Mullen's counterpart in Mississippi was not so dirty (allegedly!) I'd consider Hugh Freeze to be a way more interesting candidate.
Dan Mullen may be the greatest coach on Earth or average or ho hum. It is almost impossible to figure it out in his situation. But since he is so well received in our community I thought I'd do a write up for him.
Recent (10 years) coaching background
- 2005-2008: OC/QB at Florida
- 2009-2014: HC at Miss ST
Analysis: Well he doesn't hop around. Before 2005 he was with Urban Meyer at Utah as a QB coach. He then came with Urban to Florida after Zook was kicked to the curb. This was the era of Mullen as OC and Charlie Strong/Mattison as co-DC. He was hired at Miss St and took over in 2009. Pretty simple.
Many claim Mullen has "Midwest roots" so UM should be all over him, but where you are born has little to do with where your connections are. Mullen has been in the south for nearly a decade. His only Midwest jobs outside of a graduate assistant were 2 years at Bowling Green with ... well Urban Meyer. So if 2 years at Bowling Green 12 years ago and being born in Pennsylvania is your idea of a guy who is going to come into Ohio and Illinois and PA and kick behind on recruiting, then Mullen is your man.
Caveat for results ----> (a) nothing exists in a vacuum (b) as a coordinator you can benefit or be penalized if your HC is good or bad or average (c) injuries or graduation can change your results dramatically in any 1 year. This is the type of stuff you'd research as an AD staff on every potential candidate.
I will break down his results at 2 time frames - OC at Florida, HC at Miss St.
(1) OC at Florida
It is always tough with a VERY successful head coach to determine how much impact the coordinators are having. Alex Smith was at Utah and did very well - was that due to Meyer or Mullen? Chris Leak and Tebow were at UF - was that due to Meyer and Mullen? I can't tell you how many coaches Brett Favre made rich when they said "I developed Brett Favre!" I always go in favor of the HC in these cases especially if said HC has had success with multiple coordinators. But below you see the last year of Zook (2004) and then Mullen's 4 years with first Chris Leak and then Tim Tebow.
|W/L||Tot Off||Tot Def|
Zook actually had a pretty darn good offense down there at Florida but obviously Urban's spread was a different animal and there were struggles during one transition year. But then they got back to a top 20 type offense the last 3 years of Mullen's reign with 2 decorated QBs.
This was enough for Miss St to come calling with an offer
(2) HC at Miss State
Miss St is in the SEC West, at the time a 6 team division where Arkansas is up and down, Ole Miss is mediocre, Miss State is mediocre, LSU is generally good to great (once Saban arrived), and Auburn and Alabama (along with LSU) took turns being champions - at least over the last 20 years. Then A&M was added a few years back.
Mullen came in for Sylvestor Croom who actually did some good things with Miss State but fell badly in his last season and exited stage right. Here is Mullen's record and offensive and defensive rankings versus Croom's last year.
|W/L||Tot Off||Tot Def|
Croom had a horrible offense his last year at Miss St, which Mullen came in and imroved to average/meh level. From there, we see mixed results. Despite his "offensive guru" status Miss State's offense had 2 quite bad years down in the 80 range. And topped out in the 40s.
Defensively, Croom left a good defense. Mullen has basically continued that - please adjust for some very good SEC offenses which makes the results a bit better than just the raw data.
My concern here is most elite coaches will be very good on one side of the ball or the other. See MSU which focuses on defense, see Oregon which focuses on offense. Miss State is not "top end" on either - its decent to average on both offense and defense.
In terms of recruiting Miss State recruits on average rank 33 over the past 5 years. That is similar to say Michigan State/Wisconsin level. Ole Miss has beaten them soundly on the recruiting trail the past 3-4 years almost always finishing 10-20 spots better. Again with Hugh Freeze caveats.
Analysis of wins and losses
I am adding this section specifically for Mullen because of his propensity to beat baby seals and bad SEC teams and lose to good SEC teams. So basically Miss State "does what it is supposed to do". Compare that to say Harbaugh who had a doormat in Stanford but by year 3 of his era, despite a 8-5 record, rose up to kick the teeth in of some very good teams (I see you USC). I'd be more excited about Mullen if he did that - even if his record was 8-5 or 9-4 one of those wins every year was a beatdown of a top 3 SEC team. That doesn't happen. Usually when he beats a "brand name" team it is in a down year for said team.
Everyone is excited about this win vs LSU last week but LSU lost EVERY skill position player to the NFL draft last year on offense. In the first half v Wisconsin the LSU offense was a complete joke - and until Wisconsin began losing its DL, LSU was comatose. Let's see how the season turns out but I have a feeling this is more like a 8-5 LSU team then a 11-2 LSU team.
List of wins year by year
- 2009: Jackson State, (2-10) Vanderbilt, Middle Tenn State, (7-6) Kentucky, (9-4) #20 Miss State.
- 2010: Memphis, (6-7) Georgia, Alcorn State, Houston, (8-5) Florida, UAB, Kentucky, (4-8) Ole Miss, Michigan
- 2011: Memphis, LA Tech, UAB, Kentucky, Tennessee-Martin, (2-10) Ole Miss
- 2012: Jackson State (3-9) Auburn, Troy, South Alabama, Kentucky, (5-7) Tennessee, Middle Tennessee, (4-8) Arkansas
- 2013: Alcorn State, Troy, Bowling Green, Kentucky, (3-9) Arkansas, (8-5) Ole Miss, (10-4) Rice
List of losses year by year
- 2009: Auburn, LSU, Georgia Tech, Houston, Florida, Alabama, Arkansas
- 2010: Auburn, LSU, Alabama, Arkansas
- 2011: Auburn, LSU, Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama, Arkansas
- 2012: Alabama, Texas A&M, LSU, Ole Miss, Northwestern
- 2013: Oklahoma State, Auburn, LSU, South Carolina, Texas A&M, Alabama
So let's review the data since it is important. In 5 years his most impressive wins were (year 1) 9-4 Ole Miss (year 2) 8-5 Florida which was 4-4 in the SEC, and (year 5) 8-5 Ole Miss and 10-4 Rice. Those are his 4 major wins in 5 years. Add this year's LSU if you'd like - we have no idea what that LSU is yet.
10.5 months ago many in the Miss St fan base wanted him out - he was 4-6 with his 4 wins: Alcorn State, Bowling Green, Troy, and 2-10 Kentucky.
Again I don't expect Miss State to beat Alabam more than once every 5 years but ... do it once. Beat an Auburn team in any year it is not 3-9. He is now 1-5 vs LSU. Even some average Houston Nutt Arkansas teams seemed to give him trouble.
This is a guy we are going to get to beat OSU and MSU? And eventually take us to the playoffs to beat - err Alabama, Auburn, A&M, LSU?
For all I know in 10 years we will look back and see Dan Mullen is the next Nick Saban. But right now I don't see a shred of evidence to support that. He has 2 wins over a good not great Ole Miss, an average Florida, and Rice as his trademark wins in 5 years. He does recruit in a hotbed area of the country and certainly he does not get the pick of the litter but his buddy at Ole Miss is recruiting circles around him. (fairly or otherwise)
He is young, makes $3.2M annually and apparently has "Midwest roots", so somehow has a "Big 10 footprint" associated with him for those 2 years at Bowling Green.
If this is a man both Florida and Michigan are going to be fighting hand and tooth over... a coach many Miss State fans wanted out of the program 11 months ago....I guess I just have a very weird way to analyze elite level success. I don't see it here.