January 12, 2013 10:56:27 PM
Matthew Stevens - firstname.lastname@example.org
STARKVILLE -- Change is something Dan Mullen thought had to happen.
The Mississippi State University football coach looked at the way his team lost five of its last six games this season and felt it would have been passed by in the Southeastern Conference if it stayed on the course it was on.
"You don't make a change to make a change," Mullen said Friday in the new Leo Seal Family Football Facility. "You change to continue to move in the right direction. Even if you stay the same, the world around you is getting better or worse."
The changes came into focus Friday, as David Turner was hired to replace Chris Wilson and Deshea Townsend was hired to replace Melvin Smith.
Another change that was announced earlier this month was the promotion of Geoff Collins to defensive coordinator. Collins also will coach the linebackers.
Turner, who was defensive line coach at MSU from 2007-09, takes over for Wilson, who worked as co-defensive coordinator and defensive line coach. Former MSU coach Sylvester Croom hired Turner in 2007. Mullen retained Turner when arrived for his first season with the Bulldogs.
Townsend, a former NFL and University of Alabama defensive back, takes the place of Smith, who left to take the same job at Auburn University. A 13-year NFL veteran with Pittsburgh Steelers and Indianapolis Colts, Townsend won Super Bowls with the Steelers in 2006 and 2009. He spent last season as an assistant coach with the NFL's Arizona Cardinals before management opted not to retain coach Ken Whisenhunt and his coaching staff.
"It just seemed like the right fit," Townsend told Head to Head radio Friday afternoon about coming to MSU. "I had a great time when I was down there for my visit. It did feel like (a recruiting visit)."
Townsend's addition comes less than a month before National Signing Day on Feb. 6. His efforts as a recruiter will be key as MSU works to complete a class that 247Sports.com rates 14th. However, Townsend said Friday he hadn't taken the NCAA mandated recruiting exam required by all coaches.
"I just know what not to do," Townsend said. "It's not much different than when I was being recruited a while ago in the sense that I knew when coaches were doing something wrong when they'd recruit me."
This will be Collins' second stint as defensive coordinator. He served in the same capacity at Florida International University. His defense led the Sun Belt Conference in total defense, scoring defense, pass efficiency defense, and turnover margin. For his efforts, Collins was a finalist for the Broyles Award, which is given annually to the nation's top assistant coach. His salary last season was $287,700.
Turner is expected to be asked to work in a different scheme than the one he last worked in at MSU before he left in 2009 for the same position at the University of Kentucky.
"Like any head coach, after a year or two you grow into the position," Turner said after laughing nervously. "He's matured as a head coach, and I'd like to think I've changed as a coach as well and gotten better. Hopefully we're working on the same goals, which is take this program as high as it can take it."
With the opening of the Leo Seal Family Football Facility, the program's $25 million new home, two new assistants coaches, and a new recruiting class to introduce next month, MSU will have to prove in the spring and in 2013 that change was a good thing.
"We evaluated it and thought we're going to have to tweak some things, and I think you saw that in the bowl game on the defensive side of the ball on how we made adjustments," Mullen said. "As I reflect on this year, the program's going in the direction I want it to go, which is the opportunity to continue to win football games, to put ourselves in the discussion as the season wears on to go and compete for conference championships, which is our ultimate goal."