March 1, 2018 10:52:25 AM
STARKVILLE -- After coaching a defensive line that featured two All-Southeastern Conference selections, Jeffery Simmons and Montez Sweat, Brian Baker had every reason to want to come back as Mississippi State's defensive line coach. There was no guarantee that privilege would come in the coaching change from Dan Mullen to Joe Moorhead.
The time crunch applied by the first early signing period in college football may be the reason he has it.
Wednesday's introduction of MSU's new defensive coordinator and safeties coach Bob Shoop, linebackers coach Tem Lukabu and special teams coordinator Joey Jones doubled as the reintroduction of the two from the previous staff Moorhead retained, defensive line coach Brian Baker and cornerbacks coach Terrell Buckley. Both described how they kept their positions.
"When he got hired, he obviously talked to guys on the staff. He and I had a conversation and I thought it was a productive one; he said he had heard a lot of good things about me," Baker said. "I don't know at that point how much he had seen us play, but clearly he heard we played pretty well up front.
"Through his words, body language and those kinds of things, he felt we needed to get to know each other a little better. We did; it just so happens at that point in the year, we needed to go out and get some guys and there were a lot of defensive linemen in that group, a lot of defensive players, so we spent a lot of time together in the car and we got to know each other a little bit."
In the weeks between Mullen's departure and Baker rejoining the interim staff preparing for the TaxSlayer Bowl, Baker was of use in securing the early signings of four-star defensive lineman Jaden Crumedy from Hattiesburg and three-star defensive lineman Devon Robinson from Memphis. It was all that time on the road that helped Baker build the relationship with Moorhead that ultimately led to his retention.
For Buckley, it was having Moorhead as a witness to his work prepping for the TaxSlayer Bowl.
"There's no pitch. You do your job," Buckley said. "They get to see you working and if some other guys fall through or someone has other plans, you're sitting right there.
"When Shoop came on, I thought it was a great fit."
For that reason, and others, Buckley knew he wouldn't hesitate as much as a second in taking the offer if Moorhead approached him with one. He knew his players wanted to see him back, but more than that, he wanted to be back with them. His career as a position coach has seen him leave each school after two seasons, Akron and Louisville before MSU. He wanted to break the trend.
"I finally get to coach guys for more than two years, and that is very exciting to me. That was very, very important to me," Buckley said. "You got your guys calling you, telling you if the opportunity comes...you have to pay attention to that. We're in this business for the relationships we develop with young men, and that had a very, very big part in it.
"(The players) were more excited; it was almost like you have a family member about to go overseas or something and they decide to stay home for another year; and then we get back to work. It showed the appreciation, both ways. They see themselves getting better, they know I'm hard on them, on- and off-the-field, and we have a little relationship on the side, personally."
That prior experience with the program the new staff is inheriting is already proving useful: Shoop said Baker and Buckley have proven vital in, "learning the lay of the land and the way things work around here." All are confident the players will benefit from it, too.
"They already know what time it is, they know what I expect from them and they know what they can expect from me," Baker said.
Follow Dispatch sports writer Brett Hudson on Twitter @Brett_Hudson
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