January 7, 2011 9:03:00 AM
STARKVILLE -- When Dan Mullen talks about building Mississippi State''s football program, one word always comes up: family.
So when former defensive coordinator Manny Diaz accepted a job at Texas, the obvious choice to succeed him was co-defensive coordinator Chris Wilson.
Thursday, Mullen announced the promotion of Wilson, who becomes his third defensive coordinator since taking over in December 2008, and Angelo Mirando, who moves up from graduate assistant to wide receivers coach.
Wilson coached defensive line and had a active role in game-planning under Diaz, with whom he shared an identical defensive philosophy.
The Bulldogs'' vast defensive improvement this season started with the pressure-based scheme hammered out by Diaz and Wilson, who spent the entire spring living together before their families moved in the summer.
Mullen hopes his decision to keep it in the family helps MSU''s defense take a step forward.
"Chris is a talented and knowledgeable coach with a wealth of experience, and we intend to build upon what our defense did this past season," Mullen said in a release. "Chris has a great relationship with our players and he''ll make a seamless transition."
The Bulldogs finished 22nd nationally in scoring defense (19.85 points per game) and 17th in the country in tackles for a loss. The Bulldogs also finished 17th nationally in rushing defense.
In 2009, MSU''s defense finished 71st in scoring defense, 62nd in rushing defense and 89th in tackles for a loss.
Wilson spent five seasons coaching defensive line and special teams at Oklahoma, where he helped the Sooners finish seventh nationally in points allowed and eighth in the country in total defense.
"I''m excited about the opportunity to continue what we''ve started here," Wilson said in the release. "I''m thankful to Coach Mullen for the opportunity and I know we can build something special here at Mississippi State. There''s still a great deal of improvement to make, and we''re looking forward to hitting the ground running both in recruiting and when we get back to the practice fields."
Mirando, who played quarterback at Case-Western Reserve, spent 2008 as a graduate assistant at Florida and the last two seasons as the on-the-field graduate assistant at MSU.
Mirando, 25, coached MSU''s wide receivers during Gator Bowl preparations after Mark Hudspeth accepted the head coach job at Louisiana-Lafayette.
"Coach Mullen has been a great mentor to me the past few years and I''m looking forward to continuing to build this program to a championship level," Mirando said. "We''ve got a great group of young receivers that I''ve enjoyed working with this year and we''ll hit the ground running in the spring to get a whole lot better in 2011."
MSU receivers recorded 14 catches for 191 yards and three touchdowns in MSU''s 52-14 Gator Bowl win over Michigan. The Bulldogs played the Gator Bowl without leading receiver Chad Bumphis and senior Leon Berry, leaving three sophomores and a freshman as MSU''s top wideouts.
The Bulldogs'' passing game caught fire toward the end of the season, averaging 264 yards during their last three games.
Though Wilson and Mirando were unavailable for comment Monday, Diaz offered a glowing endorsement of his former assistant.
"Number one, he''s a great person, which is crucial," Diaz said. "Second, he''s a great leader. A great leader of men. The players have a great deal of respect for him. I think the third thing, he''s a great teacher. Those are all the things you want, and he fits all the markings."
Diaz was pleased to see Wilson succeed him, as players won''t have to learn a new system.
"Philosophically, we fell out of the same tree," Diaz said. "The last thing you want to do is have to re-teach a new scheme year in and year out. That''s one of the best parts of Chris getting the job. He knows the kids, the recruiting, and there''s a great core of kids coming back."
1. Southern Mississippi beats MSU in Pearl COLLEGE SPORTS
2. Mississippi players help MSU grow softball in state COLLEGE SPORTS
3. Tight ends could play bigger role for Mullen's Bulldogs COLLEGE SPORTS
4. Energized Bulldogs push on to Sweet 16 LOCAL COLUMNS
5. New Hope loses to Oxford in region opener HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS