By MATTHEW STEVENS
Mississippi State simply filled a pair of spots on its coaching staff by going down the hallway of the Bryan Building.
The Bulldogs football program announced Thursday afternoon that defensive line coach Chris Wilson was being promoted to defensive coordinator while graduate assistant Angelo Mirando was named the new wide receivers coach.
Wilson, who served as the co-defensive coordinator and defensive line coach in his first season at Mississippi State last year, will be taking over the play-calling duties for Manny Diaz after he left the MSU program for the same job at the University of Texas Wednesday.
“I’m excited about the opportunity to continue what we’ve started here,” Wilson said in the university 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.”
Diaz was introduced officially Thursday as the Longhorns new defensive coordinator replacing Will Muschamp, who left Austin on Dec. 11 to become the next head coach at the University of Florida.
“We're twins philosophically,” Diaz said. “Everybody wins here. Personally it hurts to leave but for the players still there to know everything is still the same is a great burden off them."
With Wilson controlling the defensive line, the Mississippi State defensive front improved against the run by an average of nearly 30 yards per game, and rose in the national rankings from 68th in 2009 to 17th this season. The defense also improved in tackles for loss (from 89th to 17th nationally) and sacks (up from 1.33 per game to 2.00).
“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 the release. “Chris has a great relationship with our players and he’ll make a seamless transition.”
Mullen hired Wilson away from his alma mater at Oklahoma to replace former defensive line coach David Turner on the same day as Diaz last January. For the first few months into the job in at Mississippi State, Wilson and Diaz not only worked but lived together in Starkville.
“Chris is a great teacher and a great man," Diaz said. "He's an honest, says what he means and means what he says type of guy. The players love that."
After telling multiple media outlets he’s re-opening his recruiting options after verbally committing to Mississippi State, four-star linebacker prospect C.J. Johnson from Philadelphia, Miss., texted the Starkville Daily News that he was pleased with the Bulldogs' choice to move Wilson into the defensive coordinator spot.
Johnson has an official visit to MSU on Jan. 14.
The promotion of Wilson represents Mullen’s third different defensive coordinator in his three years at MSU following Carl Torbush in 2009 and Diaz this past season.
“Obviously it shows the direction our program is headed when universities around the nation are trying to emulate the success we’re building, and will continue to build, at Mississippi State,” Mullen said.
On the same day as promoting Wilson, Mississippi State also announced the upgrade of Angelo Mirando from his graduate assistant role to the Bulldogs' full-time wide receivers coach position replacing Mark Hudspeth, who left to become the new head coach at Louisiana-Lafayette before the 2011 Gator Bowl win.
“He reminds me a lot of me at that age,” Mullen said two days before the 2011 Gator Bowl in Jacksonville.
Mirando, 25, played quarterback at Division III Case Western Reserve before graduating in 2008 and has spent the previous three seasons as a graduate assistant under Mullen (one year at Florida and the last two at Mississippi State).
“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 in the school release.
In Hudspeth’s absence, Mirando coached the wide receivers during bowl practices leading up to Mississippi State’s 52-14 victory over Michigan in the 2011 Gator Bowl.
“He knows the offense, he knows the system and has been working with the receivers all year,” Mullen said on Dec. 11. “It’s a great experience for him right now. He’s running a meeting. He’s coaching on the field. He’s going to be a great football coach.”
Playing without a receiver older than a sophomore and dealing with injures to Chad Bumphis and Leon Berry, MSU combined for 14 receptions for 191 yards and three touchdowns.
“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,” Mirando said.
In order to fill the one defensive coaching spot on its staff still left open (Diaz was also the linebackers coach along with being defensive coordinator), Mullen not only announced a national search has begun to fill that vacancy but also suggested Thursday in the university release that the co-defensive coordinator tag may be given to that person as well.