Auburn, Mississippi State taking calculated risks in hiring head coaches

By David Moorman  |   Thursday, December 18, 2008  |  Comments( 1 )

College Football
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Not that it will have any bearing on their future performance, but the two most recent head coaching hires in the Southeastern Conference have Florida ties.

It’s been widely documented that Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen spent the previous four years as Florida’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. But Auburn’s Gene Chizik actually graduated from Florida in 1985 with a degree in education. A native of Clearwater, Fla., Chizik began his coaching career at nearby Seminole High School.

It wasn’t so much Chizik’s roots that swayed Auburn, though, as it was Chizik’s previous work on The Plains. Chizik was Auburn’s defensive coordinator from 2002-04 and helped guide the Tigers to a 13-0 record in 2004.

Not to be outdone, Mullen distinguished himself as an offensive mastermind at Florida. The Gators have led the SEC in average points and yards per game the last two years. They won the SEC championship this season with an average of 45.2 points and 442.4 yards per game. Of course, that’s having Tim Tebow as your quarterback. How Mullen will fare with someone of lesser talent is another matter.

It’s now up to Mullen and Chizik to oversee their programs' entire operation, which is another matter in itself.

Mullen has yet to be in that position, while Chizik wasn’t doing so well as Iowa State’s head coach. In two years under Chizik, the Cyclones were just 5-19.

Either way, their new employers seem to be gambling that Chizik and Mullen can prove critics wrong.

For Mississippi State, the move was understandable. The Bulldogs don’t rate as one of the SEC’s premier programs, so for them it’s a coup even to get an assistant from a team playing for the national championship.

Auburn, on the other hand, figured to come up with a more marquee name. Then again, maybe the Tigers know something that others don’t.

Having once lived and studied in Florida, Chizik might find that some of the Gators’ karma has rubbed off on him.

EXTRA POINTS: LSU coach Les Miles has said he won’t make any changes to his coaching staff until after the Tigers play Georgia Tech in the Chick-fil-A Bowl on New Year’s Eve. LSU’s defense came under fire for a drop-off in production with first-year co-coordinators Bradley Dale Peveto and Doug Mallory.

The 1979 Alabama squad was voted the SEC’s all-time best team at SEC Fan Fest in conjunction with the conference title game. The Crimson Tide that year finished 12-0, won the last of coach Paul “Bear” Bryant’s six national championships and led the league in rushing offense, total offense, rushing defense, pass defense and total defense.
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About David Moorman

Dave Moormann is an award-winning journalist, who has covered LSU athletics since 1980. He began his coverage with the Baton Rouge Advocate, where he was a writer and editor from 1980-98. In 1996, he authored a book on the history of LSU football entitled, "Fighting Tigers Handbook: Stories, Stats...
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