Dan Mullen and Ed Orgeron’s relationship goes back 20 years — even if it was that brief encounter in upstate New York.
“My first day as a grad assistant at Syracuse University, Ed was on his way out the door from being the D-line coach at Syracuse,” said Mullen, Mississippi State’s ninth-year coach. “He probably doesn’t remember me a lot from back then, but our paths crossed for two days.”
They’ll cross again Saturday night in Starkville, when Mullen’s Bulldogs (2-0) meet Orgeron’s 12th-ranked Tigers (2-0) in the Southeastern Conference opener for both teams.
The two coaches overlapped briefly after the 1997, with Mullen joining the Orange as an offensive GA and Orgeron then leaving Syracuse for the defensive line job at Southern Cal.
The coaches are close enough that Mullen invited Orgeron to speak at the program’s high school coaches clinic in the spring of 2014. Orgeron, then out of coaching after leaving Southern Cal, hung around to watch the Bulldogs practice, too.
About five months later, that Mississippi State team beat LSU in Tiger Stadium for the first time since 1991.
“He kind of hung out with our staff, hung out with us and watched some practice and talked some ball and things he liked that he saw. Got his advice on what he saw. Those are some great things, especially in spring practice,” Mullen said.
“You have somebody from the outside that’s a great veteran coach like Ed to come in and hang out with you for a day or two. They see things in a different light sometimes that you’re not seeing because you’re there every day.”
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Orgeron lingered long enough to recall that State defense earlier this week.
“I was amazed at the size of their defense and their defensive line,” he said. “They put out NFL players there. And the thing about Mississippi, as we all know, it may be a five-star player but you can also get a two-star player from the delta that nobody knows about. And he gains about 30 pounds and he's an excellent football player. A great state to recruit, especially in that area.”
Orgeron would know. He coached Ole Miss for three seasons, signing a host of Mississippi-bred players who helped coach Houston Nutt reached back-to-back Cotton Bowls following Orgeron’s firing in 2007.
Mullen and Orgeron raved about one another this week. Mullen runs a “tremendous” program, Orgeron said, and Mullen called Orgeron a “great motivator” who he’s happy to see be given a second chance as a head coach.
At least twice, Mullen attempted to hire Orgeron to his Mississippi State staff. It was widely reported after the 2014 season that Orgeron turned down Mullen to join coach Les Miles’ staff as defensive line coach.
After the 2015 season, Mullen pursued Orgeron to be his defensive coordinator. LSU promoted Orgeron to recruiting coordinator and gave him a boost in salary.
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