SEC: Carl Torbush

Coordinators coming and going in the SEC

December, 14, 2009
Coordinators are coming, going and being wooed in the SEC at a dizzying rate.

At this point, it’s difficult to find a team in the league that hasn’t been affected.

The latest one on the move is Mississippi State defensive coordinator Carl Torbush, who’s going to Kansas to be Turner Gill’s defensive coordinator. Torbush was at Mississippi State for one season under Dan Mullen. This will be Torbush’s six different job as a defensive coordinator in college football. He’s also been a head coach at both North Carolina and Louisiana Tech.

Alabama offensive coordinator Jim McElwain has talked with San Jose State about its head coaching opening, and Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart is one of the hottest coaching commodities in the league.

Georgia coach Mark Richt fired defensive coordinator Willie Martinez earlier this month, and the Bulldogs had Smart at the top of their list. But it looks like Smart, the Broyles Award winner, is staying put for the time being.

The reality is that Smart is going to be in line for a bunch of head coaching opportunities in the next year or two.

Ole Miss defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix met with Florida coach Urban Meyer last week and was offered the Gators’ defensive coordinator’s job after Charlie Strong left to take the Louisville head job. But Nix decided to stay at Ole Miss, where he will receive a raise.

Nix’s name had also come up in the Georgia defensive coordinator talk. Two others to watch there are longtime Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster and Kansas State defensive coordinator Vic Koenning, who was previously at Clemson under Tommy Bowden.

Arkansas offensive coordinator and receivers coach Paul Petrino will be introduced as Illinois’ new offensive coordinator later Monday. Petrino, who received a raise and multiyear deal, will call plays at Illinois, whereas his brother, Bobby, called the Hogs’ plays.

South Carolina running game coordinator and offensive line coach Eric Wolford is leaving the Gamecocks after just one season to take the Youngstown State head coaching job.

Lunchtime links: Team Tebow keeping watch

October, 8, 2009

Posted by's Chris Low

Making the rounds in the SEC:

SEC helmet stickers: Week 3

September, 20, 2009

Posted by's Chris Low

No matter how you slice it, a pretty wild weekend in the SEC. Let’s hand out some helmet stickers:

Georgia quarterback Joe Cox: Boy, were they down on Cox in the Peach State after that season-opening loss at Oklahoma State. Then it really got crazy that next week with all kinds of rumors swirling. All he’s done since then is lead the Bulldogs to 40 or more points and a pair of wins the last two games. He tied the Georgia school record with five touchdown passes Saturday night in a 52-41 win over Arkansas. His arm strength looks fine to me.

Tennessee head coach Lane Kiffin: We rarely give out helmet stickers to somebody on the losing end. But Kiffin had his Vols ready to play in some of the toughest circumstances imaginable at the Swamp, and they outplayed Florida for much of the game. If the Vols play with that kind of pride and that kind of toughness the rest of the way, they will win a lot of games this season.

Mississippi State’s defense: A week after being shredded for 589 yards of total offense by Auburn in a 49-24 loss, Mississippi State’s defense came back swinging against Vanderbilt and held the Commodores to one field goal and 157 total yards. In the first half, Vanderbilt managed just one first down against Carl Torbush’s bunch.

Kentucky receiver Randall Cobb: It’s hard to find a more versatile playmaker anywhere in the country. Cobb made a couple of unbelievable plays Saturday that saved Kentucky in its 31-27 win over Louisville. His leaping 12-yard touchdown catch was the game-winner for the Wildcats. But his catch and run on a 28-yard gain on a third-and-10 play earlier in the quarter may have been the play of the game. It was an outside screen, and Cobb was swarmed by Louisville defenders. Somehow, he broke out and kept alive a key touchdown drive for the Wildcats.

Auburn quarterback Chris Todd: He looks so much better throwing the ball than he did this time a year ago that it’s hard to believe he's the same player. Todd’s offseason shoulder surgery has given him a new lease on his football life, and he’s been a big part of the Tigers’ hot start. He passed for career highs of 284 yards and four touchdowns in the 41-30 win over West Virginia. In his first three games, Todd has six touchdown passes and just one interception. But what was so important about Saturday was that the Mountaineers dared him to beat them throwing the football, and he made them pay.

Kicking it with Mississippi State's Les Koenning

March, 4, 2009

Posted by's Chris Low

Les Koenning is making his third tour through the SEC and his second tour through Mississippi State.

As the Bulldogs' offensive coordinator, he will be Dan Mullen's point man in putting in a version of the spread offense this spring that best suits Mississippi State's personnel.

Eventually, Mullen wants to do a lot of the same things at Mississippi State that he did at Florida. But it's an offense that will grow as the Bulldogs continue to recruit to it.

  John Albright / Icon SMI
  Les Koenning returns to Starkville for another stint, this time as offensive coordinator.

Koenning was at Mississippi State the first time from 1986-89 as a running backs and receivers coach under Rockey Felker. He was the offensive coordinator at Alabama from 2001-02 under Dennis Franchione and then followed Franchione to Texas A&M.

It was at Texas A&M where Koenning was first "introduced" to Mullen, who was then at Utah working as quarterbacks coach on Urban Meyer's staff. Texas A&M and Utah played each other in 2003 and 2004. The Aggies escaped 28-26 in the first game, but the Utes rolled 41-21 the next year and piled up 582 yards of total offense.

Koenning was intrigued by some of the things Utah was doing with the spread and made it a point to get to know Mullen better. It's a relationship that came full circle earlier this year when Mullen hired Koenning away from South Alabama to be his offensive coordinator at Mississippi State. Mullen also hired Carl Torbush to be his defensive coordinator. Torbush was on that same staff with Koenning at Alabama and Texas A&M.

The Bulldogs open what should be an eventful spring practice on March 24. Koenning took some time recently to talk about his goals for the spring and the challenge that awaits the new staff in Starkville.

What specifically do you remember about Mullen and the Utah spread offenses?

Les Koenning: Dan had put some things into it that people weren't doing with the option and shovel pass. Everybody runs the shovel pass, but do they run it the right way? You look at it now, and every kid in America wants to play in some form of the spread offense.

How much will your version of the spread this fall resemble what Florida did the last two seasons?

LK: The beauty of the system is that you can get into different personnel groupings and different personnel systems very easily. You're going to see us in different formations. We'll find out in the spring where different guys fit in the system. The flexibility allows us to be creative and adapt to our personnel. What we've got to find this spring is that 11 to work with.

How much tape have you watched of Mississippi State's offense from last season, and how much does that influence your thinking?

LK: We haven't made a lot of judgments. We have watched tape, but we haven't made judgments on whether this guy can play or that guy can't play. We've put them through the offseason program, and our weight coach (Matt Balis) has done a heck of a job. We're finding out the guys who will compete, the guys who will get after it, and we want to put them in the best positions for spring. Spring will be really big for us, because we'll find out who our playmakers really are. But the most important part of the whole spring is finding out what your players can do and build from there. You don't want to just put in a system to put one in.

It looks like Tyson Lee is the front-runner at quarterback. What has been your impression of him?

LK: Well, we've got Chris Relf back, too. Cameron Lawrence is another freshman who came in as a linebacker that we moved over to quarterback for the spring. But Tyson is the one who's played. He got beat up at the end of last year, so we've got to do stuff offensively that he can do. When you watch him and watch him move around, it's going to be interesting to find out what he can do in our system. He looks a little bit like a Chris Leak kind of guy. Is he that guy? I don't know. Chris Leak was a heck of a football player. Tyson has to go out there and show us.

How realistic is it that freshman quarterback Tyler Russell can be a factor even though he won't be on campus in time to go through spring practice?

LK: We're really excited about him and will know more when he gets here this summer. We've got plans for him coming in here this summer. If there was any way, I'd love to get him here even sooner.

Florida's offense under Meyer has evolved as the Gators have added players. How much will this offense evolve over the next couple of years?

LK: We signed some really good receivers, and that gives us a chance to spread the field. But we'll come out in the spring, and we've got to be a little different. We really do. When you're at Mississippi State, lining up in the I-formation and handing off the football is not always going to be the best thing. Dan has been out at Utah, where they had to do creative things to move the football when they played those bigger teams. Having the opportunity to have been through Mississippi State before, you realize what you have to do. You have to be a little different at times so that people have to prepare for you and they can't say, "Oh, he's doing the same thing, so we can do this."

What kind of shape is running back Anthony Dixon in?

LK: Watching him in the offseason and the things he's done there has been really impressive to us. Again, we're going to go through spring and put him out there and see what he can do. I think he probably played at 230 or so last year. I think he's right around 220 now and moving really well. I've been really impressed with the way he moves. He's a big back that can make things happen.

The feeling at Texas A&M was that Franchione didn't allow you a lot of freedom when it came to calling plays. Will you be the primary playcaller at Mississippi State?

LK: Yes, but again, the one thing I've been very fortunate to be around is coaches that want to be a part of it. If Dan wants to run something, we're going to run it. With his experience and the things he's done, the two national championships, that's not going to bother me. One of the things you learn as a coach and as a player is that there's no reason to be selfish. It's a team sport. It's the same thing we teach our kids. If Mark Hudspeth or John Hevesy want to call a play, that's not going to bother me, either.

How much has the SEC changed since you were last coaching in the league?

LK: It's a speed league now more than ever. You've got people who can go, and I mean everywhere on defense. You look at this league on film and it's pretty impressive. To combat that, you've got to have some speed, too. I was over in the Big 12 and it's a good l
eague. There's some good football teams over there, but the thing I noticed in this league more than I did over in the Big 12 were the defenses. Texas Tech has done an outstanding job, but when they went over and played Ole Miss ... that was a pretty eye-opening deal.

Mullen assigns staff positions

February, 6, 2009

Posted by's Chris Low

Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen has assigned coaching positions to his staff members.

Many of the roles were already pretty much set, such as Carl Torbush taking on the Bulldogs' defensive coordinator responsibilities. Torbush, the former head coach at North Carolina, will also coach linebackers. Torbush will be Mississippi State's highest paid assistant at $260,000 per year.

The offensive play-calling duties will be more of a team effort among offensive coordinator Les Koenning, passing game coordinator Mark Hudspeth and Mullen. Koenning will be the one to actually call the plays on game day.

Also of note, Tony Hughes will be the Bulldogs' recruiting coordinator and safeties coach. Hughes is one of the better recruiters in the SEC, and Mullen was able to get him away from Southern Miss last month.

Changing addresses within the SEC

January, 22, 2009

Posted by's Chris Low

Once you get in this family, there's no getting out.

I keep thinking about that famous line from "The Sopranos" as I watch the assistants in the SEC change addresses within the conference at a dizzying pace.

That's not to mention the former SEC assistants, head coaches and players who have flocked back to the league this year and found their way onto different staffs.

I can't ever remember a year quite like this where jumping from one SEC port to another was this prevalent. In some cases, coaches were just looking for work. In others, coaches simply got better deals, while some jumped at the chance to reunite with guys they'd worked with in the past.


  • Lance Thompson, after two years at Alabama under Nick Saban, joins Lane Kiffin's staff at Tennessee.
  • Former Auburn coach and linebacker James Willis leaves his alma mater for bitter rival Alabama to replace Thompson.
  • John Chavis ends up at LSU after 14 seasons as Tennessee's defensive coordinator.
  • Former Alabama defensive back Lorenzo Ward, after one year at Arkansas, leaves for South Carolina to reunite with Ellis Johnson, who left Arkansas a year earlier after spending 28 days on the Hogs' staff.
  • Trooper Taylor is back in the SEC at Auburn after spending last season at Oklahoma State and the previous four at Tennessee.
  • David Reaves leaves South Carolina for Tennessee to work under Kiffin, who is Reaves' brother-in-law.
  • Tracy Rocker leaves Ole Miss for Auburn, where he became the first SEC player in history to win the Outland Trophy and Lombardi Award in 1988.
  • Former Auburn defensive ends coach Terry Price replaces Rocker at Ole Miss.
  • Ron Cooper, after five years at South Carolina, leaves for LSU.
  • Former Ole Miss head coach Ed Orgeron is the recruiting coordinator and defensive line coach at Tennessee after spending last year with the New Orleans Saints.
  • Former Tennessee running back Jay Graham, who also worked as a graduate assistant for the Vols, is now the running backs coach at South Carolina.
  • Former Ole Miss assistant Frank Wilson has a cup of coffee at Mississippi State earlier this month before bolting for Tennessee.
  • Tony Hughes, after a year at Southern Miss, replaces Wilson at Mississippi State. Hughes worked under Orgeron all three years at Ole Miss.
  • Former Auburn assistant Eddie Gran lands at Tennessee.
  • Former Arkansas offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn is back in the SEC at Auburn after spending the last two years at Tulsa.
  • Carl Torbush, who last worked in the SEC as Alabama's defensive coordinator in 2002, is back in the league as Mississippi State's defensive coordinator.

Half the SEC will have new coordinators in 2009

January, 21, 2009

Posted by's Chris Low

Everybody keeping track of the new coordinators in the SEC?

It's a full-time job. Half of the league will have new offensive or defensive coordinators next season, and many of the names are familiar ones.

There may still be more turnover, too. The Miami Herald reported that Georgia defensive coordinator Willie Martinez may be a candidate to replace Bill Young as the Hurricanes' defensive coordinator. Young left to take the Oklahoma State defensive coordinator's job, and Martinez played on a national championship team at Miami and started his coaching career there as a graduate assistant.

There were other SEC coordinators in play elsewhere following the season. Clemson showed interest in South Carolina defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson, who was also involved in the Army head coaching search. Johnson has taken on the title of assistant head coach for the defense with the hiring of Lorenzo Ward from Arkansas as the Gamecocks' defensive coordinator.

Vanderbilt defensive coordinator Bruce Fowler was somebody Oklahoma State had interest in before hiring Young.

Here's a rundown by school of the new coordinators in the SEC:

Gus Malzahn -- offensive coordinator
Ted Roof -- defensive coordinator

Steve Addazio -- offensive coordinator

John Chavis -- defensive coordinator

Mark Hudspeth/Les Koenning -- offensive coordinators
Carl Torbush -- defensive coordinator

Lorenzo Ward -- defensive coordinator

Jim Chaney -- offensive coordinator
Monte Kiffin -- defensive coordinator

Former head coaches showing up on SEC staffs

January, 19, 2009

Posted by's Chris Low

Everywhere you look now in college football, head coaches are hiring former head coaches to be on their staff.

It's a trend that's really taken off in the SEC, and it makes a lot of sense. There's no substitute for having somebody on your staff who's been a head coach before to bounce things off of when you face tough decisions on and off the field.

Just last week, Arkansas' Bobby Petrino hired former Michigan State and Louisville head coach John L. Smith to coordinate his special teams and work with the defense. Petrino coached under Smith at Idaho, Utah State and Louisville.

It's also no coincidence that the two youngest coaches in the league (Tennessee's Lane Kiffin and Mississippi State's Dan Mullen) each have two former head coaches on their staffs. 

Here's a look at the former college or pro head coaches who've landed on staffs in the SEC in an assistant's role:

  • ALABAMA: Bobby Williams (Michigan State).
  • AUBURN: Ted Roof (Duke).
  • ARKANSAS: John L. Smith (Michigan State, Louisville, Utah State and Idaho).
  • FLORIDA: Dan McCarney (Iowa State).
  • LSU: Gary Crowton (BYU).
  • OLE MISS: Kent Austin (Saskatchewan Roughriders).
  • MISSISSIPPI STATE: Mark Hudspeth (North Alabama) and Carl Torbush (North Carolina, Louisiana Tech).
  • SOUTH CAROLINA: Ellis Johnson (The Citadel, Gardner Webb).
  • TENNESSEE: Ed Orgeron (Ole Miss) and Monte Kiffin (North Carolina State).
  • VANDERBILT: Charlie Fisher (West Georgia) and Ted Cain (Virginia Military Institute).

Mullen adds another former head coach to staff

December, 30, 2008

Posted by's Chris Low

New Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen has added another former head coach to his staff.

Carl Torbush, North Carolina's head coach from 1998-2000, was announced by the school Tuesday as one of three new assistants on Mullen's staff. Torbush is expected to be the Bulldogs' defensive coordinator, although Mullen has yet to announce specific duties.

Torbush has been assistant head coach for the past three seasons at Division II power Carson-Newman, his alma mater. He was also the defensive coordinator at Alabama and Texas A&M under Dennis Franchione, who fired Torbush at Texas A&M following the 2005 season.

Earlier this month, Mullen announced former North Alabama head coach Mark Hudspeth, who's expected to be the Bulldogs' passing game coordinator.

Mullen doesn't have any head coaching experience, so he's obviously making a concerted effort to surround himself with guys who've been down that road.

Torbush also knows his way around the SEC. In addition to spending a couple of years at Alabama, he was the defensive coordinator at Ole Miss in the 1980s. He put together defenses at Ole Miss, North Carolina and Alabama that ranked at the top of their respective conferences in total defense.

Southern Miss co-recruiting coordinator Frank Wilson was also named to the Mississippi State staff on Tuesday. Matt Balis will be the Bulldogs' strength and conditioning coach. He comes to Mississippi State from Virginia.

Torbush in play at Mississippi State?

December, 22, 2008

Posted by's Chris Low

New Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen has contacted Carl Torbush about possibly joining him in Starkville as his defensive coordinator.

Torbush is currently coaching at his alma mater, Division II power Carson-Newman in Jefferson City, Tenn., but has coached in the SEC previously, most recently at Alabama when he was Dennis Franchione's defensive coordinator from 2001-02. He also followed Franchione to Texas A&M as the Aggies' defensive coordinator.

Known for churning out great linebackers, Torbush was North Carolina's head coach from 1998-2000. Having a veteran coach on his staff with head coaching experience would be valuable for the 36-year-old Mullen, who will be making his head coaching debut next season.

Mullen already has one former head coach on his staff. Mark Hudspeth, the head coach at Division II North Alabama the last seven seasons, will be Mullen's passing game coordinator at Mississippi State.

With the Bulldogs going to the spread offense next season, one of the big pushes this recruiting period is finding more receivers.