1. Hey Starkville: Manny Diaz is back. The former Mississippi State defensive coordinator returned to the Bulldogs in the same position, Dan Mullen announced on Tuesday. He'll work with linebackers as well as being the defensive coordinator, which is what he did in 2010 at Mississippi State. Diaz stopped at Texas and Louisiana Tech before returning to Starkville, where he'll be paid $1.8 million over three seasons.
2. Want to have a quality defense in the SEC? It'll cost you. While Diaz signed his new deal, Arkansas defensive coordinator Robb Smith got a new contract as well, one that pays him $750,000 per season and increases $50,000 each year, Bret Bielema sounds committed to keeping Smith there after the Razorbacks thrived defensively under his watch. In the Razorbacks' final five games, they allowed only 31 total points and recorded two shutouts. Their Advocare V100 Texas Bowl win over Texas was particularly impressive, as the Razorbacks held Texas to only 59 yards, the fewest an FBS team produced all season. But there's plenty of money being thrown around to SEC defensive coordinators, with $1.6 million going to Auburn's Will Muschamp and a similar figure rumored for John Chavis, who went to Texas A&M.
3. Not surprising, but Missouri defensive end Shane Ray has decided to enter the NFL draft, according to a report. Missouri called a press conference for Tuesday afternoon for Ray to make an announcement. Ray is one of the latest in a long line of productive Missouri defensive linemen and turned in a 14.5-sack season, setting a school record. He and Markus Golden made quite a pass-rush tandem for the Tigers, who won the SEC East for a second consecutive season.
Around the SEC
Florida coach Jim McElwain officially announced six more assistant coach hires on Monday.
Kentucky held on to tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator Vince Marrow by giving him a new contract after Marrow was courted by new Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh.
Hugh Freeze hasn't made a final decision on whether to bring in junior college quarterback signee Chad Kelly, who agreed to a plea bargain after an arrest on seven charges near his hometown of Buffalo. Also, Ole Miss running backs Mark Dodson and David Kamara are expected to transfer out of the program.
Vanderbilt officially announced the hire of Wisconsin offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Andy Ludwig to the same position. Also, head coach Derek Mason will call defensive plays.
Tweet of the day
Doing a little math, and taking into account the recent raises, the average salary for D-coordinators in the SEC is just under $1 million.
— Chris Low (@ClowESPN) January 6, 2015