Peter Sirmon is Mississippi State’s sixth defensive coordinator in Dan Mullen’s eight seasons with the Bulldogs. He was hired away from USC, where he had been the Trojans’ linebacker coach and recruiting coordinator.
Sirmon recently joined the Drive on ESPN 105.9 in Jackson, Miss., and talked about his journey to Starkville, preseason camp and the 2016 season.
On moving to Starkville and the transition.
"There’s a certain movement in the coaching side of things, but if you’ve done it once or twice, you get used to it. The most important thing is you get familiar with the coaches on staff and the players and their lives. It’s been very positive – Starkville is very similar to where I grew up in Walla Walla, Wash."
Mississippi State is transitioning this year, from a traditional 4-3 look to a 3-4 with a "viper" or hybrid safety/outsidelinebacker, but Sirmon says they are not necessarily a 3-4 team but a multiple team.
"Well, I wouldn’t say we are moving to the 3-4. We are going to be a multiple defense and you will see us with some four-down and three-down spacing. With the types of offenses that we will be facing, it is important to be able to do a lot of things. I wouldn’t classify us as anything but a multiple front and one that tries to make it as challenging as possible for the teams we play. It’s an overall comprehensive defense and the most challenging point is the terminology for the players. These players have already seen some of what we are teaching this year, so the vocab part is the hardest part. But they’ve been great to work with."
Sirmon places special emphasis on red-zone defense.
"The red zone defense, we want field goal attempts. We want to make it extremely hard for teams to get across the goal line and Dan Mullen puts us in some great situations in practice that allows our guys to see several scenarios inside the red zone."
To improve the Bulldogs' results on third downs, Sirmon has highlighted the need to force opponents into long-yardage situations.
"On third down, you have to get off the field. But one of the more important aspects people sometimes don’t talk about is the importance of first down. You have to play well on first down because you want to stay away from third-and-1 or third-and-2. You need to be more than, say, third-and-6 to keep those conversion percentages down."
Sirmon talked about players at each level of the defense.
"Richie (Brown) is everything you hear about, provides great leadership for our room and he is like having another coach on the field and having a good camp."
"We are going to play a lot of guys; you won’t see just two guys playing middle linebacker, we are going to have some rotations and develop some of that depth we know we are going to need throughout the year. Gerry Green has been playing that viper position and inside some, and we feel comfortable he has the background and knowledge to help us at either spot and allow other guys to get on the field."
"Along the defensive front, we look to play probably between seven and eight guys along the front as long as guys are staying healthy and guys are continuing to be productive."
"The safeties have been productive early throughout camp. They all have developed well – really full assessments of certain traits like communication, coverage and more."
"On the corner position, we are trying to develop as many guys out there as we can. We have to be mindful as coaches of strengths and weaknesses and have to be adaptable enough as a team to put the right guys in situations to be successful."
The Bulldogs open the year September 3 at home against South Alabama.
(You can follow Jake Wimberly on Twitter @Jakewim)
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