December 10, 2012 10:05:48 PM
Matthew Stevens - [email protected]
STARKVILLE -- Reports have surfaced suggesting Mississippi State University co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Geoff Collins may be returning to Florida International University for their open head coaching position.
The rumors were first reported by CBS Sports.com senior reporter Bruce Feldman on Twitter as he named Collins and current University of Texas defensive coordinator Manny Diaz as the top targets for FIU's vacancy after they fired Mario Cristobal last week. After two winning seasons that included bowl berths, a 3-9 season in 2012 caused FIU officials to announced the change last Wednesday.
The irony in the report naming those two men as candidates is Collins replaced Diaz on the MSU staff after Diaz left his defensive coordinator position after one season in Starkville to join the Texas staff under head coach Mack Brown.
Diaz, a 1995 Florida State University graduate and Miami native where his father was the mayor for nine seasons, spent four seasons as the defensive coordinator at Middle Tennessee State University and before spending six seasons working at North Carolina State University for former head coach Chuck Amato.
Collins served as FIU's defensive coordinator and linebackers coach in 2010 before moving to Starkville to be on the Bulldogs staff under head coach Dan Mullen. FIU led the Sun Belt Conference in several defensive categories a year after it finished near the bottom of the NCAA in scoring defense and total defense.
Collins made the move to FIU after a pair of seasons as the linebackers coach and recruiting coordinator at the University of Central Florida. In his first season in Orlando, Collins helped UCF's defense rank second in Conference USA in total and scoring defense.
Before joining the Knights' staff, Collins spent a year as the director of player personnel at the University of Alabama. The previous year at Georgia Tech University, Collins' efforts led to the Yellow Jackets best recruiting class in their storied history.
In 2012, MSU finished 28th in the country in scoring defense and 60th in total yards allowed per game as Collins shared the coordinator duties with Chris Wilson.
In a text message response to the Dispatch Saturday, Mullen said "he has not mentioned it to me but would be a great candidate (for FIU)".
Younger players to be featured in MSU's open practices: When MSU opens up its practices to the public this week in preparation for the 2013 Gator Bowl, fans can expect a lot of new faces seldom seen before in prominent roles on the field.
Typical of its routine in bowl preparation, Mullen suggested a lot of the freshman and first-year players will receive a lot of the snaps in order to get them prepared for increased playing time during the 2013 season.
"A lot of the freshman that have some talent are going to have that opportunity to get out there on the field," Mullen said Friday when asked who to look for out at the practice field. "Some of the younger offensive lineman."
The highlighted battle will be the backup spot behind MSU junior tailback LaDarius Perkins as Nick Griffin, Josh Robinson and Derrick Milton look to get a lot of touches with the first-team offense behind quarterback Dak Prescott.
"I want to see really those young running backs jump up onto the scene. We're going to hand them the ball, time after time at practice and see them respond."
Mullen suggested Prescott will get a majority of the early snaps to get him more comfortable with the whole spread-option offense and not just the specific packages he was running this season in short-yardage situations.
"With Dak, we'll have some packages and stuff ready for him but Dak has done a pretty good job for us this year with the reps that he's gotten," Mullen said. "It's comforting. This is a great week right now to really let him to take another step forward in his career."
Fans can watch practices starting Wednesday and Thursday at 3:45 p.m. The open practices continue through the week with a 12:45 p.m. practice Friday and a 9 a.m., practice Saturday before a open scrimmage at Davis Wade Stadium at 2 p.m. Sunday.