August 3, 2013 11:39:04 PM
Matthew Stevens - firstname.lastname@example.org
STARKVILLE -- As he finished a play and started walking back to the line of scrimmage, Mississippi State University junior Matthew Wells heard the key vocabulary word of fall camp hurled in his direction.
"You need more juice Matt Wells ... gotta play with more juice Matt Wells," a low deep voice blared at the projected starting linebacker.
Wells didn't need a break for anything to drink, but the 215-pound linebacker from Monticello knew what was being asked of him on the next play.
For MSU defensive coordinator Geoff Collins, the word "juice" defines it all. In his first year as full-time defensive coordinator, and third year on the staff, Collins is making sure his players know he wants them to bring the "juice"on every play.
"It's the first days of camp, so we as coaches know that mistakes are going to be made," Collins said. "If it's a mistake that is made with speed, passion, and effort then it's our job to teach afterwards. That's the juice we're looking for. We have a great staff and we can handle that deal."
Instead of campaigning and complaining for a slower brand of football, MSU's defensive coaches are trying to embrace the trend the has more teams playing at a faster tempo.
With more offenses using spread-option formations and running more plays per game, college defenses are having to find more speed.
"When the play starts, I'm usually running somebody down to get the players' energy going for those three or four seconds of action," Collins said. "It starts with the coaches bringing that relentless effort."
Collins' personality is based on controlled craziness. It's how the former recruiting coordinator at Georgia Tech University and the University of Alabama talked on the telephone to recruits. MSU fans should expect Collins to have MSU use unique formations and to get all 11 players going in confusing directions.
"We know what coach Collins is talking about when he yells about juice and, to be honest, he's got us talking about juice to our teammates in encouragement," MSU sophomore linebacker Benardrick McKinney said.
Before officially getting the promotion following Chris Wilson's departure to the University of Georgia to become the defensive line coach, MSU coach Dan Mullen gave Collins the play-calling duties for the defense for the 2013 Gator Bowl against Northwestern University.
Now that he is firmly entrenched in the position, Collins is trying to establish a parallel form of thinking with the return of defensive line coach David Turner. He wants the Bulldogs' pass rushers to attack tempo offenses by getting up the field to hound delays and draw plays and to make throws tough for quarterbacks.
"David Turner and I have talked a lot about establishing a great run defense," Collins said. "If you can play great run defense, create negative downs on first and second down, get them in third-and-long situations, you're going to have a pretty good day."
Turner said Saturday he wasn't ready to call projected defensive ends Denico Autry and Preston Smith coaches on the field because he wants to make sure they completely understand the philosophies and concepts of the defense. However, he knows the Bulldogs, who had only 19 sacks (13th in the Southeastern Conference) in 2012, need leadership and production from the front four.
"I'm on the mental aspect of our guys right now because they were trying to fight through adversity in the first day of shoulder pads," Turner said Saturday. "A guy like Denico played last year, but he's not different in experience as a freshman. He shows up and works hard. They're having more good days than bad days right now."
Collins made it a point to tell the media Friday that projected starting linebackers Deontae Skinner, McKinney, and Wells played all three positions on the field in the first practice Thursday.
"I watched all 6-foot-5 of Benardrick McKinney covering (5-foot-9) Jameon Lewis in the slot, and he did a pretty good job," Collins said. "I want them understanding all three positions so all three of them know how to cover for each other's mistakes."
In the spring, as he was trying to establish his command as defensive leader, Collins screamed the words "havoc" and "mayhem." Inside the new $25-million Seal Family Football Complex, where you can use dry-erase markers to write formations on any of the walls of the meeting rooms, havoc is a new vocabulary word. Mayhem is a new statistic that will be valued.
"Aggressiveness is the key to defensive mayhem with guys flying around, making plays, and creating negative plays on the offensive side," Collins said. "Beyond a tackle or tackle for a loss, you can also force a turnover, be the product of a turnover, get a sack, get a quarterback pressure. Those are what I want to see beyond just getting a stop."
After only three days, the Bulldogs appear to be taking their cues from Collins.
"You know you have to bring that intensity every day, bring that juice because if you don't, it'll get seen," MSU redshirt freshman linebacker Richie Brown said. "We know starting now we're fighting for time on the field."