January 5, 2013 11:35:00 PM
STARKVILLE - Mississippi State University football coach Dan Mullen wanted to "try something different" in the 2013 Gator Bowl on New Year's Day.
That decision created some major changes in the defensive coaching staff for the 2013 season.
On Friday, MSU announced the promotion of Geoff Collins to defensive coordinator. The move came three days after he was assigned play-calling duties for the first time in a 34-20 loss to Northwestern University in the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Fla.
"Geoff is an exceptional defensive mind and his energy and passion are remarkable," Mullen said in a release. "His experience as a play-caller and previous experience as a defensive coordinator will make this an easy transition."
MSU spokesperson Joe Galbraith wasn't able to comment on a potential salary raise for Collins. Collins' salary was $287,700 as an assistant coach in 2012.
Prior to coming to MSU, Collins' defense at Florida International University led the Sun Belt Conference in total defense, scoring defense, pass efficiency defense, and turnover margin. For his efforts, Collins was a finalist for the Broyles Award, which is given annually to the nation's top assistant coach.
Collins' name had been mentioned several times by multiple media outlets in association with at least two jobs. Most recently, Collins was a candidate for the open defensive coordinator position at Georgia Tech University. Last month, he was a candidate for the head coaching vacancy at FIU. The school hired former University of Illinois coach and Chicago Bears offensive coordinator Ron Turner.
"I'm just happy to be a part of Mississippi State football program," Collins said on New Year's Day when asked about a possible permanent change to his status in 2013. "I love Chris Wilson, I love (MSU secondary coach) Tony Hughes, I love Dan Mullen. I'm just happy to be here."
At the time of Collins' announcement, MSU said co-defensive coordinator Chris Wilson was still a member of the Bulldogs staff, but those inside the program were more than sure he would seek a position at another school. Around midnight, several media outlets reported Wilson had agreed to become the defensive line coach at the University of Georgia.
Repeated phone calls and text messages to Wilson by The Dispatch haven't been returned.
If the reports are correct, Wilson will replace long-time Georgia defensive line coach Rodney Garner, who took a position with Auburn University on Dec. 20. Wilson was the Bulldogs' primary defensive play-caller the past two seasons. MSU ranked 16th and 28th in scoring defense, but it struggled against no-huddle, tempo spread offenses in 2012, which led Mullen to make changes.
"The University of Georgia, since I've been coaching, is one of the top five programs in the country," Wilson told the Athens (Ga.) Banner-Herald. "Secondly, coach (Mark) Richt is one of the best coaches in the business. I've been fortunate to work for some really good guys the last few years, and he ranks right up there with them."
As the America Football Coaches Association Convention begins Monday in Nashville, Mullen has two coaching vacancies to fill. He also must replace cornerbacks coach Melvin Smith, who left Christmas Day to take the same position at Auburn.
MSU officials confirmed to The Dispatch the salary total for assistant coaches was $2.2 million in 2012.
247Sports.com reported Saturday former University of Minnesota assistant coach Tim Cross is expected to interview Sunday in Nashville, Tenn., for the vacant defensive line job. Cross was an assistant under Golden Gophers coach Tim Brewster, who MSU hired less than two weeks before the season opener to be wide receivers coach.