January 13, 2011 8:56:00 AM
STARKVILLE -- Geoff Collins just fit the mold of a Mississippi State coach.
That''s what MSU football coach Dan Mullen thought when he made his final coaching hire Wednesday, naming Collins as linebackers coach and co-defensive coordinator, the school announced Wednesday.
Collins joins MSU''s staff after a one-year stint as Florida International''s defensive coordinator and linebackers coach. He helped FIU beat Toledo last month in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl for the school''s first bowl win.
Collins transformed a defense that ranked 119th in the NCAA in 2009 to the Sun Belt Conference''s leader in total defense, scoring defense, pass efficiency defense, and turnover margin.
But Collins'' energy, reputation for being a tireless recruiter, and his background impressed Mullen even greater than his work with the Panthers'' defense,
"I got a lot of my early ''grind'' learning under Paul Pasqualoni, and he got his under George O''Leary," Mullen said of Collins. "I think those two come from the very similar old school that they went to, so the recommendations I''ve gotten on him, I know we''re getting a quality coach.
"He''s a very detailed guy. When you come form the background I know he''s come from, you had better cross every T and dot every I."
Collins will serve in a similar role as current defensive coordinator Chris Wilson served last season when former coordinator Manny Diaz, who left MSU to become defensive coordinator at the University of Texas, called the plays but Wilson had an active role in game-planning as co-defensive coordinator.
Collins spent the 2007-08 seasons as linebackers coach and recruiting coordinator at the University of Central Florida.
Collins spent one season as recruiting coordinator at the University of Alabama after a four-year stint as a defensive coach at his alma mater, Western Carolina.
Mullen first met Collins in New York during a film exchange in the 90s, when the former was coaching at Columbia and the latter at Fordham.
Mullen has kept track of Collins'' work, noting his experience and all of the responsibilities he has had at the schools he has worked as career-building credentials.
"I think when you get a chance to get into that position, then step back out of it again, you get to see things you can do better," Mullen said. "I think the experience he''s had throughout the last couple of years has really catapulted him into being one of the hottest coaches in the country."
Collins was traveling Wednesday and wasn''t available for comment, but through a school release expressed his excitement of joining the MSU staff.
"I''m happy to be a part of the Mississippi State family and excited to work with coach Mullen and coach Wilson and the entire staff," Collins said in the statement. "It''s great to be joining a program that is growing and building and headed the right way like this one is, and I''m ready to hit the ground running."
Wilson said his working relationship with Collins will be much like what he shared with Diaz. He describes that setup as "51-49", with Diaz having the greater edge of responsibility because he was the play-caller.
Wilson said he and Collins have talked about their philosophies and ideas after he learned about the high praise Collins has received from fellow coaches in the business.
Wilson is confident Collins fits in to MSU''s attacking, multiple style philosophy.
"Will this guy fit in the room? Will he be able to go out and recruit, and get our players?" Wilson said. "Not the players in our program, but the players we''re recruiting to see our vision. That''s what we are: We''re salesmen. You''re constantly selling this program to guys.
"We wanted a guy who could fit, a guy who could be in the room, a guy who could coach our kids hard, develop them. That''s what Geoff brings."
Collins will inherit a linebacking corp that loses the team''s two leading tacklers and All-SEC players Chris White and K.J. Wright as well as senior Emmanuel Gatling.
Cam Lawrence, Michael Hunt, and Brandon Wilson were the top three reserves at linebacker this season. All three will be juniors for the 2011 season.
Freshman Chris Hughes saw action late in the season, and redshirt freshman Ferlando Bohanna is expected to push for time next season.
"We have some good young talent," Mullen said. "We need to continue to recruit that position to build for the future. It''s a young, young position with not a lot of depth with your two top players leaving. You''re gonna have to come in and develop those young guys right away. There''s not pre-made guys already waiting there for them like we kind of had last year when we were able to bring Manny into a good situation."
4. Walters column: Noxubee County rarely backs away from challenge HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS
5. MSU men's basketball releases non-conference schedule COLLEGE SPORTS