Mississippi State has filled out the final spot on its football coaching staff by continuing its welcoming pipeline of Sun Belt Conference coaches to Starkville.
Florida International University defensive coordinator Geoff Collins has agreed to be the Bulldogs co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach helping to end the coaching carousel that started when Manny Diaz, who State hired from Middle Tennessee State, left MSU for the same defensive coordinator job at the University of Texas.
“Really excited to have Geoff on board,” Mullen said. “From the recommendations I’ve gotten on him, I know we’re getting ourselves a quality coach and we’re not going to miss a beat. I expect us to be a better defense than we were this year.”
Chris Wilson, who was promoted last week into Diaz’s spot, will be the defensive coordinator and make the calls on game day but with Collins having the same ‘co’ title that Wilson had this past season.
“With Geoff coming in, he’s along the same lines – high-energy, high-intensity guy,” Wilson said. “That’s who we are. As long as I’m fortunate enough to be at Mississippi State, I want everybody in the country to turn on that tape and go ‘wow, I love how they compete.’”
Last season Florida International led the Sun Belt in total defense, scoring defense, pass efficiency defense and turnover margin after finishing 119th nationally in total defense and 111th in scoring defense in 2009.
“The big compliment was recommendations from guys that I trusted because the big thing was fit,” Wilson said. “The guy who could coach our kids hard, develop them and that’s what Geoff brings and I’m excited about it.”
Mullen and Wilson both confirmed Wednesday that they both interviewed the Conyers, Geo., native last week.
Attempts by the Starkville Daily News to contact Collins Wednesday were unsuccessful.
Before joining FIU last season, the 16-year veteran has been a part of coaching staffs at Central Florida, Alabama, Georgia Tech, Western Carolina and Fordham.
While at Alabama, Collins' helped coordinate a recruiting class that included star players like Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram, All-American wide receiver Julio Jones and All-SEC safety Mark Barron, earning consensus national No. 1 class rankings. In the previous year at Georgia Tech, Collins' efforts led to the Yellow Jackets best recruiting class in their storied history with NFL talents like defensive end Derrick Morgan, safety Morgan Burnett and running back Jonathan Dwyer. The class finished as the nation's 18th-ranked class overall according to Rivals.com.
“I just hear from everybody what a big-time recruiter he is and that’s the first things everybody said when I called them,” Mullen said. “There’s a certain energy level and not just on the field but in our staff. I want people that are hungry and coming on their way up in the profession.”
Collins’ first task with the Bulldogs will be to find replacements for all three starting spots at linebacker as MSU loses all-conference duo Chris White and K.J. Wright along with Emmanuel Gatling to graduation.
“He’s going to have to come in and develop those young guys right away,” Mullen said. “There’s not pre-made guys waiting for him that we had last year when were able to bring Manny into a great situation.”
Mullen said the first time he met Collins was in 1996 on an old-school opposing film swap when the Bulldogs head coach was a wide receivers coach at Columbia and Collins was at Fordham.
“You couldn’t just hit a button back then and just hotwire all this video through the air somewhere – you had to actually exchange video tapes,” Mullen said. “We had to drive somewhere in north Manhattan – Lower Bronx right there and exchange the film.”
Collins helped guide FIU’s defense to its first bowl victory in school history this past season with a win over Toledo in the 2010 Little Caesars Pizza Bowl in Detroit.
“He kind of brings to the table what we’re looking for,” Mullen said. “He was choice number one.”