Collins Joins Bulldog Defensive Staff
Collins comes to Mississippi State from Florida International, where he served as defensive coordinator and linebackers coach in 2010. The Conyers, Ga., native helped guide the Panthers to a win over Toledo in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl, the first bowl victory in FIU history. The Panthers won seven of their final nine games and improved dramatically from a 3-9 mark the year before Collins’ arrival.
This season, Collins’ unit led the Sun Belt in total defense, scoring defense, pass efficiency defense and turnover margin; all a remarkable accomplishment for a group that finished 119th nationally in total defense and 111th in scoring defense in 2009. The Panthers’ sack totals nearly doubled, and the pass defense improved from 108th nationally to 32nd in 2010.
“Geoff has shown the type of immediate impact he can bring to a defense by what he did at Florida International last season,” head coach Dan Mullen said. “He’s a smart young coach that has great experience, and he’ll bring the same kind of aggressive attitude and philosophy that we expect from our defense at Mississippi State.”
Collins made the move to FIU after a pair of seasons as the linebackers coach and recruiting coordinator at UCF. In his first season in Orlando, Collins helped UCF's defense rank second in Conference USA in total and scoring defense.
The Knights also paced the conference, and ranked third nationally, in tackles for loss. Two of the linebackers that Collins mentored - Derrick Hallman and Lawrence Young - received All-C-USA Honorable Mention recognition.
Before joining the Knights' staff, Collins spent a year as the director of player personnel at Alabama. While at Alabama, Collins' helped bring in one of the best recruiting classes in the history of the school, earning consensus national No. 1 rankings. The previous year at Georgia Tech, Collins' efforts led to the Yellow Jackets best recruiting class in their storied history. The class finished as the nation's 11th-ranked class overall and first in the ACC.
In 2002 Collins became the defensive coordinator/defensive backs coach at his alma mater, Western Carolina, and inherited one of the worst defensive units statistically in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision. In 2003, under Collins' direction, the Catamount defense emerged as one of the best in the nation. Despite playing two NCAA FBS teams and three of the I-AA top 15 rushing teams, Western led the Southern Conference in rushing defense for the first time since joining the league in 1976, while ranking 14th nationally.
In 2004, Western Carolina's defense only allowed 301.91 yards per game to end the season ranked 12th nationally, which was the school's highest national ranking at season's end. In addition, Western ranked 15th in the nation in pass defense, allowing just 163.64 yards per game. It marked the first time since 2001 WCU was ranked among the nation's top 20 in pass defense.
While Western allowed just 138.27 yards per game against the run, the Cats held four of nation's top rushing teams to a combined 118.5 yards below their season average, including Georgia Southern (first in FCS), Wofford (second in FCS), Nicholls State (10th in FCS) and Furman (14th in FCS). In addition to tackle Albert Reid earning first team All-SoCon honors, defensive backs Primus Glover and Bruce Lee were named to the all-league team.
In 2005, the Western Carolina defense was ranked No. 1 nationally in pass defense along with being ranked 18th nationally in total defense. Collins' unit also finished ranked first in the Southern Conference in total defense and pass defense along with several other defensive categories. Francis Brown, Mitchell Dukes, Albert Reid, Rico Reese and Felipe Foster were all named to the league's all-conference team.
Prior to returning to Western Carolina, Collins spent three years with current UCF head coach George O'Leary at Georgia Tech. Collins began his career on the Flats as the defensive graduate assistant working with the linebackers in 1999 and with the defensive backs in 2000. In his final year at Georgia Tech, Collins helped tight end Russell Matvay post career highs with 22 receptions for 245 yards, while the Yellow Jacket offense led the ACC in passing offense.
Before his days at Georgia Tech, Collins spent two years as the defensive coordinator and linebackers and secondary coach at Albright College in Reading, Pa. In 1997, the NCAA Division III program boasted the leading defense in its conference and ranked in the top 10 nationally in all defensive categories. In 1998 the Lions' defense ranked among the top three in their league.
In 1996, Collins served as an assistant coach at Fordham, working with the outside linebackers while also serving as the junior varsity defensive coordinator. He also spent one season (1995) as an assistant coach at Franklin (N.C.) High School while student teaching in the Macon County Public Schools.
During his playing days at Western Carolina, Collins tallied 194 tackles as an outside linebacker and defensive back from 1989-92. He was the team's fifth leading tackler as a junior with 68, while registering six tackles for losses. As a senior, he helped Western to a 7-4 record, logging 62 total takedowns and five tackles for losses. He began his coaching career as a student assistant on the Western Carolina staff in 1993, when the Catamounts were the preseason No. 1 team in NCAA Division I-AA.
A native of Conyers, Ga., who attended Rockdale County High School, Collins earned a bachelor's degree from Western Carolina in Sport Management and Exercise Science in 1994 and then completed the Education curriculum in 1995. He did postgraduate work in psychology at Fordham University and Georgia Tech.
He is married to the former Jennifer Haynes.