"Geoff has shown the type of immediate impact he can bring to a defense by what he did at Florida International last season," 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 takes over the position-coach post previously held by co-defensive coordinator Manny Diaz, who left State after one season for a comparable job at Texas. Last week Mullen confirmed that '10 co-coordinator and defensive line coach Chris Wilson will be in full charge of the 2011 defense. Also, offensive graduate assistant Angelo Mirando has been promoted to full-time status and takes over as wide receivers coach. He assumes the position that had been held by Mark Hudspeth, who left in early December to become head coach at Louisiana-Lafayette. Mirando was in charge of State's receivers before and during the Gator Bowl.
Collins was being delayed in getting to Starkville by travel troubles, but reached by football p.r. director Joe Galbraith he provided this statement. "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. 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."
This year the Panthers went 6-6 in the regular season and defeated Toledo 34-32 in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl. Five of his players made All-Sun Belt Defense first or second team, and the Panthers led the lead in scoring defense, total defense, interceptions, and was third in sacks. This was after they ranked 119th in NCAA D-I defense the year before Collins came, and 111th in scoring defense.
Before moving to FIU, he spent two seasons as linebackers coach and recruiting coordinator at Central Florida. Previously he worked single seasons each at Alabama and Georgia Tech in charge of organizing the recruiting, with impressive results. Collins played at Western Carolina, graduating in 1993. He has worked as an aide at Fordham (1996), and was tight ends coach at Georgia Tech in 2001 before returning to his alma mater as defensive coordinator 2002-05.
For his part Wilson now will oversee a Mississippi State defense that made some progress under both his and Diaz' direction. The Bulldogs improved scoring defense by 6.5 points and knocked 25 yards off the rushing allowed. But State's defense regressed in other '10 areas such as five fewer interceptions than in 2009, and gave up more passing yards. So there is work to do, such as replacing Wilson's top lineman in graduating end Pernell McPhee.
Collins has maybe larger challenges at his spot with all three starting linebackers graduated, including the team's top two tacklers.
Replacing a pair of aides in the off-season is nothing new for Mullen. After his first Mississippi State season both defensive coordinator Carl Torbush and defensive line coach David Turner left, for Kansas and Kentucky respectively. Mullen had no difficulty filling the openings with Diaz and Wilson and continuing program progress, from 5-7 and 3-5 SEC the first year to 9-4, 4-4 this second time around capped by a 52-14 thrashing of Michigan in the Gator Bowl.
What matters most about all these staff shuffles in just two years, though, is that none of the assistants had to be removed. Just replaced, after being poached from a program that is on the fast track.