Actually, that latter aspect is something that concerned Collins just a bit as Mississippi State began spring practices. Would the defense be a bit routine, even bored by drills? The coach reports: no such problems.
"The big focus is having a lot of juice, having a lot of energy. You know, be out there creating all the mayhem. They've been doing that. We've got a great group of guys, 20 of the 22 either started or were in the two-deep of the Liberty Bowl are back. Great kids, great chemistry, and they're just fun to be around every day."
With so many starters and alternates back how do you structure these early practices to work other guys? "If you noticed we've got guys working at other positions, we're sending them to different drills. Guys are going down to DB drills, guys are going to D-line drills; D-linemen are coming to linebacker drills. So the more exposure they can have to different positions, the better they'll be."
"We've got all kind of circuits, Coach Mullen does a great job of giving us circuit work while they're doing team and running plays. We do different circuits to get guys exposed. That D-line, Coach (David) Turner teaching pass rush to DBs is better than just us teaching it to them. So it's been good."
How is Dezmond Harris' progression at linebacker? "The kid's awesome. I mean he's 6-3, he's 232 right now. He's one of the fastest kids on the team. He's the first one in the building, he's the last one to leave, he studies. Every time Beniquez (Brown) is in there he's like a sponge watching him, talking to the other coaches. And I'm excited to see what he does as spring continues."
How happyare you to have Turtle Holmes back? "Oh, he's great! So much fun, and he just brings a different element and personality. He's great to have around."
Can you experiment with this group to see what they can adapt to? "That's what we do. The big thing is, there's so much experience coming back, if we came out every day and did the same things that we've been doing, there's a chance you could get bored. So every day we're throwing a new thing, an intricate coverage or blitz or scheme at ‘em. And the guys are keeping excited and staying fresh."
"You know, the Benardrick McKinneys of the world, if we just came out to our base stuff…you know, he's not the kind of guy who would just kind of take it granted. But there's the threat of it. Having something new and something fresh they have to work on has been good."
You're being careful with Ferlando Bohanna, do you like having him out there? "He is a great football player. But the thing that people don't realize is what a great teammate he is. He's one of the smartest kids on the team, knows the defense inside and out. He knows every position on the defense. He's just invaluable. Him stepping with Dez Harris, I don't know if y'all noticed he had a coach's hat on today because he wasn't going to be doing much. He said Coach, can I get a hat? They gave him even a cooler hat than they give us! So more power to him."
Much as you'd like having everyone out there, it's easier to rest Kaleb Eulls and P.J. Jones since there's depth at tackle? "Sure. I mean there are some guys that need a lot of experience and a lot of reps. They're getting exposure to Dillon Day and Blaine Clausell, and going against those guys every day has been good."
We saw Chris Jones last year, adding Nick James means another big guy at tackle? "We're big across the board. And at linebacker we're 6-3-plus, we're 230-plus, all of them can run. The D-line has length. And you just look at Coach Mullen's profile of recruiting on defense the last couple of years, is just long guys that have a lot of range, a lot of speed and can make plays with their size as well athletically."
What have you seen from Chris Jones through three days? "The first two days he was playing very fundamentally sound, playing with a lot of effort. Those are the things, watching the cut-ups last year, he didn't always do. But the first two days he played with a lot of fundamentals, a lot of intensity."
"But today we had a meeting with him and we said Chris, let your personality come out. Because he's got a huge personality. He's 6-6, 308, his personality is bigger than that! The first two days we hadn't seen that, I think we saw a little bit of that today. Because he's got such a big persona and when he lets it come out he's going to be something dangerous."
What do you like about Beniquez Brown working with the ones? "All of them work with the all of the positions. We move them in and out of the depth chart. The big thing, he's got so much skill and athletic ability, he makes a lot of plays running to the ball. And the big challenge for him is the plays when they go away, for him to make plays. And he's stepped up the last couple of days running things down, running (Brandon) Holloway down, running the fast kids down. And he's a highly-intelligent kid, too. So he gets us lined up, he helps Benardrick get the front set, get the blitzes called. So I've been really proud for him the first three days."
Richie Brown is another third-year guy in the program, what do you like about him? "Both of them are rolling with the ones. Richie was running with the ones a bunch, too. They have such good chemistry together, the Brown brothers. And Ryan Brown is the triplet of the group! They're just great to be around."