A Q&A With MSU DC Geoff Collins

Gene's Page talks one-on-one with Mississippi State defensive coordinator Geoff Collins.

MSU fans are really excited about this year's MSU defense. You are the defensive coordinator of that defense. Are you as excited about this defense as fans are? If you are, then give the reasons why?
"I see them everyday. We are excited and have a lot of optimism. We have 20 to 22 (players that played) coming back from the Liberty Bowl. We also have Jay Hughes and a few other guys who didn't play a ton last season that are coming back. We have great depth and great leadership, guys like Benardrick McKinney, Preston Smith, Matt Wells, Justin Cox, Taveze Calhoun, Jay Hughes, Kendrick Market, P.J. Jones, Kaleb Eulls. When you can rattle off that many names that is a positive."

You have talent, depth, leadership ability.
"The biggest other thing with them is they have great attitudes. And great effort stems from great attitudes. They have that. And they play really hard. We put a lot of defense in everyday with them so that they don't get bored. And they respond and go out there and play hard."

You have great depth but you also have some really good young talent. I think of Dezz Harris immediately when I think of that young talent. With so much depth how will he fit into the defense next season?
"The nice thing with him is he gets to be around guys like Benardrick McKinney and Matt Wells. He was also around Deontae Skinner for a year and saw how he worked and how he studied. He's a long kid that is athletic. And he studies the game. What he was in (our high school) camp he has far exceeded that here."

You have some other young guys as well that have talent. Who are some of those young guys?
"(Redshirt freshman defensive back) Jahmere Irvin-Sills is doing well. (Sophomore defensive back) Tolando Cleveland played a bunch for us last year and actually made some key plays for us in big game. He's played well. Other young guys like (sophomore defensive tackle) Nick James has played well for us. (Sophomore defensive lineman) Chris Jones continues to develop."

With so much depth, how are you trying to get more playing time for those young guys?
"The focus with them is to try and let them be around guys like Taveze (Calhoun) and learn how they prepare and work everyday. Taveze had a great role model in Johnathan Banks. And you can see Taveze work with Tolando and Jahmere, teaching them how to prepare, to work, to study and how to practice."

Chris Jones has lost a little weight. How has he improved since last season?
"The nice thing about Chris is he's actually starting to play with really good technique. Last year he kind of played with his talent. Prior to last year he had only played (defense) one year. He gets here and he's around guys like Coach Turner, P.J. (Jones), Preston (Smith) and he's learning technique from them. He's also playing with better effort. We are also trying to get his personality, which is a huge personality, to come out too."

What are your thoughts about Nick James? How has he improved?
"His first five practices he was focused on being great fundamentally and play hard every play. He made a commitment during the off-season to be in great condition. And the first five practices we really saw that. Then he hit a little wall for two practices. Then today was another positive step for him as well."

Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the GenesPage.com website, the source for Mississippi State sports on Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by emailing swindoll@genespage.com.

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