Collins' Defense Is Reading Tech's Options

Geoff Collins wasn’t feeling his physically-best Saturday. Spending so many days, and nights, away from home with recruiting obligations certainly can take a toll, especially after the long regular season. Still the defensive coordinator took time to talk preparations for Mississippi State’s matchup with Georgia Tech in the Orange Bowl.

And no, it is not the Yellow Jackets’ acclaimed option offense which had Collins feeling a little under the weather today. Though it will be giving Mississippi State an entirely different sort of scouting, scheming, and scripting in the upcoming days of campus bowl camp. On top of that, the Bulldog defense wasn’t at its best either in the last public appearance.

So Collins and defensive staff have their work cut out between now and New Years Eve in Miami. Though, as Coach Dan Mullen has scheduled the campus portion of camp, these early days are more about developing younger Dogs—defense and offense alike—for the future as anything else. That didn’t keep the kids on offense from throwing a few running plays at the corners of the defense Saturday with something distinctly ‘optional’ in appearance.

The only question Collins had no answer for today, regarded junior linebacker Benardrick McKinney’s intentions regarding early departure for the National Football League. Though the coach’s expression said it all without words required.

How do you adjust from the big plays that were allowed at Ole Miss going into this game? Collins: “The big thing is they have a really good offense, one of the top running offenses in the country. They do a good job with their scheme and the kids understand it being in the system for a long time. Coach (Paul) Johnson has been doing it for a long time and he knows all the answers to your adjustments. So we’ve just got to be ready. And we’ve got two weeks to get ready for it. It’s a big challenge.”

Preparing for something you haven’t seen all year, how do you get the guys trained? “The same way every week. You kind of take what you do, tweak it, and just get the kids to play hard and understand what they’re trying to do to you. And how we’re going to fit it up. It goes back to assignment football.”

How different is their offense from the standard read option? “They do a lot of different things. but they do it really, really well. They play it at a high level. You’ll see some of their drives will go for 80 yards and kind of continue to run the same play because it’s so effective. And then they’ve got all the changeups, all the wrinkles, and all the play-actions off of it. So it’s going to be difficult.”

Is there anything you can compare it to or is it them alone? “No, it’s option football. The Auburns of the world will run versions of option. So it’s basically playing assignment football and just understanding that the simulation, the speed they play with is the thing we’ve got to get ready for.”

You have a lot of young players getting reps, just talk about them? “You know, a lot of the young guys are standing out. The J.T. Grays, the Gerri Greens; Cory Thomas, Brandon Bryant, showing some good signs for the future. So we’re just excited to get to work with these guys.”

“And the big thing with us is going to bowl games so many years in a row, these guys understand this is a great time to improve. And they’re embracing it.”

Even though Arkansas is an entirely different offense, they also go on long time-consuming drives. Can that experience help prepare your defense? “Yeah, that was a physical football game and our kids understand that and kind of embrace that. We’re a big, long defensive football team. So just understanding that they’re going to come at you from all different angles and they know what they’re doing and they do it at a high level.”

Have you had any discussions with Benardrick McKinney about his future? (Collins only smiles and shakes his head).

Do you have to spend extra time in the film room to prepare for this offense, for both you and the players? “Oh, yeah. We’ve been on the road for two weeks. But we had all the film blasted to our iPad. So we’ve been checking it out in the hotel at night, or on the planes, taking a look at it.”

How do you rely on some veterans to remind younger guys to stay disciplined, do their assignments and not over-pursue? “The big thing is we have so much experience, that has gone throughout the season. We’ve played so many kids that our guys know they’ve got to be dialed-in whether they’re 1A or 1B to be ready to play this game.”

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