The head coach at Middle Tennessee State University for seven seasons, McCollum guided the MTSU program from 1999-2005 as it made the transition from a struggling I-AA squad to a successful Division 1-A program that competed against BCS opponents 22 times during his tenure. In 2000, he led the Blue Raiders to their first winning season as a I-A program. His 2001 offense ranked fifth nationally, while the defense ranked ninth in 2005. In 2002, 2004 and 2005 he brought in the top recruiting classes in the Sun Belt Conference and he was a two-time Tennessee Sports Writers Association Coach of the Year (2000 and 2001).
As defensive coordinator at Baylor, McCollum developed a reputation for being one of the nation's top recruiters, as he was tabbed a top-10 national recruiter by Max Emfinger in 1994 and 1995.
"I love it," McCollum said of recruiting. "That's what makes your program. My philosophy has always been if you're not doing something on recruiting everyday then you're going to get behind. I love creating those relationships.
"I've got a great sell here. First of all, we've got a great head football coach who believes in character and integrity. We've got great facilities, and it is a terrific place to get a strong education. We play in a great conference, so it's great in that respect as well."
McCollum stated that he will recruit the western part of North Carolina along with Georgia, Florida and Alabama.
"I've got good relationships in those states and those areas," he said. "I've just got to get the word out, get into those areas, and get those guys in here. I love it... recruiting is something that I take a lot of pride in."
McCollum has already made his presence felt on the recruiting trail. After being on the job for just a week, he hosted Dublin (GA) linebacker Thomas Barnes for an official visit, and the underrated prospect inked with the Wolfpack. How did McCollum find Barnes?
"Roger Holmes does a tremendous job, and he's the head football coach at Dublin," said McCollum. "He's a good friend of mine. I was able, between my trips for the Titans, to watch Thomas play three or four times.
"He's just a playmaker, and he did it on both sides of the ball. He played on a great football team, and he made a lot of plays. He's 5-foot-11 and 215 pounds... he's going to be a big player. He has a high motor, and he just makes plays all over the field."
|He has a high motor, and he just makes plays all over the field."|
Barnes is a unique prospect as teams stayed away from recruiting him early in the process because most assumed he would have to attend junior college. However, in mid-January, Barnes received the necessary ACT score for college enrollment in 2007.
"When I got the opportunity to come here, Thomas was one of the first kids I called because I didn't have time to get on the road," said McCollum. "He was one guy I knew that once he qualified and took care of business with his test, we would be on because I know he can play on this level.
"He got his score about a week before signing day, and I think that impacted [his recruitment]. He only had one weekend open for a visit, and we got him up here to Raleigh. Just this past week West Virginia and Georgia went back in to talk to him... but my philosophy is I really don't care. If he can play he can play, regardless of who's recruiting him. I'm just happy to have him play for the Wolfpack."
Although recruiting might be his passion, McCollum loves coaching and developing players as well. Over the next few weeks and spring practice, he will be getting to know the linebackers currently on the roster at NC State.
"I've met with them," he said. "If they all walked in here right now I couldn't tell you their names, but I had a little time to watch some of them. It's just been a scramble. My team played here a couple of years ago, and they looked pretty dang good then. I hope some of them are still around.
"I'm excited. They are ours... we're going to coach them and treat them like family. I've got a 12-year old son, and I'm going to coach these kids like I want someone to coach him one day. That's the best way you can do it. I'll get after them, be intense, make sure we have fun, and build on the positives. I can't wait to get started."