Both men grew up in Georgia, Spencer in Douglasville and Collins in Conyers. In college, Spencer lettered four years and started two seasons at defensive tackle for Georgia Tech. Collins was an outside linebacker/safety at Western Carolina.
There is a lot of common ground and that has formed a long distance friendship between the two since coaching that one season at the same place.
"Geoff and I were together one year at Georgia Tech but split ways after that," said Spencer. "(We've) always stayed connected, talked to each other about defensive ideas. He's bounced around a few times and I have too.
"He has a beautiful wife Jennifer and they are great people. Geoff is a quality guy and I've watched him move up the ranks because he was a graduate assistant when were together at Georgia Tech. He is very innovative and very emotional coach. I think he gets a lot out of his players wherever he has been."
Listening to Collins, you can see where he and Spencer would hit it off. The coaching style is high energy and those around the Mississippi State program will tell you his beverage of choice during the work week and on game day is Red Bull.
Spencer sees some similarities. "I think so, first of all he has nothing on me with the Red Bull," Spencer said jokingly.
It goes deeper as last season both were top lieutenants on the defensive side of the ball. Collins was linebackers coach at Mississippi State and was promoted in the bowl game to calling the defenses for a unit that was tabbed as not aggressive enough.
That sounds familiar as Spencer was co-defensive coordinator to Bill Young last season. The Cowboys had 25 sacks to Mississippi State's season total of 19. The Cowboys yielded 3,640 passing yards and an average of 280 yards a game. Opponents threw 20 touchdown passes to just 11 interceptions.
Mississippi State allowed 2,883 passing yards for a 221.8 yards average and 17 touchdowns passing to 19 interceptions. The problems weren't exactly the same, but somewhere each defense wasn't being aggressive enough, for the fans and for their boss.
"Now that you think about it, he was on their staff last season and was very involved in their defense and now he's been giving the reins so there is some similarity there," said Spencer.
"Like me, he didn't have to get to know the kids, but he is in charge now," explained Spencer. "He can use the same terminology they were using but I'm sure he has wanted to implement his touch on things like I have.
"I'm sure he was afforded like I was to be a part of their defense last year and know the players, watch all the film, and know the corrections they needed to make. He could see the places they needed to improve and then was given the reins to be able to do it. Just like me, be careful what you ask for because he is in charge now, and so am I."
Matt Wyatt is a former Mississippi State quarterback who was on the Bulldogs team in 1998 and 1999 the last time the Cowboys and MSU played ('98 in Stillwater and '99 in Starkville). He is now the color analyst on the Mississippi State radio network, and he has practice privileges at Mississippi State. He's seen a difference in the defensive attitude. He described on the radio what he saw at a recent practice.
"Every offensive player that wasn't in the huddle in this 11-on-11 scrimmage at practice was paying attention, but they were getting a drink of water, taking a knee, and there wasn't a lot of chatter. It was business as usual," described Wyatt.
"On the defensive side, Coach Collins had every player on the sidelines with him, all standing up, all had their helmets on, and all screaming and yelling, pumping up the guys on the field, telling them, ‘C'mon, let's go.'
"That is what he has brought," continued Wyatt. "He's telling these guys that I'm paying attention to you and grading you even when you're not in the huddle. I want to know how you are going to help us and how much energy you have."
The scene is not any different in Stillwater as starters like defensive tackle Calvin Barnett, defensive end Tyler Johnson, linebacker Shaun Lewis and safety Daytawion Lowe and others when not on the field are literally screaming and yelling for the others to make plays. The same goes for the other defensive players when the first team is on the field.
Attitude and commitment are catch words for Spencer. The word for energy all camp at Mississippi State has been "juice" and players are even awarded juice points.
"He's young and he knows how to reach the kids and he can identify with them," added Spencer. "Whatever he needs to do to motivate them he will do it. I think they will play really hard for him."
Just like the Cowboys will play hard for Spencer. The unit that plays harder and smarter just might make the difference and give their team a reason to rely on them all season long when they play next Saturday in a stadium appropriately named Reliant.