Florida Gators head coach Jim McElwain has made his first major hire since taking over the program two weeks ago, plucking Mississippi State defensive coordinator Geoff Collins for the same role on his staff.
The move was reported early Tuesday and officially announced later in the day.
“I got to know Geoff personally during my time at Alabama and have stayed in touch with him since and his defenses have been successful everywhere he has been,” McElwain said in a statement released by Florida. “It was important to maintain some of the same philosophies and concepts that have made the defenses around here successful with this hire and our players will continue to progress under his direction.
“Coach [D.J.] Durkin will continue to coach the team through the bowl game. I have the utmost respect for his professionalism and have full confidence in his abilities to lead and coach the team.”
According to ESPN.com‘s Joe Schad, Collins signed a three-year deal with the Gators.
A nominee for the 2014 Broyles Award, which is given annually to the nation’s top assistant coach, Collins was expected to receive head coaching opportunities this offseason. His 2014 defense at Mississippi State ranked 10th in scoring (19.4 points per game) but 80th in yards allowed (411.7 per game) due to a porous secondary that gave up 285 passing yards per game, fourth-worst in college football.
Collins agreed to a two-year, $1.2 million extension with Mississippi State ahead of the 2014 season as other programs, such as Florida State, pursued him for a lateral move. He also reportedly spoke with Auburn about leading its defense. Collins was set to earn $625,000 in 2015 but will likely receive a bump to that salary now that he is with Florida.
Nicknamed the “Minister of Mayhem,” according to his Mississippi State profile, Collins is well-known for his energy and excitement, as well his preference for Diet Mountain Dew. He generally coaches linebackers in addition to his defensive coordinator duties, a role he first held at UCF (2008-09).
Since then, Collins has served as defensive coordinator and linebackers coach at Florida International (2010) and MSU (2011-14).
After his playing days as a linebacker at at Western Carolina, he served as a student assistant at WCU (1993-94) and coach of Franklin High School in North Carolina (1995). Collins then took over as defensive coordinator at Albright College (1997-98). He became a graduate assistant at Georgia Tech (1999-2001), returned to WCU to take over as defensive coordinator (2002-05), then went back to GT as a recruiting coordinator (2006).
He served as Alabama’s director of player personnel under head coach Nick Saban in 2007 but did not spend a full season working with McElwain, who arrived in 2008.
Durkin, Florida’s current defensive coordinator and a member of the Gators’ staff since 2010 who survived the transition from Urban Meyer to Will Muschamp, is serving as UF’s interim head coach for the 2014 Birmingham Bowl. It was initially believed that McElwain was interested in Durkin remaining on staff in his current role.
Photo Credit: The Clarion-Leger