Florida officially hires Mississippi State’s Geoff Collins as defensive coordinator

By Adam Silverstein
December 16, 2014

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

59 Comments

  1. gatorboi352 says:

    Forget Durkin, this doesn’t bode well for keeping T Rob on staff.

    • senuod says:

      Yeah, doesn’t look too great for keeping him, but I’m sure McElwain will do his best to persuade him to stay. Sounds like we’ll need a good secondary coach if this guy is going to be the new DC, so it might be even more imperative for us to keep T-Rob. Can’t say I’m overly impressed with this hire for DC, not disappointed either, but only time will tell.

      This hire may have been made more so because Durkin had already planned on moving on to one of his offers (I’m thinking A&M), as opposed to McElwain not wanting to retain him.

  2. cline says:

    If true, i hope he can bring some recruits with him, especially at LB.

    • Michael Jones says:

      I think we’re strong coming back at linebacker and in the secondary. I’m hoping more stud DL will sign.

  3. G8trATL says:

    While I understated when there is a New HC, generally speaking most of the staff would be changed as well. However I was really keeping my fingers crossed the staff would remain intact for the most part on the Defensive side of the ball at least.
    Adam do you view DJ leaving if nothing else a “short-term” negative to the program?

    • Why would it be a negative?

      Durkin is a nice guy and a good coach but Florida just reportedly hired an experienced defensive coordinator as opposed to someone who has been second-fiddle to Muschamp the only two years he’s ever “run” a defense.

      • J-skool says:

        Thank you. I don’t understand the Durkin hype. Not saying he’s a bad coach, but he’s benefited hugely from the “DC” title under Muschamp’s defense.

      • Steven says:

        Ya, I don’t get the love affair with Durkin.

        Not only is Collins an experience DC, but he is a great recruiter as well

      • G8trATL says:

        Guess for me it’s about “Continuity” but I can understand the need for change as well.
        Speaking of continuity, I know a very underrated position on the coaching staff is the Strength and Conditioning coach. What’s the latest on him? I apologize as I forgot his name.

        • Dillman. I would expect him to stay.

        • Ken (CA) says:

          Not much continuity when you only have 8 commits less than 2 months from NSD. Hopefully Lawing is staying as well as some of the big time DLine possibilities seem to be waiting to see what happens to him (granted, don’t want to keep just to hold on to a recruit or two, but I think he also was one of the better assistants)

  4. Conky3000 says:

    If true, I hope Collins will keep Lawing for DL. I assume Collins will coach linebackers as well?

  5. Luke says:

    Interesting. I was hoping Durkin would remain on staff hoping he learned a lot from ‘Champ and was capable, but it’s being reported that A&M an UNC are after him, so maybe the parting is mutual. Adam, any thoughts on what this might mean for T Rob?

    I don’t know anything about State’s defense, but it’s good to see someone with SEC pedigree… Go Gators!

  6. UFGATORFAN100 says:

    IMHO I Do Not like the move. MSU had terrible Secondary. I saw several of their games and the Defense was their Weakness. I thought the Current Defensive staff should have stayed in place.

    PS With this move we might lose T~ROB to Auburn which would be a big loss…..

    PS Fellow Gators just as we say that Muschamps Downfall was OC Hires and Offensive Side…. Will McElwain be DC Hires and Defensive Side. IF this move happens I think it will be a mistake and possible downfall for Mac in future…. What do you guys think?

    • Steven says:

      Everyone in the business: “This is an outstanding hire”

      Message board nuts “This is the downfall of McElwain”

      Newsflash. This is a really good thing that just happened. Try to enjoy it.

      • apprentice says:

        Not that I’m defending UFGATORFAN100 but your argument sucks. Many thought Muschamp was a great hire for HC. I bet the few “nutjobs” who were skeptical are laughing now.

        • Steven says:

          Collins is proven. Muschamp wasn’t.

          Miss St doesn’t have near the players that Florida does.
          Plus he is a high energy guy who the players seem to love and is supposed to be a good recruiter as well.

          How can you dislike a guy who drinks 6 mountain dews a day, and adds a few red bulls on top of that.
          He runs something called a psycho defense and drinks out of something called a swag chalice.
          If nothing else the guy seems like a riot.
          It wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world for this team to actually be somewhat exciting after the most boring 4 years of football you can imagine.

          Mullen tore Collins a new a-hole to the media after their loss to Ole Miss. Just shows you the kind of guy Mullen is and gives you a little insight into why Foley never considered him

          • Ken (CA) says:

            All the more reason for TRob to stay! The “high-energy” guy drinking that many Mountain Dew and Red Bulls/day is a heart attack waiting to happen!

        • Michael Jones says:

          I guess his argument “sucks” because you disagree with it. He makes good points as far as I’m concerned. Besides, at this point, until we have a reason not to be, I tend to favor a positive approach to supporting our new HC and his decisions on hiring his assistants.

          We won’t know for awhile whether these are good hires or not, just like we didn’t know about Muschamp for awhile. So, in the meantime, I’m going to support him.

          • apprentice says:

            No, I actually don’t disagree with the fact that this could be a very good hire. My point, that everyone seems to have missed, is that calling someone who is not enthusiastic about this hire a “board nutjob” simply because they disagree is a very flawed argument.

            Furthermore, in his original post there were no “good points”, it was merely a mocking of someone who expressed a different opinion. In his reply to me he then expanded why he thought it was a good hire. That post had a good argument with good points.

            (Adam, I just got the “you’re posting messages too quickly”)

        • 305Gator says:

          I’m with Steven and say it is your argument that sucks. It is a totally different situation.
          Muschamp had never been a HC before. Collins is a proven DC with experience and with respect from his peers, he is an upgrade over Durkin.

    • Tractorr says:

      A big part of the reason that MSU’s defense doesn’t look so great is talent level. Go look at who they got the last few years. I think they have one 4 star DB over the last 5 years. Part of the reason Florida’s secondary is so amazing is that we have a 4 star or better at every position. So much of DB play is predicated on athletic ability.

      • Michael Jones says:

        Hello, Tractorr! Thank you. Exactly the point I’ve been trying to make for awhile. We have certain recruiting advantages here at UF. We just need the right coach(es) to lead us back to sustained excellence.

      • 305Gator says:

        I was thinking the same thing.
        MSU’s weakness was the secondary and we are stacked with studs on the secondary.
        Collins is a highly regarded and successful DC he should do just fine at UF with better talent.

        • ejl33gator says:

          Yes, but our defense has talent because Muschamp, DURKIN, and TROB brought that talent to the program. This guy has been at MSU for three years so if the players on his side of the play are less talented than UFs, thats not a reason he should get a pass. In college you are responsible for bringing in the guys as well.

          I am not arguing for or against this hire – just saying the argument of “less talent” seems bogus

          • 305Gator says:

            No it is not bogus.
            Collins has done very well with less. At UF he will have better talent to work with so he should do better.
            Saying that Muschamp, Durkin and T Rob brought in all the talent is only half true at best. They sold UF to those kids, a lot easier than selling MSU. It has been said that Florida sells itself.

          • Michael Jones says:

            If it were a level playing field recruiting-wise then I would agree with you. Your argument makes a false presumption that it is, but it’s not. Marshall and East Carolina can’t recruit with Alabama and Notre Dame. It’s just the way it is. And although not as dramatic a disparity, the Miss St’s of this world will never be able to recruit with the Florida’s of this world. So the differences in talent level is very relevant. Hence the kudos to the coaches like Pinkel and others who consistently seem to be able to do less with more.

            Probably one of the most underrated and under-acclaimed coaches in the country over the last two years has been Pinkel at Mizzou.

  7. GrandGouda says:

    Our Defensive Coordinator was Will Muschamp, not DJ Durkin. Just like Steve Spurrier was our Offensive Coordinator when he was here. Durkin was not the mastermind of the defense. Would love to keep T-Rob and Lawing, and Summers (who it looks like we’ll be keeping), they are great position coaches.

  8. Marc says:

    Anyone nicknamed the “Minister of Mayhem” is alright in my book. With stints at UCF anf FIU, he will know the Florida recruiting trail a bit. Of course we all wanted to keep Durkin, T-Rob, etc., but this seems like a good hire and it appears to me that Mac is getting out in front of Durkin bolting.

  9. G2 says:

    These changes at a critical time, I don’t know how we are going to put this class together unless we are able to keep some key assistants? We got Muschump screwing us on one side (trying to steal recruits & now coaches, slamming the facilities etc)…… can it get much worse?
    I’m crawling out on the ledge here!

    • Muschamp is not stealing coaches. He was fired and is hiring a staff. When you hire a head coach, you do so knowing you could lose any staff members you may want to retain.

    • Ryan D says:

      Also Muschamp can’t “steal” any recruits unless they are already targeted by Auburn.

      • Ken (CA) says:

        Not sure how you figure that. How do you define who has been “targeted” by any given school. However I would not be shocked to see Martez Ivey head to auburn at this point, he was a long time UF lean, but between WM at Auburn and one of his friends committed there, we can probably cross him off the potential list. It is going to be a great challenge at this point to put together much of a class, Unless we can flip some kids, there are only a few studs out there at this point that had UF in their top consideration list and that is shrinking quickly without much chance to talk to them for the next month.

        • Ryan D says:

          My fault, it’s the contract that was signed about who UF is recruiting. “Muschamp has a clause in his Florida contract prohibiting him from recruiting Gators targets that Auburn itself was not already targeting.”

          • Ken (CA) says:

            I still don’t know how you would enforce that or prove that, and am surprised that a school would put that in a contract anyway, but the main target the 2 schools were fighting over was Ivey so who knows.

            • Ryan D. says:

              I sure hope we get him. But we shall see.

              • Ken (CA) says:

                Based on an article about him on ESPN I just read, it sounds like coach and his best friend aren’t going to be what matters to him, he seems smart intelligent kid, he sees this as business and going to figure out which will give him better chance to get to NFL. Will be interesting to see which school convinces him they will be better stepping stone to NFL

        • Michael Jones says:

          I think we get Ivey, especially with the OL guys who are improvidently leaving early for the NFL. He can step right in a be a 4 year starter (if he stays that long).

    • Steven says:

      I hope this stops some of the boohooing over Muschamp.

      I can’t believe some of you felt bad for him. He should have been fired last year

    • 305Gator says:

      Relax G2, this guy Collins seems to be an upgrade over Durkin and while it may seem Muschamp is “stealing coaches and recruits” that is not the case. The worst that can happen is if T Rob leaves to join Mus but we can overcome that if it happens. I like T Rob, I like Lawing, I like Summers, heck I like Durkin, but there are other assistant coaches out there who are as good or better coaches and recruiters as them. I think Collins is one of them. So if they all want to leave then so be it, we will be fine. Step off the ledge, the future is bright for Gator Nation.

  10. Rakkasan says:

    His credentials are at least as good as Muschamp when he came in. Good hire. BY the way T-Rob is a defensive backs coach, not Muschamp’s puppy dog who will follow him wherever he goes.

  11. Oldflyer says:

    Internet forums are a hoot. A few days ago the line was to fervently hope that JMac kept the defensive staff intact, or nearly so.

    Now it is good that he seems to intent on decimating it.

    I can’t believe that anyone thinks that Durkin would not stay if offered DC. He was obviously snubbed. So, the thinking is that Collins is a clear up grade over the guy that Muschamp picked for DC–and who apparently Sumlin and Fedora also want to solve their obvious problems. Head shake.

    Next the line of thinking was to promote T-Rob to guarantee that he stay. Well, we will soon know how that shakes out; but, he has obviously been rejected as DC.

    Is this the big name hire we have been hearing about?

    Fingers crossed for next year’s defense.

    • 305Gator says:

      Come on oldflyer you know better than that. Mac is not “intent on decimating” the defensive staff. By all accounts he wants T Rob to stay, I haven’t heard anything either way about Lawing. It would have been nice for Durkin to stay but what do we internet forum denizens know? Not much it seems. Mac thinks Collins is better than Durkin, so I go along with Mac. Whatever Big Mac wants is OK right now, he’s on a honeymoon.
      You want T Rob? Great, so do I. Unless of course Big Mac has a different idea.
      BTW, no one has suggested T Rob for DC.

  12. Steven says:

    Adam, Would love if you would post some of the letters he sends recruits. Pretty funny stuff.

  13. INGATORSWETRUST says:

    I think this is good hire, as the head coach needs assistants and coordinators loyal to him and that is hard to do if you retain too many former assistants. Add to that that Durkin was the LB coach and failed to recruit position last year and the LBs were also the first to depart this year’s class after Muschamp firing.

  14. t says:

    Even the great Saban has had defenses that pooped the bed

    Settle down folks

  15. Michael J. says:

    It’s good to see that McElwain is making the decisions on who he wants on his staff, instead of just taking on the guys from a failed regime. I have no idea why everyone is so enthralled with Robinson staying, his recruiting prowess is overrated. If UF was getting great players, then why doesn’t it show up on the field? There is absolutely no reason to keep anyone because of recruiting, the past five years have yielded Gator Bowl rings, nothing else. UF is not going to have a great recruiting year, regardless of who the coaches are. When you fire a coach and have a 10-13 record the past two years, recruiting is going to suffer. The most important thing is for McElwain to choose the staff he thinks are the best teachers. You can win without the best recruiting rankings. Oregon is never rated high. The East winner the past two years, Missouri, is never rated high. A one year drop shouldn’t be looked at as something that can’t be overcome. Next year, if UF looks more like a competent team instead of the Keystone Cops, recruits will want to come. UF just needs to show that losing a game like they lost to South Carolina won’t happen anymore.

  16. ozar says:

    We should have kept DJ Durkin he’s a good DC and that 3-4 defense works great for our team now with this new guy we will run the 4-3 to be honest its doesnt fit the talent we have need better defensive tackles but we will see but I don’t like the move like I was told as a child if its not broke then dont fix it .

    • 305Gator says:

      Durkin was OK. Remember he was 2nd fiddle to Muschamp, who knows how good he is on his own. Collins has a track record much better than Durkin, he has been good on his own as a DC.

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