By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – While you and I are daydreaming about summer vacation plans, Geoff Collins is beating the sunrise to the punch and bouncing around the Southeast.
It’s recruiting season, and in many ways, it’s more hectic than football season itself. Collins, Mississippi State’s first-year linebackers coach and co-defensive coordinator, is smack in the middle of the spring recruiting period and going full speed. I managed to catch up with him Tuesday for a radio interview – “Sports Zone” airs at 5 p.m. each Tuesday on 91.7 and 90.9 out of Tupelo.
Collins was just leaving a high school in Alabama when we spoke. He was trying to hit eight to 10 schools … in a single day. He told me later that he made it to 11 schools on Tuesday.
“I was moving and shaking,” he said in a text message.
Collins has a lot of ground to cover before he’s off the road: His recruiting area is central Mississippi north of Jackson, the north half of Alabama, and west Georgia.
He was in Birmingham last Wednesday when tornadoes ravaged the area, and with schools closing down he had to change plans and head to Georgia.
Collins said he’s got about 21/2 weeks left of being on the road, then maybe he’ll get some downtime.
Yeah, I don’t think Collins knows the meaning of downtime. This is the guy who sends out motivational Twitter messages at 4:30 a.m. He said he is “absolutely loving” being on the recruiting trail for weeks at a time.
Collins developed his recruiting jones while coaching at schools like Fordham and Western Carolina.
“I got my start in Division III, I-AA, and at those levels you’ve got to go early and go late and hit about 10 to 12 schools a day,” he said. “Just because I’m in the SEC now, I don’t think it’s my place to change how I work or how I recruit.
“So I just approach it with the same attitude and the same work ethic as I did when I was coming up and had to grind without the resources or the money or the logo to back it.”
The logo on a coach’s shirt can make it easier or harder to recruit a kid, as Collins well knows. He’s worked at Georgia Tech and Alabama, as well as Central Florida and Florida International.
“The biggest thing is when you walk into a school, the first thing the kids are looking for is the logo,” he said. “You walk in with an FIU logo, a lot of the kids, especially in the states of Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia, they wouldn’t know an FIU logo if it bit them. You walk in with a Mississippi State logo, or Alabama, Georgia Tech, there’s instant credibility, instant recognition, and now you’ve just got to work hard because there’s some other good logos walking into the school right behind you or right before you.”
One thing Collins has going for him is that he’s built up relationships over the years that are still serving him well. When he was a young graduate assistant at Georgia Tech, Collins said the school had six primary states it recruited. George O’Leary, the head coach at the time, told him, “Geoff, you’ve got the other 44 states.”
Collins loves recruiting so much he’d be willing to go anywhere.
“You could send me to Alaska and tell me there’s a great player, go get him. I’ll just go and try to recruit hard and get the kid to come.”
Brad Locke (firstname.lastname@example.org) covers Mississippi State for the Daily Journal and blogs daily at NEMS360.com.