Geoff Collins has his own approach to developing linebackers, and it's worked at other schools, so why shouldn't it at Mississippi State? In today's Journal, I take a look at the philosophy of the Bulldogs' first-year linebackers coach/co-defensive coordinator, who is trying to replace three starting linebackers.
Collins sums up his approach this way: "Regardless of position, we're making them learn every position, and I try to teach every play, we go over all 11 players on the field on defense, so they know the whole thing. I kind of treat them like quarterbacks. They know what everybody's doing so we can all be lined up and playing the same defense and establish leadership over the whole deal."
Each player has his own strengths, of course, and the leading candidate at middle linebacker – at least until transfer Brandon Maye arrives – is senior Brandon Wilson. He played in all 13 games last year and made 17 tackles, and while replacing Chris White is a tall task, Collins expects Wilson to do just that.
"I know everybody talks about Chris White and how dynamic he was, but I don't think we're going to miss a beat with Brandon," Collins said.
How so? Wilson's work ethic, which the coach said is unparalleled on the team.
"The big thing is, and the Bulldog nation doesn't get to see this, but he is probably the hardest worker on this entire team. All the players know it, all the coaches know it, so he instantly has the respect of every member of this team, of every member of this coaching staff. When Brandon Wilson says something, everybody listens."
This linebacker group is, understandably, being overlooked a bit. That's likely because most folks don't know a lot about the current players. There's Cam Lawrence, who logged a lot of snaps last year weakside linebacker, and several others got varying amounts of playing time. No preseason all-SEC players, though.
Wilson said the linebackers have something to prove.
"Coach Collins, we actually talk about that a lot, about what are people saying, what are we going to do, how are we working, what are the linebackers doing," Wilson said. "And our goal is just to continue to work no matter what they say."
If the other Bulldogs follow Wilson's example and latch onto Collins' instruction, this could be a solid unit come the fall. You certainly won't see Wilson backing down from the challenge. He relishes this sort of thing.
"Whatever challenges are put in front of his face, he attacks them," Collins said. "He doesn't look at it as somebody's trying to pick on him or make life tough on him. 'OK, you want me to leg press however much 40 times? OK, I'm going to do it 45 times.' He's that kind of kid and that kind of person."