By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
If I may borrow a line from the Joker in “The Dark Knight,” Mississippi State’s defense needs to embrace chaos.
Geoff Collins could be the agent of chaos the Bulldogs need. The term he prefers is “mayhem.” He defined it for us late last week as he spoke about the plans he has as the new defensive coordinator.
“The one stat that is not talked about a lot, but one that I’ve been talking to guys a lot, is a stat called ‘defensive mayhem.’ Tackles for loss, sacks, PBUs, interceptions,” Collins said. “That stat we’ll hopefully see a great improvement.
“Aggressiveness. Defensive mayhem. Guys flying around, making plays and creating negative plays on the offensive side.”
There’s not been much mayhem in MSU’s defense lately. This past season, State ranked 90th nationally in tackles-for-loss (4.9 per game), 100th in sacks (1.4 per game), tied for 79th in pass break-ups (41) and tied for ninth in interceptions (19).
That’s a striking gap between interceptions and PBUs, and we saw some issues in the secondary late in the season. The Bulldogs got very little pressure up front throughout the fall, and a look back at some key defensive numbers in Dan Mullen’s four years as a head coach tell us that they’ve missed Manny Diaz.
He ran the defense for one season, in 2010, before leaving for Texas. That year, MSU ranked 61st in sacks, 17th in tackles-for-loss, 15th in rush defense, 51st in pass efficiency defense, 49th in interceptions and 39th in PBUs.
It was the most well-rounded defense MSU has had under Mullen.
Then Chris Wilson took over. There were some good numbers in 2011, especially sacks (2.08 per game) and pass efficiency defense. But overall, these past two seasons have seen State’s defense become less chaotic, less creative and simply less effective.
There are myriad reasons for that – the loss of defensive tackle Fletcher Cox being one – but Collins’ job is to get this defense back to Diaz levels. He actually speaks with Diaz often, saying the two are very close.
They spoke the other day, bouncing ideas off each other, “because they want to improve on defense and we want to improve on defense – the aggressiveness, the mentality and the mindset going into spring ball and the offseason,” said Collins.
He’ll have plenty of tools to work with, especially on the defensive line, where a ton of players with experience return, most notably defensive end Denico Autry. There are several redshirt freshmen who are promising.
David Turner, recently hired to coach the defensive line, has done his homework on Collins. He has a good idea of what needs to be done.
“Today’s offenses are constantly changing; you have to change with it,” Turner said.
Change can be good. So can a little chaos.
Brad Locke (firstname.lastname@example.org) covers Mississippi State for the Daily Journal and blogs daily at DJournal.com.