STARKVILLE – Geoff Collins will have a daunting task in his debut as Mississippi State’s full-time defensive coordinator.
Collins served as the Bulldogs co-defensive coordinator alongside Chris Wilson the past two seasons, but Saturday’s season opener will mark just the second time he has been in charge of calling plays – he also called the shots during the Gator Bowl loss to Northwestern.
Waiting in Houston for Collins and his defense will be the high-powered and up-tempo offense of No. 13 Oklahoma State. The Cowboys sported one of the nation’s top offenses last season, averaging 547 yards and 45.7 points per game.
Collins expects OSU’s offense to be just as potent Saturday at 2:30 p.m. at Reliant Stadium.
“They’ve got great skill players, they’ve got a (big) offensive line that can move people and are good in pass protection,” Collins said. “They’ve got a quarterback that makes good decisions and another one that can run really well and has a good, accurate arm. So they’ve got the total package.”
The Cowboys are expected to play both senior Clint Chelf and sophomore J.W. Walsh at quarterback on Saturday. Chelf (6-foot-1, 210 pounds) began 2012 as the third-string signal caller but started the final five games and was named MVP of the Heart of Dallas Bowl against Purdue. Walsh (6-2, 205) went 2-1 in his three starts and was named the Big 12 Freshman of the Year.
Chelf threw for 1,588 yards, 15 touchdowns and six interceptions, while Walsh completed 66.9 percent of his passes for 1,564 yards, 13 touchdowns and three picks. Walsh was also Oklahoma State’s fourth leading rusher with 290 yards and seven more scores.
While Chelf and Walsh have differing styles, Collins considers both to be equally dangerous.
“I know people talk about there’s a runner and there’s a thrower,” Collins said. “They’re both great throwers and once they get in the open field they can both roll. So they’ve got a good set of quarterbacks to get ready for.”
Making matters more difficult will be the inexperience at cornerback for MSU. Gone are NFL second-round draft picks Darius Slay and Johnthan Banks leaving a void for Jamerson Love, Taveze Calhoun, Cedric Jiles, Justin Cox and others to fill.
Dan Mullen said Monday that the Bulldogs could play as many as five cornerbacks in the season opener.
“They won’t be short for reps,” Mullen said. “They’re all going to get their chance.”
An Associated Press photo in Thursday’s Daily Journal did not show MSU assistant coach Geoff Collins. The AP’s photo caption failed to correctly identify former MSU assistant Tim Brewster.