Mullen plucks another assistant from Sun Belt

By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal

STARKVILLE – Dan Mullen plucked one of the best young assistants out of the Sun Belt Conference.
Sound familiar?
Mississippi State’s head coach added Geoff Collins to the staff Wednesday as linebackers coach and co-defensive coordinator, bringing the Bulldogs’ staff back to full strength after the departure of defensive coordinator Manny Diaz last week.
Collins, 39, the defensive coordinator and linebackers coach at Florida International this past season, will coach the linebackers and hold the title of co-defensive coordinator. That role was previously held by Chris Wilson, who last week was promoted to defensive coordinator after Diaz left for Texas.
Diaz coached the linebackers at MSU, too. He was at State for a season after a successful four-year run at Middle Tennessee State, also of the Sun Belt.
“There’s a certain energy level I want not just on the field of our staff, I want people that are hungry and are coming on their way up in the profession and want to prove themselves,” said Mullen, who in his second season led MSU to a 9-4 record and Gator Bowl victory.
That description fits the 39-year-old Collins perfectly, according to Mullen.
In just one season, Collins took FIU’s defense from one of the worst in the nation to one of the better ones statistically. After ranking 119th in total defense and 111th in scoring defense in 2009, the Panthers were 60th and 65th in those categories and led the Sun Belt in both.
That helped FIU, coached by Mario Cristobal, go from 3-9 last year to 7-6 this year with a win over Toledo in the Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl.
“He’s going to be an in-your-face, high-energy, very detailed guy,” Mullen said of Collins. “When you come from the background I know he’s come from, you’d better cross every ‘T’ and dot every ‘I.’ That’s kind of some of the old school background he was brought up in the profession under.”
Collins worked two years at Central Florida under George O’Leary and at Alabama one season under Nick Saban. He’s been defensive coordinator at Western Carolina (2002-05), his alma mater, and Albright College in Reading, Pa. (1997-98).
Collins was on his way to Starkville on Wednesday night.
“It’s great to be joining a program that is growing and building and headed the right way like this one is,” Collins said in a statement, “and I’m ready to hit the ground running.”

Contact Brad Locke at 678-1571 or brad.locke@journalinc.com.