The Gators may not have snatched the Mississippi State head coach away from Starkville, but they did get his top assistant.
Jim McElwain has hired Geoff Collins, the Bulldogs’ defensive coordinator, as the Gators’ defensive coordinator. Collins, who was a finalist for the Broyles Award (nation’s best assistant) won’t even coach the MSU defense in the Orange Bowl; he’ll head straight to Gainesville and get to work for Florida.
The Bulldogs’ defense has been generally outstanding this year, particularly in the front seven, and the few problems they’ve had in the secondary have been blown out of proportion due to giving up a few big plays here and there. Mississippi State’s defense ranked tenth in the nation with 19.4 points allowed per game, and was especially dominant in the red zone, allowing points on just 24 of opponents’ 40 red zone trips.
Collins runs a defense that could be quite effective at Florida. He lets his corners play lots of man coverage while dominating the line of scrimmage by sending seven or eight guys. This was a problem at MSU because the Bulldogs don’t have All-American caliber cornerbacks, but luckily, the Gators do. Collins will be relying on Vernon Hargreaves and Jalen Tabor to lock down on their receivers, and will unleash a front seven that should still be outstanding to terrorize the opposing offensive line on every play. Florida’s secondary was a problem this year, but next year, they’ll be a year older, and better. Plus, Collins doesn’t recklessly play around with safeties like Muschamp did, so I feel confident that the busted coverages will be minimized.
So yes, personally, I think it’s a great hire. The “Minister of Mayhem,” as he’s called, is a fantastic recruiter in addition to being a great x’s and o’s coach. He’s a sure bet to be a head coach at some time in the near future, and since Dan Mullen clearly didn’t appreciate him, it showed that McElwain is able to strike quickly and effectively when going after highly touted assistants.
Now let’s see how quickly and effectively McElwain (and Collins) can strike in recruiting. National Signing Day is only two months away, and it’s up to Collins to help save the class. That’s his first test.