Florida’s coaching overhaul is just getting started.
New Gators head coach Jim McElwain has officially put his first stamp on the program since he took over Dec. 4, hiring Mississippi State defensive coordinator Geoff Collins to the same position Tuesday.
Collins, nicknamed the “Minister of Mayhem,” has served as MSU’s coordinator since 2011, earning a promotion from co-coordinator and linebackers coach in 2013.
The Bulldogs ranked 10th nationally in scoring defense this season, allowing 19.4 points per game. Although MSU yielded plenty of yards (just 82nd in total defense, No. 125 in passing), Collins’ unit was the stingiest red zone defense in the country (No. 1 red zone scoring, touchdown percentage).
“His defenses have been successful everywhere he has been,” McElwain said.
“It was important to maintain some of the same philosophies and concepts that have made the defenses around here successful with this hire, and our players will continue to progress under his direction.”
Collins employs an attacking, aggressive 4-3-style defense, and the 43-year-old coach brings plenty of charisma and personality to the team.
According to an ESPN.com feature in October, Collins consumes around seven Mountain Dews a day in his “Swag Chalice,” tracks players’ energy with a metric called “Juice Points” and is a “self-described psycho.”
Bulldogs head coach Dan Mullen, UF’s offensive coordinator from 2005 to 2008, told reporters Tuesday that McElwain contacted him personally to seek permission to interview Collins.
While Mullen granted the request, he said, “I don’t like anybody leaving for what I would view a lateral move, to be perfectly honest.”
Collins replaces UF interim head coach and defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin, who many believed McElwain would retain to maintain continuity on a unit ranked No. 9 this year in total defense.
Instead, McElwain pegged Collins to take over, but Durkin will continue to serve as Florida’s coach for the Jan. 3 Birmingham Bowl against East Carolina.
“I have the utmost respect for [Durkin’s] professionalism and have full confidence in his abilities to lead and coach the team,” McElwain said.
Durkin has been linked to defensive coordinator openings at Texas A&M and North Carolina.
Meanwhile, Collins comes to Florida with substantial ties to the state.
He was the defensive coordinator at Florida International University in 2010 and served as the University of Central Florida’s linebackers coach and recruiting coordinator in 2008 and 2009. He was also Alabama’s director of player personnel in 2007, helping land the recruiting class that included five future first-round NFL draft picks.