Even the most casual of football fans can watch a game and with a little basic math, easily keep up with the scoring. There’s the touchdown (6 points), the PAT (1 point), the safety (2 points) and the field goal (3 points). That’s all any one really needs to understand. Except of course for the elusive and baffling one point safety which is so confusing that two and a half years later the Oregon Ducks still don’t know how they achieved it.
Well now there’s the CPS-The Collins’ Point System.
New Defensive Coordinator Geoff Collins inherited a loaded roster of talent to begin the 2015 Florida football season, but what he quickly noticed was that 1+1=1; 2+2=1; 5+6=1. Too many Drake’s and not enough Quentin Miller’s.
Collins instead needed all 11 individual players to add up to a team.
So he quickly instituted an algorithm that would bring all of those individual numbers together to create the magic master number of 11.
This somewhat veiled numerical system has tremendous potential to add up to winning numbers for Head Coach Jim McElwain and the Gators.
While the average fan only has to wrap their heads around the few numbers mentioned above, true students of the x’s and o’s know that it takes an understanding of the numbers to excel at the game.
So in the spirit of breaking down CPS, GatorCountry dove into the Matrix.
We’ve spent the past several months, ever since the first week of spring practice back in March, watching, listening and asking both players and Collins to explain the process and they’ve all answered dutifully. There’s only one problem; no one seems to understand it.
Making Sense of the Madness
There is a scene fairly early on in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone during which the new students arriving at Hogwarts are greeted by Professor Minerva McGonagall. She takes a minute to explain the four houses and then takes two sentences to break down an extremely complex practice.
“While you are at Hogwarts, your triumphs will earn you house points, while any rule breaking will lose house points. At the end of the year, the house with the most points is awarded the house cup, a great honor.”
And that was it. That was the explanation. From then on, a student could be doing something seemingly insignificant like righting an overturned book and be awarded five points by the librarian. No one really knew all of the ins and outs to the process or what would earn them points and what wouldn’t, but everyone knew it was there and that it was important and that they best act to a standard worthy of awarded points.
While we may never experience Geoff Collins stopping a Florida Gators football practice to award “10 points to Gryffindor” (although how much fun would that be), the concept is generally the same.
The players are fully aware of CPS. They know that they should act a certain way to obtain these points. But they still don’t have, or admit to having, a full grasp on it all. The only thing they knew for sure is, it’s helping improve their play and their chemistry.
The latter was actually the main focus for Collins and staff. When explaining his point system, Collins said “we went back and watched some of last season, and there’d be lots of great plays being made defensively, but then you’d see at times, celebrations being kind of individualized, running away from each other. So the big focus for us this spring is coming together and celebrating together.”
Now It’s Time For a Breakdown
Celebrating together and improving production would be the mission statement, if you will, of this little tally, and something Collins’ players can all agree on.
“Its mostly just about energy, having energy on the field,” says junior linebacker Alex Anzalone.
“If they see one play on the film where you go and sprint to a teammate or whatever after he makes a big play, you’ll get rewarded for that. It just goes into your production sheet after you practice.”
The production part is key according to senior defensive back Brian Poole.
“His point system is all about production, it’s all about making plays, helping other people make plays, every thing like that.”
It’s broken down into juice points for the Apex predator and cryptid for the Swamp Beast. There are also swag points, which are more self-explanatory.
The two main sets of points though concern the Apex predator and Swamp Beast, as evident by Coach social media accounts.
As previously explored here on GatorCountry, Collins is one of the more avid and interesting Instagram users amongst the Florida Gators football coaching staff. And it is on his Instagram account that we see what can essentially be called an award wall.
But a hash tag does not a definition make, so let’s dive farther in shall we?
When asked to explain the categories within the point system, Alex Anzalone began with a long “Ummmm”.
Brian Poole had a few more words; granted they were “I don’t know any of them.”
admitted, “Honestly I’m a little confused about what they stand for.”
Saturation is key though, and I was able to extract some sort of lose structure.
According to the knower of all things, Google, an apex predator “is a predator residing at the top of a food chain on which no other creatures predate.”
“There’s the apex predator,” says Hargreaves, “which is the guy who was running around all practice, making plays and the guy that had a motor that day.”
The apex predator, we can conclude from Collins’ Instagram, is the player who ended the day with the most juice points.
So what are juice points?
Hargreaves explains further.
“You get juice points like if you make a play and celebrate with your teammates, and however good the celebration is, is how many points you get.”
This is the crux of the whole operation according to Collins who explained the basis of his point system with, “Daniel McMillian makes a play and Alex Anzalone or Alex McCalister comes running over to him, we celebrate that. Not necessarily just look at me, look at me, but look at my buddy, he just made a play, let’s go get excited about that.”
Another facet to possibly the apex predator and the point system overall is the swag point. Now to start, for those alive during the Regan administration, swag is a certain aura that someone can carry on them, an attitude, a confident cockiness and a killer outfit.
“You have swag points,” says Hargreaves, “like after you make a play, what’s your swag like?”
As any Florida Gators football fans who watched the 2014 defense finish 15th in the nation by only allowing an average of 329.8 yards per game and conducting only slightly more dance parties can attest, this group has swag.
Collins, as mentioned above, would like for it to be shared more, but the swag points are more of an all-encompassing area of his system. And it is the implementation of these swag points that have really upped the excitement for his defense.
“We have to go out there and make plays [and get] swag points,” says junior linebacker Daniel McMillian.
“You go out there and you celebrate, and you get swag points.”
This is the difference for McMillian as well who says Collins has brought fun to football for his unit.
“It’s much more fun, much more. It’s like he want us to just go out there and be hyped and turn up.”
The swag points at least seem easy to grasp. There is one more layer to this system though and it just might be purposely difficult to understand.
By referring back to our handy guide of Collins’ Instagram account, it seems evident that the swamp beast is fueled by the cryptid.
The only explanation here came from Anzalone who said, “so if someone has a really good day hustling or a lot of energy out on the field, they’ll be the swamp beast or whatever, the cryptid.”
It possibly stands to reason that this one is purposely obtuse. The definition of a cryptid is an animal or a plant whose appearance has been suggested but hasn’t been discovered, often appearing in folklore or mythology. The Yeti, Sasquatch and Bigfoot are all examples of a cryptid.
In fact the prefix-crypt-is a Greek word that means secret.
This knowledge sheds new light on Brian Poole’s demeanor when answering questions about this point system. It was guarded, close to the chest, like he was only giving me enough to get by but not enough to reveal anything pertinent.
The mystery of it all can’t help but cause some excitement amongst Florida Gators football fans. What could Geoff Collins possibly have up his sleeve for this talent-loaded defense?
A Satisfying Answer
On November 15, 2014 the number 1 ranked Mississippi State Bulldogs rode into Tuscaloosa, Alabama with their Heisman hopeful quarterback and a team well on their way to the inaugural College Football Playoff. They just needed to take care of perennial powerhouse Alabama and they were nearly guaranteed to ride the tide into the bracket. Instead they had the beat dropped on them, quite literally.
Nick Saban consistently puts his Crimson Tide defense into the upper echelon of college football. But on that day, talent got a nudge from something else. The stadium DJ pumped in music with one audience in mind, and that was the Bama defense. As “No Flex Zone” and instrumental C-Murder songs resounded in Bryant-Denny Stadium, the Tide got an extra umph in their step and put a little more passion into every play.
According to al.com, nose tackle A’Shawn Robinson explained the difference it makes for the unit.
“So you play music we like, we jam up to it and get more fired up with it.”
Nick Saban later said that he didn’t even notice the change in music but certainly wasn’t opposed to his player’s reaction.
“If it’s helping us win, I’m all for it. I never really put that down in my notes that I thought that was a significant factor in how we played.”
It seems insignificant, but that’s ok. It wasn’t for Saban and his game plans. It wasn’t for the fans, most of whom would have fainted in their seats if they actually knew the words to the C-Murder song. It wasn’t for Mississippi State. It was for the Alabama defensive unit; something they could get into together and therefore feed off of each other.
Guess who was a front row spectator to this occurrence? Then Mississippi State defensive coordinator, Geoff Collins.
Any stat will show that Collins knows how to get the most out of a defense. He’s twice been nominated for the Broyles Award as the nation’s top assistant coach and his Bulldog defense finished 2014 as the nation’s number one red zone defense and number 10 in scoring defense.
But as he saw that fateful day in Tuscaloosa, sometimes it takes a little more.
Maybe that’s the whole point of his point system (pun intended).
As the word cryptid implies, maybe we aren’t supposed to understand it.
Maybe it’s simple, maybe it’s not. Maybe the players really understand it, maybe they don’t. Maybe Collins is making this up as he goes along, or maybe he has a long-term plan that we can’t even begin to imagine. Maybe Snape had a reason for deducting all those points from Harry when he really wasn’t doing anything wrong. Maybe all of the maybe’s are an answer in itself. Because maybe, just maybe, it’s not for us to understand.
Daniel McMillian said as much.
“It’s more so for us. He’s bringing fun to football… One person makes a play, we all make a play, just like that.”
And Alex Anzalone as well.
“I guess we just accepted it. It’s something we’re not used to but it definitely makes it fun.”
And the somewhat prophetic Brian Poole, who was referring to the individual categories when he said, “as long as you’re making plays, I mean you’re gonna eventually win some”, which is Geoff Collins plan all along.
As any avid football fan will tell you, to truly break down the x’s and o’s of the game, a grasp on the numbers, on math is necessary. What Collin’s Point System is doing though is more than just adding 6+1 to get 7 for a scoring possession. It’s building intangibles, the things that can’t be measured, something you can’t put a numerical value on.
It’s points for the defense, points for the Florida Gators. That adds up.