The nicknames that the Florida Gators new defensive coordinator came to Gainesville with excited the fan base. At Mississippi State, the players and fans had taken to calling Geoff Collins the “Minister of Defense” and his defense the “Psycho defense.”
Yeah, those are things you want your defensive coordinator associated with.
The 43-year old coordinator drinks Diet Mountain Dew mixed with 5-Hour Energy and he drinks it out of a “swag chalice.” The maroon and white chalice is being replaced with an orange and blue one, definitely a tradition that Collins will keep going with him in Gainesville. It’s these little interstices and his fiery personality that draw players in but it’s who he is as a person that wins them over.
“Coach Collins is a great guy, great coach, he meant a lot to us,” former Mississippi State defensive tackle Kaleb Eulls said. “You know, he came to the program and brought a lot of excitement, a lot of juice and a lot of expectations; not only of himself but of us and everyone around him.”
Collins is a great defensive mind, yes, but the way he relates to players on a personal level is what makes his a great coach. The biggest challenge that Collins and the new coaching staff will face is building relationships with the current members of a team. The best coaches are the ones that are able to earn the trust and respect of their players, creating a bond and a relationship that makes the player want to give the extra bit of effort he once thought he didn’t have in him. The players did that for the last staff and Collins’ former players believe that the Gators won’t have a problem building that relationship with Collins.
“He’s like a father figure. He’s a guy you can talk to; he’ll even open up his home and let you meet his wife, sit down and get a chance to talk to him,” Eulls said. “He’s a great coach and not only a great guy on the field but a great guy off the field as well.”
Once those relationships have formed what can Collins do on the field? The Gators’ defense has been one with as much bite as they’ve had bark the past seven seasons, never finishing lower than fifth in the conference in total defense. Collins inherits a unit with a ton of talent; All-SEC and All-American type players litter the depth chart, “The talent that has been assembled here, you know, is legitimate SEC talent,” said Collins.
Collins is smart. He ran a lot of different defensive looks at Mississippi State and he should be able to play around the same way at Florida.
“Coach Collins is a great coach, he can coach any type of look,” said Mississippi State defensive lineman Preston Smith. “I know when he was at State he had a lot of different looks out there. We ran many different looks, 4-3, 3-4, three down linemen. He can coach anything up.”
Now, back to that whole psycho defense thing. Sorry, Gators fans, you’re going to have to get a new nickname for Collins and his defense.
“He told us that we had to go out there and play like a bunch of psychomaniacs, play the best you can play,” Smith said. “Psycho defense is Mississippi State, Florida’s gotta get their own thing.”
Once the recruiting frenzy winds down, and he has time to get to know his players off the field and build a bond with them on it, Collins envisions his defense branding themselves. The psycho defense was for Mississippi State; it’s what they embodied and what they were. Florida will have to find an identity all their own, organically.
“It always works better when it happens that way, I think. Getting to know these kids personalities. A bunch of Florida kids, they’re great kids that love to compete. They have fun,” Collins said. “A big thing out of practice is you see Vernon Hargreaves and Jalen [Tabor] out there dancing. They really like football and really like being around each other.
“So whatever their swag is naturally, we’ll build upon that and take it to a higher level.”