Early on in his coaching career, newly appointed Mississippi State defensive coordinator Geoff Collins thought that he knew all there was to know about defensive football.
“I thought I had all the answers at (26) years old. I learned that I didn’t, but I was a coordinator for two years.”
Before he was 30, Collins had spent a few seasons as the defensive coordinator at Albright College (D-III - PA), and just a few years later was named defensive coordinator at Western Carolina, where he spent a handful of years. While there's no doubt that those experiences were extremely valuable in shaping his coaching career, Collins points to his two years in off the field roles at Alabama (where he served as the director of player personnel) as the real defining time of his career.
According to the Clarion Ledger, those two years at Alabama in an off the field role allowed him to take a step back and see the game in a different light while also giving him time to take a short break from the pressures of calling plays on game day.
Collins' defenses at FIU and Western Carolina, two of his previous coordinator stops, improved dramatically in his first year on campus, and one unrecorded statistical grouping that Collins will be keeping track of this season, in order to chart their progress, is in a culmination of multiple different defensive categories which he calls "defensive mayhem".
“The one stat that is not talked about a lot, but one that I’ve been talking to guys a lot, is a stat called ‘defensive mayhem,’”
Collins loosely defines that stat as plays which result in negative yardage, sacks, interceptions, hurries or a pass breakups. While most dominant defenses are measured in terms of points per game allowed, or yards allowed per game, Collins believes that these "mayhem" stats are the ones that fly under the radar when people define a dominant defense.
During their 1-5 stretch to end the season (after starting 7-0), the Bulldogs gave up over 30 points per game, allowed at least 100 yards rushing in each outing (including 361 yards to Texas A&M), and allowed 11 rushing touchdowns during that span, which was more than 12 teams (including Penn State, Alabama, Michigan and Notre Dame) allowed on the entire season.