Temple’s Geoff Collins ‘ahead of the curve’

Temple coach Geoff Collins watches his team during the fourth quarter against Villanova.

Temple coach Geoff Collins watches his team during the fourth quarter against Villanova.

Former Georgia Tech captain Roddy Jones has had two different experiences with Temple coach Geoff Collins, seen as a potential candidate for the job as Yellow Jackets head coach. First, Collins helped pull together Tech’s famed 2007 recruiting class that included Derrick Morgan, Jonathan Dwyer, Morgan Burnett, Joshua Nesbitt and Jones, among others, a group that went on to be the core of the 2009 ACC championship team.

Second, in the past two years, Jones has been on the broadcast team for two of Collins’ games at Temple in his job as a sideline reporter for ESPN. Offered the opportunity to assess Collins, a coach that many Tech fans may not be familiar with, Jones was highly positive.

Jones said that he thought Collins would bring energy to the team and be a face for the Jackets.

“I think he’d recruit his (expletive) off,” Jones said.

In preparing for broadcasts of Temple games, Jones resonated with seemingly small things that Collins has implemented at Temple. For the team’s spring game in April, he put players’ Twitter handles on the back of their jerseys, for instance. Team members with a 3.0 GPA can wear a special patch on their jerseys identifying their status. Rather than assign players to wear the coveted single-digit jerseys, Collins opens it up to team vote.

Such details probably don’t mean much to fans or coaches, Jones said, but it helps motivate players and also differentiates Temple.

“I just think that stuff’s cool, and there’s not a lot of people that do it,” Jones said. “(Collins) could care less if there’s a patch there, but the kids enjoy it and they buy into it.”

Jones saw the same spirit in Collins when he was Tech’s director of player personnel in the 2006 season, which led to the 2007 signing class. While different recruits had relationships with different coaches, Collins was the one staff member that they all knew, Jones said.

“Everybody in the class loved coach Collins,” Jones said. “We were all really sad when he left to go to Alabama.”

Jones said that Collins “absolutely” played a big role in that class coming to Tech. It remains a singular group, leading the way to the (vacated) ACC title. Morgan became one of just three first-round draft picks since 2000. (Calvin Johnson and Demaryius Thomas were the others.)

“He did a good job facilitating the chemistry amongst the recruiting class,” Morgan said. “That was one of the main reasons I went to Tech, the great relationships with the guys in my class.”

Jones said that Collins was an early adapter to communicate with recruits through text messages and social media.

“He just always has kind of been ahead of the curve and will continue to be,” Jones said.

Collins’ connection to Tech extends deeper. He had previously worked at Tech 1999-2001 in the final three seasons of coach George O’Leary’s tenure, the first two as a graduate assistant and the third as tight ends coach. He is a graduate of Rockdale County High and played at Western Carolina.

Collins became Temple’s head coach after the 2016 season, succeeding Matt Rhule when he took the head job at Baylor. It is Collins’ first head-coaching job. He had most recently been defensive coordinator at Florida (2015-16) and Mississippi State (2013-14). (He was hired from Mississippi State to Florida before the Bulldogs’ appearance in the 2014 Orange Bowl, preventing him from facing the Jackets.)

In his two seasons at Florida, the Gators ranked third and second in defensive yards per play in the SEC. (They were first in the season before his arrival.) Mississippi State was eighth and 10th with Collins as its coordinator. (The Bulldogs were ninth in 2012, the year before his hire.)

At Temple, Collins has continued the success achieved by Rhule and initiated by Al Golden. The Owls were 7-6 in 2017 and 8-4 this year. Temple started the season 0-2 but rallied to win eight of its final 10 games. The Owls will play Duke in the Independence Bowl.

For this season’s broadcasts, Jones said that, outside of Central Florida, Temple was “probably the most talented Group of Five team we saw.”

Temple ranked ninth and sixth in yards per play in the American Athletic Conference in the past two seasons and third and first in defensive yards per play. (The Owls ranked fifth in yards per play and first in defensive yards per play in the season before Collins arrived.)

Could he be a fit? It would be more than OK with Jones.