Temple hires Florida's Geoff Collins as football coach
The blueprint was obvious for Temple. In looking to replace Matt Rhule as football head coach, those in charge of hiring were looking at Rhule himself as the blueprint - a young, charismatic, hungry assistant ready to make the leap into the head coaching ranks.
On Tuesday, the Owls announced the hiring of Florida defensive coordinator Geoff Collins, a Southeastern Conference assistant with a rising profile, as the school's 27th head football coach.
Collins, 45, has been a college assistant for 23 years. He was the defensive coordinator the last two seasons at Florida. This past year, Florida was tied for 10th nationally in scoring defense, allowing 17.9 points per game.
Eagles rookie defensive end Alex McCalister played for Collins as a Gator.
"He's definitely a guy the players are going to like," McCalister said. "He's hip to what the players are all about and what's going on in their lives. He understands what it's like for a young guy at that stage in his life. He's a big social media guy and he has fun with his players and it really makes a difference.
"He talks to you like you're a person. It doesn't feel like player/coach. It feels like man to man."
Before that he coached four seasons at Mississippi State, two as co-defensive coordinator and the final two as defensive coordinator. He earned the moniker "The Minister of Mayhem." Eagles defensive line stalwart Fletcher Cox was one of his star pupils.
Collins' aggressive mind-set as a defensive coordinator helped sell him to the Temple search committee.
No less than Matt Rhule, a close friend and former colleague, hailed the hiring of his successor as a major catch for Temple.
"I think it is a home run," Rhule said in a phone interview Tuesday morning from Baylor. "Anything good about me originated with Geoff. He was the first coach I worked for."
That was in 1998, when Rhule was hired as a linebackers coach at Albright College, where Collins was the defensive coordinator. The two were reunited in 2005 when Collins was the defensive coordinator at Western Carolina and Rhule was hired as the linebackers coach.
"He is a tremendous recruiter," Rhule said. "He has been at Albright, at Fordham, and he knows the area."
Among his many stops, Collins was a linebackers coach in 1996 at Fordham.
By comparison, Rhule, 41, spent 14 of his 15 seasons as a college assistant before being hired by Temple in December 2012 after one season as assistant offensive line coach with the New York Giants.
The lack of head coaching experience didn't hurt Rhule, who helped turn the Temple program around. After going 2-10 the first season, the Owls went 6-6, then 10-4, winning the East Division of the American Athletic Conference, to 10-3 this season and champions of the AAC.
The Owls will face Wake Forest in the Military Bowl on Dec. 27 in Annapolis, Md., and will be guided by assistant head coach Ed Foley. Temple would set a single-season school record for wins with a victory.
This is Foley's ninth season at Temple and he has been through coaching changes when Al Golden, Steve Addazio, and now Rhule have departed.
"I would love to stay," Foley said. "I love this place."
Rhule has already hired cornerbacks coach Francis Brown and linebackers coach Mike Siravo at Baylor. Others will likely depart, including defensive coordinator Phil Snow, who is expected to hold the same job at Baylor. Snow earned the players' support for the head coaching job through a social media campaign.
The players were not made available to the media after practice Tuesday.
Snow, according to sources, was not interviewed for the job. Temple was looking for a rising assistant coach.
"As far as style of play … he's going to send that pressure from everywhere," McCalister said of Collins. "It's all about pressure and it doesn't matter where it comes from — linebacker, safety, cornerback. It's coming. If you're a quarterback, you'd better be ready for the heat. You're going to get it. It's coming."
None of the Temple defensive assistants were at practice Tuesday, but they are all expected to coach in the bowl game, Foley said. All of the offensive coaches were at practice.
The coaching search, clouded in deep secrecy, went relatively quickly, taking just a week since Rhule's Dec. 6 resignation. According to a source, Collins will receive a five-year contract at approximately $2 million per season.
According to the source, Temple recently interviewed Mike Blomgren, the director of offense at Stanford; Mario Cristobal, the assistant head coach and recruiting coordinator at Alabama; and Jedd Fisch, the passing game coordinator and quarterbacks and wide receivers coach at Michigan.
Rhule has set the bar high for his successor, but he believes that Collins will be more than up to the task.
"He has so much energy and I think he will come in and not tear down the structure in place, but improve it," Rhule said. "He is a tremendous defensive mind and I think he will be a great recruiter, and Temple is in good hands."