(Editor’s Note: The following story was published on Friday, May 29, six days before Kentucky announced Chris Collins as the new DB coach. Now that the hire is official, let’s revisit the analysis of Collins as a potential hire. And good call, Bruce Feldman.)
On Friday afternoon, The Athletic’s Bruce Feldman reported that Georgia State assistant Chris Collins is the frontrunner to become Kentucky’s newest defensive assistant. However, not much is known about the former Western Carolina defensive back.
SOURCES: Ga. State Safeties Coach / Recruiting Coordinator Chris Collins has emerged as the frontrunner to join the staff at #Kentucky, coaching DBs to replace Steve Clinskscale. Heard Collins was very impressive in the interview process.
— Bruce Feldman (@BruceFeldmanCFB) May 28, 2021
After doing some digging, Collins does appear to be a quality candidate to fill the final on-field assistant position that Kentucky has been looking for. The young coach brings some juice to the sideline and has a work history that makes him a very intriguing potential piece to the puzzle.
The North Carolina native played his college ball in the FCS for the Western Carolina Catamounts. During his career, Collins was an All-Southern Conference selection while recording over 300 tackles before graduating in 2010. From there, Collins would stay put in Cullowhee serving as a student assistant in 2010 and a defensive assistant from 2011-12. After two seasons coaching the secondary for Division II Catawba College in 2013-14, Collins would then join the FBS.
The young assistant worked for Appalachian State as a graduate assistant in 2015 under Scott Satterfield as the Mountaineers went 11-2 in their third season as an FBS program. From there, the alma mater hired Collins to coach linebackers at Western Carolina in 2016.
After some quick-moving around, Collins would settle in at Georgia State becoming a member of Shawn Elliott’s first coaching staff in 2017. In four seasons working in Atlanta, Collins has been a part of three bowl games while the Georgia State program has only gone to four in their history. After two seasons, Collins was promoted to recruiting coordinator.
Elliott promoted Collins to the recruiting position for a reason — the assistant has proven to be a flexible recruiter. During his time at Georgia State, Collins has served as the recruiter for 22 commitments. This has been a coach that has been very flexible in the areas he attacks.
The secondary coach has landed recruits from South Florida, the Carolinas, and Metro Atlanta. These are all areas that Kentucky has flirted with in the past but the staff has tried to make a bigger push recently to get into the Peach State.
With the loss of Steve Clinkscale, Kentucky has recruiting areas in Detroit and Nashville that need to be filled. The former could be tougher to crack into, but Collins has shown some flexibility early in his coaching tenure. The young coach could be an assistant that could grow into an area and be an effective recruiter for the staff.
When Elliott took the Georgia State job in Atlanta, this was a down on their luck program looking to make a splash. Thanks to some facility upgrades while building the roster from the inside out, the Panthers have quietly become one of the more consistent programs in the Sun Belt.
Does that sound familiar?
Elliott — a former offensive line coach under Steve Spurrier at South Carolina — has used a blueprint similar to what Mark Stoops has utilized at Kentucky, and the results have equaled a good culture and consistent bowl trips. The Panthers run a 3-4 front similar to the Wildcats while wanting to establish the ground game on offense.
Collins will be joining a Kentucky program that values some of the same core principles as Georgia State. This could make the move a seamless transition.
The hire still needs to be made official, but all signs point to Collins being the guy for Kentucky. There will be some major questions for the new coach to answer. Collins is someone who has never spent a season in the Power Five as a player, graduate assistant, or full-time coach. The recruiting coordinator has only spent five seasons in the FBS and each was in the Sun Belt. Growing pains will be expected and joining the team in June is not the best-case scenario.
As far as recruiting goes, Collins will be taking a big step forward in terms of competition but the track record is proven. The young staffer did a very good job at Georgia State and was able to have success in multiple areas. That flexibility could be pivotal in his transition to the SEC.