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Florida Football

Coach's Corner: Collins still high on Florida

August 27, 2019

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After spending nearly 45 years on the sidelines, including an 12 year stint with Steve Spurrier at Florida, Jim Collins knows a thing or two about coaching football in general, and coaching for the Gator Nation in particular. Periodically this season he will join us on Inside the Gators for his take on specific games, players, coaches, the season and college football in general.

What has been the biggest change in football over your time on the sidelines?

Collins: As far as the game goes, when I first started we could basically scrimmage and play the game in a hallway because everyone was in a tight formation, pro set with twins [wide receivers] and two backs. That was basically it. When I first got into this I had to defend the Single Wing, the Notre Dame Box, the Split Back Veer, the Wishbone and all kinds of I-formation sets. Everything was bunched up and in tight. That was an education in football. Today, you have to defend all 53 yards of the width of the field. Back then I couldn't imagine a set with no backs, and now it's common. Now coaches are spreading them out all over the field, with some of the same option concepts. Really though, as much as the game has changed, it all still comes down to the basic theory of offensively you have to be able to block somebody and throw it and catch it. And on defense you have to be able to tackle and defend their best receiver. So even with all the new offensive sets and play designs, and the way to do things, if you can cover those four basics you're going to win games.

And then obviously the biggest change lately has been in recruiting. The way the process is now, you are starting to recruit players when they are in the ninth and tenth grade and with social media everyone is a superstar before they set foot on a college campus. It used to be we unless he was an obvious standout, we would really start to recruit players until during or after their junior season and it was broken down a bit more. Now, there's no such thing as a break in recruiting. Dead period or not, if you aren't talking to them you can bet someone else is. Nowadays it is 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. The recruiting process is a true grind to these coaches. I can tell you I don't envy what these coaches have to go through now. No matter their talent level, it's not about their ability, you have to approach each of these prospects like they are a Hall of Fame caliber player, treat them like they are a superstar before you even know whether or not their ability translates to the college level. Then God forbid he isn't as talented as you thought or ready to play the second he sets foot on campus, because then you have to deal with that.

You brought up tackling. You saw the game Saturday night, Florida had some issues in that department. What can be done about that during the game and then this week?

Collins: There was a time in this business when we practiced twice a day in full pads. No one does that anymore. You can't do that at all anymore, so it comes down to a decision each coach has to make for his team. How much full speed contact are you going to have in your camp? Every situation is different. I look at it this way, if you were a boxer preparing for a championship fight, you have to harden your body to go in and take the blows by sparring in your camp before the fight. But how much 'live' sparring are you doing? There's a balancing act where you want to get ready, but you don't want to get beaten up to the point that you risk injury. Now, here sits Florida as the No. 8 team in the country, or what people believe is the eighth best team in the country, coming in and they've got a really, really good football team with high expectations to start the year. I have no way of knowing how Florida approached camp. I know Dan Mullen is a very, very smart football coach and Todd Grantham is a hell of a coach and they know that team better than anyone on the outside looking in. So, the question for the coaches entering preseason is what do you do? Do you take the chance of losing players with a physical camp with a lot of scrimmages and doing a lot of 'live' plays at practice where it is full on against full on? That is when you start to see injuries pile up because you are beating up on each other day after day. The other option is you pull back a little bit, you don't let your players go 'live' as much, you pull back the reigns a little with the hitting. You want them to be at the right place at the right time, but you don't want 'live' hitting or to see players on the ground. You are working more on fundamentals than being physical. Again, I have no idea what Florida did, I didn't see a single practice. Then you have Miami. They aren't ranked, I'm sure they have high expectations inside that building, but the pressure of high expectations outside their program isn't on them. So, they had nothing to lose really. And, I wasn't there, I don't know what they did, but maybe they had a little more physical camp because their approach was as an underdog wanting to surprise.

What’s next for Florida?

Collins: They are obviously looking to correct the mistakes that were made in the game. I’ve always found it easier, as a coach, to coach them up and correct those mistakes off a win rather than a loss. You risk losing them a little after a loss. After a blowout win, they are on top of the world and know everything, but after a close win you have their attention. Especially an emotional win like against Miami. 

I don’t know what Florida’s schedule is with the opening date, do they take off Sunday or Monday? I don’t know, but they’ll give the players one of the days off and then I would think with the off date they will go back to training camp mode for this week. There’s a lot of talent on that team, but you can’t have missed tackles or the penalties.  I would be shocked that with the bye weekend and then a non Power 5 team coming up that the staff doesn’t focus on anything but the basics this week, then gives the players the weekend off. I don’t know, but that’s what I would think they will do. What an interesting week to have off. 

You talked about making high school players superstars before they even play a game - and now you have the transfer portal to deal with when trying to ground those same players you were calling great when you were recruiting them.

Collins: I think the ability to transfer is going to impact the game even more going forward because I just read something the other day where they are batting it around to allow one transfer per student-athlete without restrictions, not requiring them to sit out a year, and if that happens we will be at the point where we have free agency in college football. If that happens, I wouldn't want to be a coach trying to figure out how to recruit. If you think you are set at this position going into Signing Day and then lose a couple of players to the transfer portal in the off-season. I think if they allow that to happen, they'll be creating huge issues. I think we are at a point where, and I want to say this the right way, when we're dealing with a lot of these young athletes their mindset is, 'what have you done for me lately' more than 'what can I do for the team.' If a player isn't starting, forget that he has a talented upperclassmen ahead of him, he's looking for his next opportunity elsewhere. In my opinion, that is the attitude we are seeing more, not just in football, but in all walks of life right now. It's more about the individual. If I'm not starting or playing as much as I think I should be, I'm going to take my ball and go home. Nothing makes a team better, nothing, than competition. When you reach the point of an Alabama, where you are bringing in good player after good player with a coaching staff that knows how to handle success, you don't have to worry as much about it. You let them all compete and that makes all of them better, which makes the team better. Nothing will bring down a program faster than putting an individual above the team. The people I’ve been around and worked for in this business, no one player or coach is more important than the team.

Turning back to the game, what did you think of the performance of Feleipe Franks?

Collins: To be honest with you, that is the first time I’ve seen Feleipe Franks play a whole game because I’ve been involved with my own team. I may have seen a play or two here or there, but I’ve never seen him play a game. I don’t know if that was a good game or an average game compared to how he normally plays. I know he threw those two critical interceptions and there are people out there saying that he was trying to do this or do that, but I don’t know all about that. I don’t know how you recognize that or speak with authority about that by watching it on TV. I watched it, and I’ve been around for a while, and from the angle and not being in the quarterback room when he was being coached, I don’t know what his progressions or reads were and neither does anyone else watching on TV. That’s people who have never played or coached the game trying to come off as experts. I thought he played okay. That’s my opinion. The one thing I want to stress is that no matter where the team is ranked, that is a good Miami defense. You'll have to look it up to make sure, but I don't think they gave up a play longer then 34 yards last year. Florida hit two plays on them longer than that in this one game. 

How about the offensive line?

Collins: I thought they did a nice job, they kept Franks upright. I think they had the one sack, but I haven’t seen the stats on how many pressures they had on him or how many hits he took, but from watching it on TV I thought they did a nice job protecting him. I thought Florida had a good plan to get the ball out of his hands and put it in some nice spots. I’ve seen some comments out there about the play calling and the game plan, but my question to those people are how many games have you called? I’ll tell you what, today Florida’s coaches are worried about tackling and discipline more than they are the play of Franks. There were lots of first game mistakes by both sides in that game and I would be willing to bet that both teams will play a much cleaner game in the next one. You hopefully aren’t going to play your best game in the first game of the season because if you do, it could be a long year.

Have you seen a defense with 10 sacks before?

Colllins: Well a long, long time ago we had a player by the name of Jevon Kearse, you may have heard of him, and some other players who were pretty good and we had 10 sacks against Auburn. But yeah, Florida played very well upfront. I thought Miami gave Florida some opportunities to put pressure on the quarterback with some of their play selections where they let their tackles, who were really struggling, go one on one with defensive ends who were just clearly better. I didn’t see much of them trying to help them out. And Florida was getting pressure up the middle too. Give Florida’s defensive line credit, they were well coached and performed well.

What did you think of the defense overall?

Collins: I really liked the play of #51 [Ventrell Miller]. I liked his body language, his leadership, his form. He is going to be a good one.

For me, Miami’s best drive was the opening drive which was probably all scripted. They were able to keep Florida’s defense off balance, off kilter, with the called screens to slow down the rush. Then they went away from it and tried to have their young quarterback sit back there behind two young, struggling, offensive tackles against defensive linemen who were teeing off on him.

I don’t know what Dan Enos philosophy is, whether they script the first 10 or 15 or however many plays, but they are going to run a complete script to start the game. What they are trying to do with a scripted series of plays is they want to see how you are going to lineup, they want to see how you are going to play certain situations to get an idea of what your game plan is. And also, they’ve had the advantage of seeing what Florida’s done last year, so they had a good feel for how you are going to react defensively in a certain situation. So, if you react the way you have in the past to those situations, they [Miami] believe they have built in a couple of opportunities to make some big plays within that script.

At the end of the day, while it wasn't pretty, Florida did win.

Collins: They did and even if the fans don't want to admit it, Dan [Mullen] knows Florida played a good football team in Miami. I know a little bit about the Hurricanes [having been a part of the Duke staff until last year] and that's one of the better defenses you'll see this year. There's going to be missed tackles. Now, there may have been too many for his liking and I am sure Florida's staff spent all day Sunday going back and reevaluating what they've done to that point, but I don't think a panic mode is going to set in like it is with the fan base.  What you have to understand is that there are always going to be first game jitters and errors because there's no way in practice, even in a scrimmage, to duplicate the speed of the game. You are talking about over 200 yards in penalties. Miami had as many, more I think, than Florida, but the expectations for them going in weren’t as high so how they played isn’t being broken down as much, they don’t seem like as big a deal.

One thing that I was impressed with is I thought Coach Mullen did a tremendous job with the fake punt call. I’m sure that didn’t come out of nowhere. That looks like a gamble from the outside looking in, but I’m sure he studied that and knew that the percentages were on his side and if they didn’t get it it was still early enough to recover from.

Reading some of the feedback from fans though, and honestly I was expecting more, good wasn’t quite good enough.

Collins: The University of Florida is a great program and our fan base, and I'm going to say 'our' because I was there with the coach who is the reason the expectations are as high as they are. We started this, but we have a fan base that is way too critical. Go enjoy the game, be entertained and support the team and let the coaches coach. Dan Mullen, and the coaches out there, they are busting their asses, they're working 14-16 hour days giving the best that they got. They've got some issues to correct, but (laughing) who doesn't? The last time I checked they've got 11 more to play and the team needs their support, not all of this criticism. Now, I'n not saying sit on your hands and be okay with everything, but some of this stuff I read nowadays, that's getting too personal about it

We, and again I'm going to say 'we' because I was there when, thanks to Coach Spurrier, we created the way that it now is. There's nothing wrong with high expectations. I would be willing to bet Dan Mullen wouldn't have it any other way, but some of these fans get a little carried away. We have a lot of fans who are great second guessers. People who have never lined up and played or coached a game in their life have unrealistic expectations. 

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Coach's Corner: Collins still high on Florida

2,211 Views | 5 Replies | Last: 5 mo ago by gator rising
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Spot on - let's have more from Coach Collins
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This is a great interview. I thank you for it.

This should be required reading for Iall our Florida fans to have fun with it and enjoy rooting on our team without always being so down about everything.
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What's that saying about us - something like we act like we have Notre Dame history but we've got a Wake Forest trophy case.

We are better than Wake Forest but we do have fans who expect too much. I count myself in that group.

I hope we don't end up running Mullen off because of it.

Thank you coach for all of your honest answers. We needed to hear that as a group of fans.
Mark Wheeler
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Mullen just reinforced what coach Collins said about tackling during fall camp.
gator rising
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Thank you coach for the explanation on how scripted plays work. My question is why don't teams script more than the opening drive when it works so great?
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