Geoff Collins: Every defensive player has to learn every defensive position

Posted by: Chris Vannini on Wednesday September 02, 2015

Florida defensive coordinator Geoff Collins learned as a young coordinator to teach everyone on defense the entire defensive playbook, and that cross-training philosophy followed him to Florida.

“I kind of learned it when I was a young defensive coordinator at Western Carolina. Our starting SAM linebacker went down,” Collins said Wednesday. “The backup was the sixth-best linebacker we had. He’s the only one who knew that position, so we had to bring in our sixth-best linebacker as a starter.

“We’ve learned to cross-train them so they can learn and play a lot of different positions, so we can roll them in and out. In practice, different guys are playing nickel, different guys are playing safety, safeties are playing corner.”

As Collins put it, “We don’t really care about positions.”

While there technically is a defensive depth chart with positions and orders, Collins doesn’t pay attention to it. Last year at Mississippi State, he had a 1A and 1B defense, making full unit changes. At Florida, there’s simply a baseline to get on the field.

“If you’re above the line, you’re going to play,” he said. “If you’re not, you’ve got some work to do.”

Reps can even be affected on plays that didn’t even involve that defensive player. Collins is looking at the tape to see how many players are around the offensive ball-carrier at the end. A wide receiver screen to the opposite side of the field? That corner had better cross the field and get there.

The truest value to your team as a defensive player is where you are at the end of the play,” Collins said. “If you’re around the ball, you’ve got a lot of value to the team. You’re probably going to get a lot of reps. If you have the ball at the end of the play and you’re a defensive player, your value goes through the roof. We stress that every single day.”

Florida kicks off against New Mexico State at 7:30 p.m. Saturday on the SEC Network.

Chris Vannini is in his fifth year with and serves as its managing editor. He has previously written for the Detroit Free Press, The Oakland Press, The State News,, 247Sports and SB Nation.  A graduate of Michigan State University, Chris now lives in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.  Be sure to follow @coachingsearch and send emails to