As if beating Sam Houston State weren’t tough enough in the first place, the Bearkats will now have the inside scoop on McNeese when the teams meet next fall.
And Cowboys head coach Matt Viator has a big void to fill.
Defensive coordinator Mike Collins is jumping ship from McNeese to the two-time defending FCS national runners-up in a move that comes unusually late in the coaching carousel.
Viator pointed out that there is nothing new about an ex-McNeese assistant turning up with a Southland rival. For him the hard part is replacing Collins.
“Not that it’s ever fun, but we’re used to that. No one knew me or what we did better than Scott Stoker. I worked years with J.C. Harper. You just go down the line,” Viator said. “My concern is moving forward and getting the best staff for our guys. The familiarity, that’s not an issue like replacing him here is.”
Collins has served as a McNeese assistant since 2008, specifically as the defensive coordinator the last two years. He was arguably Viator’s most trusted lieutenant, also carrying the title of assistant head coach.
“He did great job as teacher and motivator and was really good overall for our players,” Viator said. “It will be a big loss. But we’re happy for him. It’s a great opportunity, especially from a financial standpoint.”
Viator said he could not comment on Collins’ salary at McNeese.
State of Texas records indicate Collins’ predecessor at Sam Houston State, Scott Stoker, earned $77,232 annually and newspaper reports said he was to receive a raise this year before being hired at Texas-El Paso.
The chain of events leading to Collins’ departure can be traced to the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars.
The Jaguars hired former Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator Gus Bradley as their new head coach in January, and Bradley was replaced in Seattle by University of Florida defensive coordinator Dan Quinn. The Gators stayed in-house by promoting special teams coordinator D.J. Durkin to the defensive coordinator role, and brought in UTEP defensive coordinator Jeff Choate to fill Durkin’s old role last month.
UTEP hired Stoker to replace Choate, creating the vacancy to be filled by Collins.
Because NFL coaching changes typically occur after college ones, the timing for everyone involved was moved back. That puts Viator in the unenviable position of adding a defensive coordinator who wasn’t running the unit in spring practices.
“It is late in the game,” Viator acknowledged. “In the short-term we’ll stay as close to what we’re already doing as possible because we finished spring ball and just signed a full recruiting class.”
Viator said no decision has made on how the position will be filled, and he wants a “plan in place” by June 1.
“Everything’s a possibility right now,” he said. “We’re going to look at different candidates and different situations that can be best for us.”