Jim Collins was named to the Duke coaching staff in January of 2008 to begin his third stint with the Blue Devils. Collins was a graduate assistant with head coach Steve Sloan in 1983 and later served five campaigns from 1985-89 under both Sloan and Steve Spurrier. Collins serves as the Assistant Defensive Coordinator and coaches the Blue Devil outside linebackers and defensive ends.
A year ago, Collins guided linebacker David Helton to first team All-ACC honors. Helton led the league in tackles per game (10.31) for the second straight year, becoming only the fifth player in league history to repeat as tackle champion, and the first since NFL Pro Bowler Luke Kuechly from 2009-11. Helton recorded 134 tackles, tied for the 14th-highest single-campaign total in school history, and ended his career ranked 10th in program history in tackles with 347, becoming the 15th Blue Devil to reach the 300-tackle plateau.
Off the field, Helton’s 2014 campaign was one of the finest in Duke history as he received the National Football Foundation (NFF) William V. Campbell Trophy, given to the best collegiate football student-athlete in the nation, as well as the ACC’s Jim Tatum Award, presented to the top senior football student-athlete in the league. In addition, Helton was an NFF Scholar-Athlete Award selection and a finalist for the Lott IMPACT Trophy.
In 2013, the Duke defensive unit was paced by linebackers Kelby Brown and Helton. Brown, a first team All-ACC pick and three-time league player of the week honoree, registered 114 tackles with 11.0 tackles for loss and a pair of interceptions while Helton led the conference in total stops with 133.
Duke’s linebacking group in 2012 featured a four-man rotation with senior Austin Gamble, sophomores C.J. France and Helton and redshirt freshman Kyler Brown. The group combined for 203 tackles.
In 2011, Collins mentored a linebacking unit that featured zero seniors as sophomore Kelby Brown and Gamble ranked third and fifth on the team in tackles with 65 and 43 stops, respectfully. Brown also led the Blue Devils in tackles for loss despite missing two games due to injury.
Two of Collins’ pupils were recognized following the 2010 season as senior Abraham Kromah was an honorable mention All-ACC pick while Brown received Freshman All-America accolades. Kromah paced Duke in tackles with 120 stops — including a career-high 20 in the season finale against North Carolina — while Brown, who played in just nine contests, led the nation in fumble recoveries per game (0.44) and totaled 63 tackles.
In 2008 and 2009, Collins coached a pair of honor-earning linebackers in Michael Tauiliili and Vincent Rey. Tauiliili received All-America accolades in 2008 after leading the ACC in tackles with 140 while Rey was an All-ACC selection in 2009. Both players finished their respective careers ranking among the top tacklers in Duke history and signed free agent contracts with NFL clubs — Tauiliili with the Indianapolis Colts in 2009 and Rey with the Cincinnati Bengals in 2010.
A native of Greensboro, N.C., Collins began his coaching career at Page (N.C.) High School in 1974. He then served as the defensive coordinator at Lees-McRae Junior College in 1980 before coaching the defensive backs and outside linebackers at Appalachian State from 1981-82. After one season at Duke as a graduate assistant coach, he was the defensive coordinator at Jacksonville State in 1984.
In 1985, Collins returned to Durham for a five-year stint with the Blue Devils. Coaching Duke’s linebackers, he mentored Mike Junkin, a second team All-America pick in 1986 who became the school’s all-time leading tackler and was a first round selection of the Cleveland Browns in the 1987 NFL Draft. Collins served as Duke’s co-defensive coordinator in 1989 as the Blue Devils posted an 8-4 record, won seven straight games to close the regular season, captured the ACC championship and participated in the All American Bowl in Birmingham, Ala.
Collins then went with Spurrier to Florida, serving on the staff from 1990-01. During his tenure with the Gators, he worked with the linebackers, defensive ends and tight ends while also serving as recruiting coordinator as Florida compiled an overall record of 122-27-1. The successful 12-year run included the 1996 national championship with a 52-20 victory over Florida State in the Sugar Bowl as well as an 82-12 record in SEC regular season action, nine 10-win seasons, 10 campaigns ranked in the top 10 of the final Associated Press national poll, six SEC titles, 11 bowl game berths, 81 All-America citations and 13 first round NFL Draft selections.
In 2002-03, Collins worked with the NFL’s Washington Redskins, coaching the linebackers while assisting with special teams. He then Collins joined the staff at Marshall where he guided the defensive backs in 2004 before coordinating the defense for the next two years. In 2005, his Thundering Herd defensive unit led Conference USA in total defense while ranking 12th nationally against the pass.
During his college coaching career, Collins has participated in 14 bowl games: 1989 All American, 1992 Sugar, 1992 Gator, 1994 Sugar, 1995 Sugar, 1996 Fiesta, 1997 Sugar, 1998 Citrus, 1999 Orange, 2000 Citrus, 2001 Sugar, 2002 Orange, 2004 Fort Worth and 2012 Belk.
Collins played defensive back at Elon College before graduating in 1974 with a degree in physical education. He later earned a master’s degree in education from North Carolina A&T in 1979. Collins married Yvonne Knutson on January 24, 2015. Collins, whose first wife, Geri, of nearly 38 years passed away in December of 2012, has one daughter, Jennifer.
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