Already a familiar face at Duke football practices this season, Jim Collins is back on Duke’s payroll at a time the Blue Devils are searching for answers.
Having been hired as an assistant coach at Duke three previous times dating back to 1983, Collins officially returned to the team this week when he was hired as an analyst to assist head coach David Cutcliffe.
The move, in the works since Collins’ stint coaching under Steve Spurrier with the Alliance of American Football’s Orlando entry ended when the league ceased operations midway through its inaugural season last spring, was announced Monday by the school.
While it became official two days after the Blue Devils suffered an ugly 48-14 loss at Virginia on Saturday, Cutcliffe said he’d been seeking to add Collins back to his staff for months.
Collins previously coached at Duke in 1983 as a graduate assistant and 1985-86 under coach Steve Sloan, 1987-89 with Spurrier and from 2008-15 on Cutcliffe’s staff as linebackers coach.
“When the other league ended,” Cutcliffe said during his weekly news conference Tuesday, “Jim and I had talked about a part-time opportunity that could work for him. Jim’s not through. He’s a football coach. It’s in his blood. So this is an opportunity for me to have somebody I can bounce things off of, another person that has a lot of experience.”
Jim Collins and Steve Spurrier
NCAA rules allow 10 assistant coaches who can recruit and work with players on the field. In his role, Collins won’t be allowed to do those things but he can analyze game film and consult the coaching staff.
The Blue Devils had plenty of that to do after the loss at Virginia that Cutcliffe on Tuesday called “a horrific setback.”
“It took me a long time Sunday to make my notes for the staff, as you might imagine,” Cutcliffe said.
Collins offers plenty of experience beyond his stints at Duke. He followed Spurrier from Durham to Florida, where he coached on Spurrier’s Gators staff from 1990-2001. Together they won six SEC titles and the 1996 national championship.
When Spurrier headed to the NFL as a head coach with Washington in 2002, Collins joined him as linebackers coach for two seasons.
“The amount of experience and knowledge Coach Collins possesses is surpassed by few in the football coaching industry,” Cutcliffe said in a statement Duke released on Monday. “Jim’s familiarity with Duke and our program makes him a perfect fit into our system as we expand the staff. We could not be more excited for his return, and know his work ethic and championship-level analysis will be tremendous assets as we continue to grow our program.”
Jim Collins and David Cutcliffe
Collins coached at Marshall from 2004-07 before returning to Durham when Cutcliffe became Duke’s head coach.
Collins final game on Duke’s coaching staff was the 2015 Pinstripe Bowl, when Duke beat Indiana 44-41 in overtime for the Blue Devils’ first bowl win since the 1961 Cotton Bowl.
From 2016-18, Collins was Duke’s director of football relations and a special assistant to Cutcliffe.
He left to coach in the fledgling Alliance of American Football last November but returned to Durham after the league closed shop on April 2.
He’s routinely attended Duke’s practices this season and now, with the Blue Devils preparing to face rival North Carolina at Kenan Stadium on Saturday, his role is more official.
“He’s staying here,” Cutcliffe said Tuesday. “He’s in the area. I told him I think you need to do a little work. So it’s great to have him back.”
Duke at UNC
When: 4 p.m., Saturday
Where: Kenan Stadium, Chapel Hill
Watch: Fox Sports Carolinas
Listen: WTKK-106.1 Raleigh; WCHL-97.9, WCHL-1360 Chapel Hill; WBT-99.3, WBT-1110 Charlotte