Boise State’s special teams coordinator left Big Ten to rejoin Broncos. Here’s why

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Boise State special teams coordinator Stacy Collins knows how unique his situation is.

It’s not often that a coach voluntarily leaves a team in the Big Ten for a job at a program in the Group of Five, undoubtedly taking a pay cut, but that’s something he did.

Collins, 48, was hired as the Broncos special teams coordinator and linebackers coach on Jan. 12. He replaced Demario Warren as special teams coordinator and Boise State head coach Spencer Danielson as linebackers coach.

He said Thursday that he wanted to come back to Boise State because of the chance to work with Boise State head coach Spencer Danielson.

Collins and Danielson have known one another since Danielson’s days at his alma mater, Azusa Pacific. Collins said Thursday that Danielson reached out to him a few weeks ago about filling the final on-field position on his staff.

“He’s a unique person and unbelievable leader,” Collins said. “How he treats the players on and off the field is what I’m aligned with.”

Collins, a 26-year coaching veteran, spent 2021 as the Broncos’ special teams coordinator and edge coach. He left in 2022 to coach special teams and outside linebackers at Penn State.

“You don’t get a lot of opportunities to come back,” Collins told reporters on Thursday. “It was a great opportunity at Penn State, but it was hard for me to leave here in the first place. The program that (Boise State) is and the place it is, those things fit me and my family.”

Boise State Special Teams Coordinator Stacy Collins gets the Broncos moving through warmups during fall camp at Albertsons Stadium Sunday, Aug. 8, 2021.
Boise State Special Teams Coordinator Stacy Collins gets the Broncos moving through warmups during fall camp at Albertsons Stadium Sunday, Aug. 8, 2021.

Long coaching history includes Mountain West

Before joining former Boise State coach Andy Avalos’ staff in 2021, Collins spent five years at Utah State, where he coached defensive backs, linebackers and running backs, and also spent time as co-defensive coordinator and special teams coordinator.

His career also has included stops at Portland State (special teams), Central Washington (special teams, defensive line, linebackers), Southern Oregon (defensive coordinator), Idaho State (linebackers), Western Washington (linebackers, special teams), South Dakota School of Mines (defensive coordinator, safeties) and Western Oregon (linebackers). He spent four seasons as the head coach at South Dakota School of Mines.

Collins’ experience is part of why Boise State opened its checkbook to convince him to come back, Danielson said.

Collins is expected to sign a two-year contract that will pay him $350,000 a year, according to his material time sheet. The deal, which is subject to approval by the Idaho State Board of Education, also includes a $15,000 signing bonus and $15,000 to cover moving expenses.

His pay will be third-highest on Danielson’s staff, following offensive coordinator Bush Hamdan ($460,000) and defensive coordinator Erik Chinander ($440,000). Collins made $225,000 at Boise State in 2021. Penn State does not release contracts or salary information for its coaches.

“To have someone with the level of expertise and experience as Stacy Collins want to come back to Boise State is truly a blessing,” Danielson said in a statement. “Stacy is one of the best special teams coaches that I have ever come across and an elite linebackers coach. He does an amazing job of developing young men on and off the field, and the amount that he cares about his players is second to none.”

Familiarity with Boise State

There shouldn’t be much of an adjustment period for Collins. He said Thursday that he already knows about half the roster from his previous stints in the Mountain West.

He mentored Boise State kicker Jonah Dalmas in 2021, when he broke the Broncos’ single-season record with 26 field goals. Collins recruited punter James Ferguson-Reynolds and long snapper Mason Hutton to Boise State. Last season, Ferguson-Reynolds led the country with an average of 49.7 yards per punt.

Collins said Thursday that he also recruited Broncos linebacker Marco Notarainni when he was a member of Utah State’s staff. Notarainni was the team’s leading tackler through the first half of last season before injuries slowed him down. He finished tied for No. 6 on the team with 53 tackles.

“I recruited Marco hard when I was at Utah State and Boise beat us on him,” Collins said. “I’m glad that happened because Marco is awesome.”

Dalmas set Boise State’s all-time field goal record last season with the 80th successful attempt of his career. He needs to hit four this season to break the Mountain West career record, and he’s 18 shy of setting the NCAA record.

“You can see the growth he’s had,” Collins said. “He’s a pro right now, and I mean that by how he handles his business on the field.”

Call in the SWAT unit: Boise State searches for its next star on special teams

Collins has plenty to be excited about in terms of his kicker and punter, but he also knows the Broncos’ special teams units have plenty of work to do.

Boise State got next to nothing out of the return game last year. Kaden Dudley averaged 20.25 yards per kick return but he was limited by injuries. The team’s longest punt return of the season covered just 14 yards.

The team also finished last season without blocking a punt. The Broncos’ only blocked field goal was swatted away by cornerback Kaonohi Kaniho in a loss at Colorado State.

Collins said his units will be more aggressive in the return game and when hunting blocks this season.

“I think if you’ve got an elite returner, you can change the momentum of a game,” Collins said. “My philosophy, and we were very aggressive the last two years at Penn State, is to get our guys out there and let’s get some momentum.”

Collins led a turnaround in Penn State’s special teams last year. The Nittany Lions ranked No. 67 in the country in overall special teams, according to ESPN’s SP+ metric. Last season, they ranked No. 28.