Duke announces changes to football staff

Duke head coach David Cutcliffe announced on Friday the transition of Jim Collins from the coaching staff to Director of Football Relations & Special Assistant to the Head Coach, as well as the hiring of Ben Albert as the program’s Associate Defensive Coordinator and defensive line coach.

Collins transitions into an administrative role following 14 total seasons in three stints on the Duke coaching staff.  He was a graduate assistant with head coach Steve Sloan in 1983 and later served five seasons under both Sloan (1985-86) and Steve Spurrier (1987-89).  Collins rejoined the Duke staff with Cutcliffe prior to the 2008 season.

“Jim Collins is as fine a representative of Duke Football as we have here,” Cutcliffe said.  “As an integral member of our staff, he’s helped us accomplish feats never reached before in the history of the program, most notably the current streak of four consecutive bowl game appearances.  Jim has an excellent understanding of our value system and we’re fortunate to have a national championship-level coach in this leadership position to help us reach our maximum potential.  As an administrator, his wealth of knowledge and experiences will be instrumental in our program’s overall growth as we continue to compete for championships on the field while maintaining the highest academic and community levels of integrity.”

Between 2008-14, Collins tutored five All-ACC linebackers in Michael Tauiliili (2008), Vincent Rey (2009), Abraham Kromah (2010), Kelby Brown (2013) and David Helton (2014).  Over the past three seasons, Duke established a program record for victories in a three-year span with 27 while the stretch included the 2013 ACC Coastal Division championship and three bowl game berths.

Collins’ college football coaching career also includes stints at Lees-McRae (1980), Appalachian State (1981-82), Jacksonville State (1984), Florida (1990-01) and Marshall (2004-06).  His 12-year tenure at Florida featured 122 victories, six SEC championships, 11 bowl games and the 1996 national title.  Collins, a 1974 Elon College graduate who also coached with the NFL’s Washington Redskins from 2002-03, has participated in 17 bowl games including the 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, 2012 Belk, 2013 Chick-fil-A, 2014 Hyundai Sun and 2015 New Era Pinstripe.

Albert joins the Blue Devil staff after spending the last three seasons (2013-14-15) coaching the defensive line at Boston College.  In 2015, the Eagles led the country in total defense (254.3), third down conversion defense (.241) and tackles for loss per game (9.6) while also ranking among the nation’s top five in rushing defense (2nd; 82.8), scoring defense (4th; 15.3) and passing efficiency defense (5th; 104.66).  During his tenure, Albert helped Boston College to a pair of bowl game appearances in 2013 (Advocare v100 Independence) and 2014 (New Era Pinstripe).

“We’re thrilled to have Ben, Lisa and their children become members of the Duke Football family,” Cutcliffe said.  “Ben brings a wealth of knowledge and experience in the areas of defensive football and recruiting to our staff.  Obviously, we know his work with the Boston College defense all too well from a season ago when we couldn’t have been more impressed with their preparation and execution.  You don’t lead the country in total defense by accident – you have to have a combination of outstanding players and exceptional coaches.  I have a great deal of respect for his coaching background, especially when you consider that he’s worked in programs that have won championships and reached bowl games at different levels of college football.  I’m confident he will make a seamless transition into our program and have an incredible impact on our young men and the Duke community.”

Along the defensive front, Duke returns one starter in rising redshirt senior tackle A.J. Wolf, who earned the program’s Mike McGee Award as the team’s most outstanding defensive lineman in 2015 after posting 54 tackles, 4.0 tackles for loss and three QB pressures.  Seven other lettermen return including ends Allen Jackson (4 tackles & 1 INT in 2015), Dominic McDonald (2 tackles) and Marquies Price (11 tackles, 3.5 TFL & 1.5 sacks) and tackles Brandon Boyce (24 tackles, 4.0 TFL & 1.0 sack), Edgar Cerenord (7 tackles), Quaven Ferguson (17 tackles & 2.5 TFL), and Mike Ramsay (29 tackles, 4.5 TFL & 1.0 sack).

Prior to his three campaigns in Chestnut Hill, Albert served two seasons (2011-12) as the linebackers coach at Temple University.  In 2011, he helped the Owls rank third nationally in scoring defense (13.9) as Temple posted a 9-4 overall record and defeated Wyoming, 37-15, in the New Mexico Bowl, for the program’s first bowl victory in 32 years.  While at Temple, Albert mentored Tahir Whitehead, who earned All-MAC honors prior to being a fifth round choice of the Detroit Lions in the 2012 NFL Draft.

Albert spent the 2010 season on the staff of the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars, serving as an assistant defensive line coach.

A native of Paterson, N.J., Albert got his start in coaching at his alma mater, Massachusetts, where he coached the defensive line for two seasons (1995-96) before helping Richmond to a pair of conference championships during a four-year (1997-98-99-00) stint coaching the Spider defensive line and linebackers.

After one season (2001) mentoring the defensive front at Rutgers, Albert returned to Massachusetts for two seasons (2002-03) to coach the inside linebackers while coordinating the special teams units.  During this stretch, he helped the Minutemen to the 2003 Atlantic 10 Conference championship and aided in the recruitment of fellow Paterson native wide receiver Victor Cruz to Massachusetts.  Cruz, a two-time all-conference pick at Massachusetts, helped the New York Giants to a 21-17 victory over the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI and was a Pro Bowl selection in 2012.

Albert then served a second stint at Richmond (2004) as defensive line coach and special teams coordinator before a four-year (2006-07-08-09) tenure as the associate head coach and linebackers coach at Delaware.

An all-conference defensive lineman at Massachusetts, Albert graduated in 1995 with a degree in political science and sociology.  He later earned a master’s degree in education from Massachusetts in 1997.  Albert and his wife, Lisa, have two children, Maya and Elijah.

Duke returns 13 starters and 45 lettermen from last year’s squad that went 8-5 and defeated Indiana, 44-41 in overtime, in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl. The Blue Devils open the 2016 season at home against N.C. Central on Saturday, September 3.