That’s not to say that Collins wasn’t adept at covering the deep halves or thirds of the field.
Here he quickly identifies the seam route being run by the #2 receiver and breaks up the pass.
It’s 3rd and 12, which is an obvious passing situation. Collins is aligned deep in the center of the field much like what the Mike linebacker would drop to in a Tampa-2. Florida attacks with 4 vertical routes with the #1 receivers pushing their routes outside of the numbers. The key here is the two seam routes being run at Collins, he reads the quarterbacks eyes and makes a great play on the ball.
Arkansas is running a double shallow cross with their tight ends, trying to create a natural pick underneath. What Alabama likes to do when they see the #2 receivers stem inside is make an “under” call, notifying the curl/flat defender on the opposite end to cut off the shallow cross. The opposite curl/flat defender in this case is Collins and he’s there to make the play.
Despite showing great awareness and instincts, Collins is susceptible to being looked off by a quarterback’s eyes. As the deep middle safety, he reads this and starts shuffling to his left, which opens up just enough room for the post route to be completed.
Collins also shows limitations when isolated one-on-one against a slot receiver. He clearly is out of his element and even though he comes away with the interception off a tipped pass in the second example, he was clearly beaten off the line of scrimmage.
Collins is often labeled as a missile when coming downhill to make the tackle and he shows off why here in this play. But as much as he is an enforcer on the field, you’ll notice a common theme in the following plays.
It’s the fact that he fails to wrap up time and time again, which causes him to miss more tackles than he should.
As I was watching this play, I was really expecting Collins to come up and whack the ball carrier as he was fighting for extra yardage. He still manages to stop the running back’s progress but I was disappointed by his tackling form.
Playing with deep half responsibility, Collins recognizes the seam being run into the natural void left by the splitting safeties. He does a good job of coming across his zone to try to make the play, however he leads with his shoulder which actually causes the receiver to fall forward for a few steps, gaining additional yardage.
He completely whiffs on the tackle here as he fails to break down properly.
As great of a playmaker Collins was on the field, he had multiple opportunities for more turnovers if not for his below average hands which is disappointing as he usually finds himself in the right place at the right time.
And that’s why he plays defense.
Pro Comparisons and Projections
Pro Comparison: Collins has experience playing free safety but projects to be a strong safety at the next level as he is more comfortable playing in the box and attacking downhill. He’s much more instinctive in this role and has a nose for the ball with the ability to make splash plays. He doesn’t quite have the speed to be a pure cover safety but is more than adept in this facet of the game. However, teams would be wise to utilize him at or near the line of scrimmage to maximize his abilities. Collins reminds me a lot of Donte Whitner, who also is very aggressive against the run with the propensity for causing turnovers.
Draft Projection: Regarded as the top safety prospect in the draft, Collins should hear his name called early on. Although questions arise when discussing his abilities in man and zone coverage, he shouldn’t slip past the teams picking in the mid to late 1st round.