Recruit Notebook - Alex Collins

Recruit Notebook - Alex Collins

Cameron Underwood
Today, for the 2nd installment of the Recruit Notebook, we look at a player whose inclusion in this class is as important for 2013 as Tracy Howard’s was for 2012: South Plantation RB Alex Collins

Part 1: Alex Collins, the player
Alex Collins is a tough, rugged running back who can dictate the pace of the game, and wear down a defense over the course of 4 quarters. A prototypical feature back, Collins has a great feel for the game, and will be the featured player in someone's offense for the foreseeable future.

Collins is strongly built at 5’11” and 208lbs. He’s added good size over the last year, while not losing any of his short area quickness or straight-line speed. Collins has good speed for a back, but lacks the top end breakaway speed of smaller, lighter players. Collins has been timed at 4.47 in the 40 (for comparison’s sake, that’s a full .1 faster than Stacy Coley and Jermaine Grace), but he rarely plays to that elite speed in game situations.

Collins uses his physicality well on his runs, and his quick feet are a valued asset for this classic feature back. I think that Collins still has room to fill out a bit more, but he may already be at his optimal game weight. The addition of “old man strength” as he continues to mature will be the main physical addition for him.

Running the ball
Despite his limited experience in organized football (began playing as a Junior in High School), Collins has a great feel for running the ball. Collins’ build lends itself favorably to running between the tackles. He runs behind his pads well and usually falls forward to gain extra yardage when being tackled.

Collins does run just a bit too upright for my liking. This leaves him susceptible to big hits, which he suffered repeatedly throughout the season. Collins suffered a shoulder stinger in the playoff tiebreaker victory against Deerfield Beach, and re-aggravated that injury (as well as sustaining a wrist injury) in the playoff loss to Miramar. Collins would be well served to add just a bit of body lean to his running.

Collins was rarely used on outside runs, but he executed well when tasked with this. He has the ability to get to the corner using his speed, and is always looking to square his shoulders and run downhill.

Collins has the 3 things you look for in a feature back: balance, quick feet, and vision. Collins’ balance allows him to absorb contact (which happens frequently, especially on inside runs) and continue to gain positive yardage. The vision/quick feet combo usually works in tandem. Collins can see the hole he wants to hit, or the cutback he wants to make, and has the ability to get there before the hole/cutback lane closes. Collins has elite footwork and vision, some of the best that I’ve seen in recent years from a High School player. These traits will translate to any level, in any offense. This fact cannot be overstated.

Collins’ value as a prospect is incredibly high. He has the ability to change the game with his tough running style, and helped make a previously unimportant South Plantation team one that every opponent had to be concerned about playing. He’s only been playing organized football for 2 years, but you wouldn’t know it from watching him run. Collins has the proverbial “natural skills you can’t teach” and innate feel for running the ball that make him one of the most coveted recruits in the country.

Collins has a very good feel for catching the ball out of the backfield. Most of the routes he ran were essentially long handoffs, and enabled him to lean on smaller edge defenders for easy, low impact yardage.

I would like to see Collins used running angle or choice routes when isolated against linebackers. I think that he would be wildly successful, but that would also take away from him running the ball. I’m not sure if taking carries away in favor of catches is the best use of Collins’ talents, but it could be a nice wrinkle to throw in from time to time.

Ball Security
Collins has demonstrated good ball control skills in game action. He covers up nicely, and seems to innately feel for defenders as they close in on him. As I said previously, I believe that every player who is elevating to a new level of competition needs to make this a primary focus. Even in an elite recruit such as Collins would be well served re-dedicate himself to protecting the ball as he progresses.

Pass Protection/Blitz Pickup
This is where Collins, like most backs coming from High School, needs to improve the most. As the star player on a team with questionable talent surrounding him, Collins was never asked to stay in and pass block. He was either running the ball or out running a pass route. Collins’ physicality and demonstrated love of contact should be the foundation of his pass protection skills. He will have to spend time in practice to learn a repeatable technique in this area of the game.
As with every other back before him, Collins will need to be kept off the field in passing situations until he demonstrates marked improvement in this vital area of his game.

Part 2: Game Evaluation
Collins shows good intensity in game situations, and uses his physical skills with great success. Collins punished opposing defenses and quickly became the premier back in Broward County. In his 2 years of football, Collins was among Broward County’s leading rushers (1st overall in 2011 with 223 carries for 1,786 yards and 28 TDs, and 2nd overall in 2012 with 154 carries for 1,276 yards and 14 touchdowns). Those numbers aren’t easy to achieve while playing in the largest classification for high school football – 8A.

Collins is a classic one-cut player. He doesn’t do much dancing in the backfield. His moves are all geared to find a hole in the defense then cut upfield and find yardage before, during, and after contact. When Collins gets to the 2nd level (linebackers), he then employs his arsenal of stiff arms and quick cuts to elude defenders and create space to continue his runs. Collins is also very apt to run over a waiting defender, sometimes against better judgment (see his injuries against Deerfield Beach and Miramar for evidence of that).

On the field, Collins seems quiet and focused. He waits for his number to be called, and then tries to live up to the words of Maximus Decimus Meridius in Gladiator: “Unleash hell”. And he does, until he’s tackled.

Collins’ real value is not on carry numbers 1-10, although he is very successful with those opportunities. His real value is seen after the defense has had to deal with his physical running style, usually later in drives and also later in the game. Collins seems to run harder as the game goes on, and that enables him to gain extra yardage, and break arm tackles later in the 2nd half. Collins could be in better shape (seemed to get tired multiple times in games that I saw him play), but he runs full out on almost all his carries.

I never got the sense that Collins was a discipline or attitude problem case. His teammates seemed to genuinely enjoy playing with him, and for good reason. He was clearly the best player on an otherwise forgettable team, and being in such close proximity to greatness is not something that usually happens at South Plantation.

Part 3: College Projection
Much like Wide Receiver, Running back is a position where young players can come in and find success. The instructions are simple: find a hole and run. Young RBs will not be tasked with an essential blitz pickup on 3rd and 17 from their own 12 late in the 4th quarter. But, they can still be successful, integral players to their teams.

As football has evolved from the 1 back paradigm (you need 1 player to carry the ball 25+ times a game and only minimal carries from the backup) to the new 2 back plan (you need to have multiple top level players who can be highly successful for 12-20 carries a game), younger collegians have found more opportunities for playing time. Players who have had significant or starring roles early in their careers include Mike Hart (Michigan), Adrian Peterson (Oklahoma), Michael Dyer (Auburn), Marcus Lattimore (South Carolina), Any of the last 4 RBs at Alabama, Devonta Freeman (Florida State), Duke Johnson (The U), and many more.

I think the best comparison for Collins is Wisconsin RB Montee Ball. They are built nearly identically (Ball is 5 lbs heavier), and their strengths and running styles are remarkably similar. In my opinion, Collins should easily eclipse Ball’s freshman statistics (98 carries for 391 yards and 4 touchdowns rushing, 9 catches for 92 yards receiving). It remains to be seen with player progression, team dynamics, injuries, and other factors whether he can have the career success that Ball has enjoyed (79 total touchdowns in 4 years, NCAA Career leader in rushing touchdowns).

Final Grades
Athleticism – B+
Football IQ – A
Running skills – A
Receiving skills – B
Blocking - D
Fundamentals and Technique – B+
Leadership/Maturity – A
Physical development – A
Potential – A+

Overall Recruit Grade – A+
Collins is priority number 1 or 1a in this class, depending on your feelings about a certain linebacker target (we’ll get to him later). Miami has a gaping hole at running back for a power player, and Collins would fill that role. Obviously, he would be the compliment to ACC Rookie of the Year and probable All-American Duke Johnson.

As a prospect, Collins has recently earned his 5th star, almost simultaneous to his decommitment from Miami. Collins is both an elite player and a raw prospect who has only begun to tap into his immense potential. Like any good recruiter, Al Golden and staff have ancillary options at running back, but it is readily apparent that getting Collins is the focal point of their current recruiting efforts.

Comments (29)

Damn, nice job man.
the two biggest threats to Miami for Alex signature

are both going to BCS bowls.

hope they lose.
back-to-back homeruns Cam!!!!
For so many reasons a must-get.
excellent analysis and critiques. Very detailed. Have not seen on any site or any other reviewer. Great work!!!
Would love to see this kid as a Cane. DO WANT
Best breakdown I've seen of any recruit in a long time. Think he's got a higher ceiling than Montee Ball. Hope to see him in the all-star games, but I've been seeing some similarities of this guy's style:

You are absolutely killing it with the comparisons. Maybe I need to have you write that section of the Notebook from now on.

Dead serious.
Great job. This site is better than the others. #Canes6thRingOTW
very well written, which is uncommon on msg boards.

Shoutout to my HS English teacher: Mrs. Morehouse, Ms Bradford's FINE ASS, Dr. Antonio, and Coach McDonald.
CameRON - I think we had Mr. McD together at Cranbrook. You know he got fired for smoking weed?
A) who is this. We might have.
B) Yeah.....that was an interesting situation. I heard all about it the next day. He got what he deserved. Idiot.
very well written, which is uncommon on msg boards.

Shoutout to my HS English teacher: Mrs. Morehouse, Ms Bradford's FINE ASS, Dr. Antonio, and Coach McDonald.
CameRON - I think we had Mr. McD together at Cranbrook. You know he got fired for smoking weed?
A) who is this. We might have.
B) Yeah.....that was an interesting situation. I heard all about it the next day. He got what he deserved. Idiot.
Geoff Brethen
very well written, which is uncommon on msg boards.

Shoutout to my HS English teacher: Mrs. Morehouse, Ms Bradford's FINE ASS, Dr. Antonio, and Coach McDonald.
CameRON - I think we had Mr. McD together at Cranbrook. You know he got fired for smoking weed?
A) who is this. We might have.
B) Yeah.....that was an interesting situation. I heard all about it the next day. He got what he deserved. Idiot.
Geoff Brethen
YOOO!!!!!!! The homie Geoff!!!!! That's wassup, man. Welcome.

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