Friday, June 14, 2013
Crimson Countdown: Landon Collins
By Alex Scarborough
During the summer, TideNation will analyze each of the scholarship players on the Alabama roster -- excluding the Tide's 2013 recruiting class -- in our Crimson Countdown series. Starting with No. 1 Dee Hart, we will go through the roster numerically, finishing with No. 99 Brandon Ivory.
Expectations for 2013: Nick Saban didn't want to bring Collins along too quickly and give him too much to do as a rookie last season. He said as much at last year's SEC media days, citing what he believed to be an instance where he stunted Mark Barron's growth as a freshman by having him learn multiple positions. Instead, the head coach of the Crimson Tide took the No. 1 safety in the 2012 class and had him learn the defense slowly.
And now that Collins has had a year to find his way in the system, the training wheels are off, and it's time to figure out what the five-star talent is really capable of.
Best-case scenario: It's not as if Collins did nothing as a freshman. The Louisiana native did the best thing a youngster can do to prove himself: He starred on special teams, leading the team with 10 tackles on kickoff and punt coverage. If you don't think that translates to the coaching staff, think again. That kind of tenacity from a blue-chip prospect carries all sorts of brownie points. Collins could very well challenge Nick Perry and Vinnie Sunseri for a starting spot at safety this season if the chips fall the right way.
Worst-case scenario: It's easy to see that Collins is the most talented safety available to fill Robert Lester's shoes. Perry isn't quite the heavy-hitter Collins is and Sunseri isn't quite the ballhawk either. The question isn't skill, though, it's understanding. Because until Collins shows that he fully grasps the playbook and can be trusted by the staff, he won't leapfrog his veteran counterparts and see meaningful snaps as a sophomore.
Future impact: There should be no question that the staff wants Collins to develop into an every-down starter at safety opposite Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix this season. If he does, it would free up Perry and Sunseri to play their more familiar utility roles at star and money (inside corner) where Alabama lacks depth. It may not be realistic to ask Collins to go from special teams star to starter in one season, though. And even if he doesn't make the leap, he'll see the field plenty as a reserve and could try again at being a starter when Perry leaves after this season.