Commentary

Landon Collins sorting through final five

UA All-American says Bama and LSU are top two, but he still talks about Texas offer

Originally Published: September 8, 2011
By Jamie Newberg | ESPN Recruiting

Rain couldn't slow down Under Armour All-American Landon Collins on the field as he led Geismar (La.) Dutchtown to a 32-8 win over rival Lutcher on Friday. Off it, though, it kept the four-star safety grounded.

"It was a lot of fun because we had all that rain," said Collins, who is No. 19 in the ESPNU 150. "It rained for three or four straight days. I rushed the ball seven times for 94 yards and two touchdowns. I had five or six tackles and an interception. I am playing both ways this season and I love it. People can't believe that I don't get tired out there. But getting the chance to play on both sides of the ball was extra motivation for me this offseason. Now I take a pounding playing running back but I also give it right back."

After the game, though, he stayed home because of the weather instead of hitting the road for an unofficial visit.

"I wanted to go to the LSU game but I watched them on TV," he said. "I saw Alabama and Florida. I watched the Miami-Maryland game. Auburn was supposed to lose that game to Utah State but they came back. I love watching ball. I was born into it. My dad and uncle played, and my mom and stepmom are both athletes. I love football."

Collins, who has offers from most of the nation's top programs, has things narrowed down to five schools: LSU, Alabama, Florida, Texas and Tennessee.

"It is pretty much down to those five but someone could end up sneaking in," Collins said. "I spoke to Cal for a while the other day, and they were telling me how they are losing four defensive backs. I can step right in there and play."

While playing time is important to Collins, he's not afraid of competition. If he has to earn the job, he's prepared to do just that.

"I am determined that when I get to college I will work my butt off," Collins said. "I will earn my playing time. The trust in the coaches is important, too. I have to believe in them. And I have to feel like home. Academics is a must because I have to leave with a degree."

While he could have had his choice of schools, Texas offering him a scholarship seems to have made a big impression.

"I have to admit that I am still shocked by that," Collins said. "First, I can't believe that Texas offered me. But they have come out to watch me practice. They want me. They are recruiting me. They have all that talent in that state and they want me. I have been out there twice, and Texas is a big place. We have gotten lost twice."

While he has not set up an official visit to Texas, Collins said he has set up official visits to LSU (Oct. 8) and Alabama (Nov. 4).

"Those two are my top two right now," Collins said. "I am trying to reach the Florida coaches to set up that visit. Maybe I will go for the FSU game. I haven't set up a Tennessee visit and I need to look at the Texas schedule."

Collins plans to announce his decision during the Under Armour All-America Game in January on ESPN.

Talent at Columbia
Decatur (Ga.) Columbia is home to some big-time prospects from this season and beyond. Headlining this group are defensive end prospect Jhaustin Thomas, running back Kenno Loyal and wide receiver Keithon Redding.

"Jhaustin is a man child on the defensive line," Columbia coach Mario Allen said. "He's 6-7 and 235 pounds. He's taking on double- and triple-teams. He's just a great athlete. Right now, I think he will probably commit to Auburn unless they decide to go in another direction. They are recruiting him in both football and basketball. That's a big plus for him."

While the Tigers are his front-runner right now, Tennessee and South Carolina likely would find themselves next in line.

"You might be able to add Georgia to that list, but they have not offered him yet," Allen said.

Loyal, 5-11 and 235 pounds, was committed to Auburn at one time, according to Allen.

"Kenno was the first running back committed to them but then they committed more backs," Allen said. "From his standpoint, they were overloaded. He's at a point now where he will re-evaluate his situation. He likes Virginia Tech, Florida State and Georgia, but they have some others a little higher. Teams like North Carolina, Virginia, Kentucky, Louisville, Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Miami are on him. It's just a lot of schools from the Southeast."

Redding already has committed to Tennessee. He, like Loyal and Thomas, is having a good start to the senior season.

"They are all doing great, and we have played some pretty good teams," Allen said. "And they all have the bull's-eye on their jerseys."

Other prospects to keep an eye on at Columbia are senior defensive back Dextin Love, juniors Charles Cullins (defensive back) and Eric Smith (offensive tackle), and sophomores Antonio Holloway (cornerback) and Terronne Prescot (offensive guard).

Athlete wants to play QB
One of the most intriguing prospects in the Class of 2012 is Jeremy Liggins (Oxford, Miss./Lafayette). At 6-4 and 265 pounds, he is a high school quarterback and wants to play the same position at the next level.

"Jeremy is an unusual individual," Lafayette coach Anthony Hart said. "I knew that the first time I saw him as a ninth grader. He's big and fast, and he has size and speed. He wants to play quarterback in college. But he's such a great athlete he could play tight end, receiver, H-back, defensive end and linebacker. I have never seen anyone like him in coaching ball, and I have been doing it for 25 years."

Liggins, who's No. 121 in the ESPNU 150 and the No. 16 athlete in the country, has offers from Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Southern Miss , LSU and many others.

"Since the season started, we have not talked about recruiting," Hart said. "He's just come here this season and doing everything we expected. He knows how to run our offense and do the things we like to do. He does it well."

Sleeper from the Bayou
Word is starting to get out about offensive lineman Pierson Villarrubia (Mandeville, La./Lakeshore).

"He plays offensive tackle for us," Lakeshore coach Larry Route said. "He's 6-4 and 270 pounds. He has great feet and a great motor. Everyone has been impressed with how well he moves. We pull him a lot. Coaches all love his feet."

A big reason it's taken so long for people to discover Villarrubia is that Lakeshore is in just its third year.

"Yeah, a lot of coaches don't know about Pierson," Route said. "Coaches are calling me so much so I know word is getting out."

So far Villarrubia has offers from Washington State, Louisiana Tech and Tulane. He might get one from Vanderbilt when he makes his official visit there this weekend.

"Vandy has not offered him yet but I know they are really interested," Route said. "I think they could offer when he's up there. I think he will also set up an official visit to Tulsa and Tulane as well."

Villarrubia carries a 3.5 GPA and has scored a 25 on the ACT.

"He has the feet to play tackle but teams like the 6-7 guys out there," Route said. "He may grow another inch or two. His mom is 6-1, and his dad is 6-3 or 6-4."

Taylor out for season
Alabama commitment Justin Taylor (Atlanta, Ga./Booker T. Washington) is out for the season with a torn ACL. Taylor, a three-star prospect, injured his knee in practice last week.

"It was a freak accident in practice," said Booker T. Washington coach Stanley Pritchett. "He was running and made a cut and hurt his knee. There was no contact and no one even around him. His knee just gave out. He's walking around now like he's fine, and he even wants to try and play. But he will have surgery soon and begin the rehab process."

From a recruiting perspective, Pritchett said the Crimson Tide are sticking with Taylor no matter what.

"We have talked with Alabama coach Chris Rumph, and he said that everything is fine with Alabama," Pritchett said. "Everything is cool."

BTW is 1-1 on the season. In his first game, Taylor rushed for 120 yards. Despite being injured and out for the year, he's in a good mood considering.

"His spirits are great," Pritchett said. "First he was down but he's staying positive. We are looking for Justin to help out coaching. He's got to be a coach on the sideline. He's a student of the game and he should be good."

More visits
ESPNU 150 offensive guard Vadal Alexander (Buford, Ga./Buford) will officially visit Auburn. ... Georgia has two official visitors in athlete Todd Gurley (Tarboro, N.C./Tarboro) and ESPNU 150 five-star running back Keith Marshall (Raleigh, N.C./Millbrook). ... Wide receiver Andre McDonald (Minetonka, Minn./Hopkins) will visit Vandy, while defensive tackle Maurice Bennett (Madison, Miss./Central) will visit Washington State.

Jamie Newberg has been covering recruiting both in the Southeast and nationally for 19 years. He can be reached at jamienewbergbw@yahoo.com.

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