PINSON, Ala. — When Nico Collins hauled in his second touchdown in the left corner of the end zone Friday in Clay-Chalkville High School’s spring game against Gadsden City, he was more than 100 yards away from a pair of Alabama assistants.
Crimson Tide offensive line coaches Brent Key and Mario Cristobal were standing roughly 10 feet away from each other at the other end of the field when Collins towered over the defender for the touchdown.
“Did you see that?” Key said as he whipped his head to the right to see if Cristobal saw what could be the future of Alabama football.
Cristobal, with his eyes opened wide, said one word.
There’s a possibility that same reaction happens once again some day inside Bryant-Denny Stadium, but Collins may not be in Alabama uniform.
After the 6-foot-5, 195-pounder took a trip to Michigan more than a week ago, the Wolverines hold an advantage over every program pursuing him.
“They are the leader because when I went up there, everything was just perfect,” Collins told SEC Country. “They care about you a lot. They care about your academics and what you want to do after college. Michigan — you know, they’re a big deal. They kind of got to me.”
That’s a big change from where Collins’ recruitment stood ever since he received an offer from Alabama on Feb. 20, 2015, which was a day after his good friend and former teammate, wide receiver T.J. Simmons, committed to the Crimson Tide.
Most people in the recruiting industry believed Collins would follow in Simmons’ footsteps to Tuscaloosa. According to Collins’ 247Sports Crystal Ball, 100 percent of the 11 predictions on where he’ll attend college are in for Alabama.
Collins admits he is one of those recruits that quickly falls in love with a school after visiting, which is good news for Alabama fans because the aura around the Michigan program could start to fade away as the weeks go by.
“I just went there last week, so probably if I go somewhere else, things will change at that point,” Collins said.
After he made the trip to Ann Arbor, one of the first people he heard from was Alabama wide receivers coach Billy Napier.
Collins said Napier told him how he needed him to get back on campus as soon as he could. The receiver admitted that Napier did seem concerned with his newfound infatuation toward Michigan.
Despite Jim Harbaugh’s Wolverines currently edging Nick Saban’s Tide, Collins said Alabama hasn’t done anything wrong when it comes to recruiting him.
“They are doing everything perfectly right now,” Collins said. “Everything at Alabama is laid out nicely for you, so all you need to do if you go there is do what you do and just ball out.”
Alabama not only has to worry about Michigan when it comes to stealing away one of the state’s top recruits, but it also needs to keep a watchful eye on Georgia.
The nation’s No. 11 wide receiver said of the main schools he’s considering at the moment — Alabama, Georgia, Michigan, Clemson and Florida State — the Bulldogs have the best quarterback situation with the Wolverines coming in second in that major category.
Collins, who was in attendance for Georgia’s spring game, got to witness highly touted freshman quarterback Jacob Eason deliver on the hype. In the 2017 class, Georgia has a commitment from Jake Fromm, who was once originally committed to Alabama.
“Georgia is a big-time school. Like I’ve said before, they have two first-round draft picks (in Eason and Fromm). Their quarterback situation is the best right now. It could be the best in the country. They’re going to throw the ball a lot. They care about you at Georgia. They make sure you get on the field.
With Michigan, they have a commitment from the nation’s No. 1 quarterback (five-star Dylan McCaffrey), so it’s looking good there.”
Two weeks ago, Alabama picked up a commitment from Hawaiian four-star quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. When Collins heard the news, he fired up the lefty’s highlights and was reminded of a familiar sight.
“I watched his Hudl and he reminds me of (former Clay-Chalkville QB) Ty (Pigrome),” Collins said. “He can throw it all over the field and run when he needs to.”
The comparison of Pigrome to Tagovailoa is a good one for Alabama’s chances with Collins. Pigrome helped Collins earn all-state honors after he caught 60 balls for 1,103 yards and 16 touchdowns during his junior season. Pigrome will compete for Maryland’s starting quarterback job this year and some believe he’ll win that job.
Collins has already thought of the possibility of what Tagovailoa can do for his game if Alabama was the school he ended up at.
“(Tua) looks really good. I can see myself catching passes from him,” Collins said. “He can run when he gets under pressure and do something with the ball. He’s not like a normal quarterback. He looks like he’s always trying to make plays.”
In the past, Collins has said he would like to play in a pro-style offense that is run by a true pro-style quarterback. Tagovailoa is not that. He is rated as the nation’s No. 2 dual-threat prospect. While Collins is aware of that fact, it’s not a concern to him because what he saw in Tagovailoa’s highlight reel makes him confident that if he did choose Alabama, there would be no limitations from the quarterback position.
“It really doesn’t matter because he will get the ball to you,” Collins said about Tagovailoa’s dual-threat skills. “I guess he just runs because he feels under pressure. It’s like the same thing like last year with Ty. He would run around a lot, but he got the ball to you. He seems like a pretty good quarterback that I could catch the ball from.”
Collins will make a commitment on National Signing Day in February.
All rankings are provided by the 247Sports composite unless otherwise noted.
Chris Kirschner covers Alabama football recruiting for SECCountry.com and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow him on Twitter for the latest on who’s on their way to play in Bryant-Denny.