Faced with a third and goal situation at the USA Fooball National 7on7 competition, everyone on the field knew who would be getting the ball.
“It’s going to No. 7,” players shouted from the McGill-Toolen (Mobile, Ala.) sideline.
To no one’s surprise, Clay-Chalkville (Pinson, Ala.) quarterback Willie Miller’s throw was deep to No. 7—Nico Collins—who stretched out his 6-5, 195-pound frame and snared the pass, only to land just out of bounds. Collins, considered the top-ranked 2017 receiver in Alabama, caught 60 passes for 19 touchdowns and 1,103 yards last season as a junior. Now that the Cougars no longer have quarterback Ty Pigrome, now at Maryland, or wide receiver T.J. Simmons, now at Alabama, opposing teams will have a laser-like focus on Collins.
“Knowing that I’m the No. 1 receiver in my state, I have a name for myself,” Collins said. “Everyone knows me, so I have a big target on my back. I know I’m going to get double-teamed and triple-teamed, so that will be an opportunity for my teammates to make plays.”
Clay-Chalkville offensive coordinator Stuart Floyd said while Collins may be a decoy at times, the Cougars must find ways to get him the ball.
“Obviously, you have to move him around in the formation,” Floyd said. “He’s got to be able to play multiple positions to get him the ball. We have to have the other guys step up so we can trust them. If we can trust them, that will mean that defenses will have to be accountable. They’re going to try to take him away, so we have to use other guys.”
Collins is being closely watched off the field as well, particularly since his top two college choices are Michigan and Alabama, two schools whose coaches have been feuding a bit this summer.
Alabama coach Nick Saban first called for a ban on the satellite camps held by Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh, leading Harbaugh to snipe back at Saban on Twitter:
Floyd, like many fans of Clay-Chalkville, is an Alabama fan, but he doesn’t see his role as being a booster of the Crimson Tide.
“I think a lot of people want him to go there,” Floyd said. “But for us, we’re in the business of Nico Collins, we don’t have any ulterior motives. We just want the best fit for him. It’s his decision, we’re not going to college with him. I don’t think anywhere he goes is going to be a bad choice.”
Collins was given a scholarship offer when he visited Alabama as a sophomore. He also visited Michigan in June but it’s only one of his top five schools, which also include Florida State, Alabama, Clemson and Georgia.
“A lot of people think I’m going to stay in-state, but really I keep my options open,” Collins said. “I’m going to take my officials, taking my time. I want to explore and see more. … I plan on watching teams play and see how they run their offense.”