Posted on: January 6, 2012 1:20 am
Edited on: January 6, 2012 1:20 am
Posted by Bryan Fischer
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Talented recruits from across the across the country descended on Tropicana Field for the fifth-annual Under Armour All-American Game and just like past events, there was plenty of drama.
Off the field.
The verbal commitments that take place at the game, televised nationally on ESPN, are one of the draws of the event but the focus is usually on how well the two squads of four- and five-star recruits perform against each other. With a blowout win for Team Blur, 49-16, putting the game in the books well before halftime, attention naturally turned to the biggest announcement of the evening in Blur and Geismar (La.) safety Landon Collins.
Ranked by MaxPreps as the #1 safety in the country and #12 player overall in the class of 2012, the talented Collins was expected to end a tough battle between national title contenders Alabama and LSU.
"I'm going to go Roll Tide Roll," Collins said, putting on an Alabama hat. "I just love the coaches and the coaching staff."
What happened next however, was yet another 'only in recruiting' stories. Collins mother, April, visibly was not happy with the decision and gave an extremely awkward interview following her son's commitment.
"I feel that LSU is a better place for him to be," April Collins said. "LSU Tigers #1. Go Tigers."
The interview overshadowed the 6-foot-1, 205-pound safety's great performance on the field. Collins intercepted BYU commit Tanner Mangum's pass in the middle of the second quarter and racked up four tackles on the night, including a vicious hit that stood up running back and Maryland commit Wes Brown at the goal line to prevent a touchdown.
Collins, on and off Tropicana Field, produced some of the only highlights for Team Highlight. Clad in black uniforms, the squad got off to a bad start by allowing a 75-yard touchdown pass from Florida State-bound quarterback Jameis Winston to speedy Alabama commit Amari Cooper.
"Practice was great and going up against this great competition was just another way to get better before college," Cooper said after the game.
Team Highlight had issues on offense all night, turning the ball over five times and finishing with just 260 yards of offense.
Part of the problem was their lack of quarterback play. Texas commit and top 100 signal-caller Connor Brewer suffered a mild concussion and Miami-bound quarterback Preston Dewey was held out to an injury suffered earlier in the week. As a result, Mangum ended up switching teams at halftime and donning a black #20 jersey with 'Under' on the nameplate.
"That's my new name for the week I guess," Mangum said with a smile. "It was pretty interesting to play for both teams but you just try to go with the flow and do the best that you can."
Mangum finished 5-of-8 for 60 yards and an interception for Team Blur and 2-of-7 with two picks for Team Highlight. Though the final stat line wasn't pretty - he was under siege by the defensive lines most of the night - the opportunity to be the all-star, all-time quarterback was a pretty special experience.
"I guess you could say that," he said. "I didn't expect that when I woke up this morning."
Recent Georgia pledge Keith Marshall led Blur in rushing with 37 yards and added a touchdown while Miami commit Randy Johnson led Highlight with 50 yards on the ground. Winston was named team MVP after completing 8-of-9 for 178 yards and two touchdowns while Mangum was named MVP on the other side.
Oklahoma commit De'Vante Harris was one of four players on Team Blur to have seven tackles, tied with recently committed Ole Miss defensive end Channing Ward who also added two sacks to his total. Playing out of position at defensive tackle, uncommitted recruit Jordan Jenkins led all defenders with eight tackles and had two sacks. Teammate and future Ohio State Buckeye Noah Spence was a terror at the defensive end position and finished with seven tackles and three sacks.
"Both of them are really good," Mangum said, with emphasis, when asked to compare the two defenses. "They have really good players and it didn't really matter what team I was on. It was fun to be here in this environment though."
Cooper added a 93-yard punt return early in the 4th quarter to get the near-record crowd on its feet. The return set the record for the longest punt return for a touchdown in the game's history and tied teammate and Florida-bound cornerback Brian Poole’s 93-yard interception return as the longest touchdown play.
Mangum, who will go on a two-year Morman mission and was playing in his last football game for at least that long, the experience was a once and a lifetime opportunity and one he'll remember for years to come.
"it was a great learning experience that I can take back and learn from," he said. "It was a great test and I'll take a lot from it."
Including, perhaps, to keep your mother happy.
Posted on: January 5, 2012 10:38 pm
Edited on: January 6, 2012 12:23 am
Posted by Bryan Fischer
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- There's nothing harder to do in recruiting than pull a highly ranked player out of LSU's back yard but it appears that's just what Nick Saban has done. Geismar (La.) safety Landon Collins made things official at the 2012 Under Armour All-American Game and surprisingly committed to Alabama.
"I'm going to go Roll Tide Roll," Collins said. "I just love the coaches and the coaching staff."
"It's a big weight off.
Things were slightly awkward after the top safety put on the crimson Alabama hat on national television however. Collins mother, April, verbally disagreed with the decision and said that the Tigers were the number one team and where he should be committing to.
"My mom is not going to affect my decision," he said. "I made up my mind two years ago."
Collins informed his mother the decision last week but kept it a secret beyond immediate family members. This included coaches from both schools, undoubtedly watching from New Orleans, with Saban and his staff likely much, much happier than his mother.
"It was kind of funny to me since I knew how she felt already when I told her," Collins said. "She felt kind of bad. She wasn't about to come (to the game) because of my decision. She's genuinely upset, it's not a show."
When asked if his mother could talk him out of the decision by Signing Day, the answer was quite blunt from the top safety.
"No," he said. "Maybe (she'll try). Probably."
April Collins isn't likely to be the only person in the home state upset with the decision. The Tigers have typically had top players on lockdown and rarely do they end up someplace other than Baton Rouge - one of the few notable examples was when number one overall player Joe McKnight left for USC. Collins is confident in his decision though and knows that the support will still be there from those that know him best.
"I'm expecting a lot of backlash," Collins said. "But a lot of people said they'd support me wherever I'd go. I'm not really worried about it, it's my life and my decision and I'm going to have to live it and not them."
Collins was one of the top performers at the annual all-star game, picking off a pass and making a big hit near the goal line to prevent a score. Just days away from the national championship, plenty of Alabama fans were able to get a glimpse of someone who they're hoping can get them back to the title game and make a similar impact - as soon as next season.
"I'm getting playing time no matter what," Collins said. "I'm going to play safety and if I do my thing, I'm going to be a starting safety. I'm planning on going to start at nickel."
The 6-foot-1, 205-pound defensive back took in the 'Game of the Century' between the two schools in November on an official visit to Tuscaloosa and went to LSU in early December. It was pretty much a race between just the two programs for most of the year with the Tide ending up with the talented Louisiana safety.
"I love the place, I always felt at home when I went there," he said. "I love the coaching staff, I love the players and I just wanted to get out of Louisiana I guess.
"I wanted to go to LSU at one point but I decided to go to Alabama to get out of town and see something new."
Collins was selected as the state's 'Mr. Football' after a senior campaign which featured 45 tackles and four interceptions (two for touchdowns) on defense and over 1,200 yards and 21 touchdowns as a running back on offense.
“He’s just a special athlete," Dutchtown coach Benny Saia told MaxPreps. “He makes big things happen.”
Ranked as the top safety in the country by MaxPreps, the five-star is 12th overall in the class of 2012. Collins becomes Alabama's 26th commitment with less than a month to go before Signing Day. Athlete Cyrus Jones committed to the Crimson Tide earlier in the evening.