Collins carrying the load

Senior wide out Sam Collins had a big day in Norman last Saturday. <br><br>But as Bama's only senior starter at wide receiver, that is, after all, just his job.

The Fayette native set two new career highs when he caught six passes for 82-yards. He had a successful first ever rush attempt for three yards against a highly touted Oklahoma defense. He now ranks fifth in the SEC for receivers, averaging five receptions and 68-yards per game.

But Collins was not pleased.

Collins makes the catch versus Oklahoma. (Associated Press)

"There is no such thing as a moral victory -- a loss is a loss," Collins said. "We played well in the second half. We kept stopping ourselves though and missing assignments and that puts us in third and long and fourth and long situations. We've got to learn how to finish off a game."

If you thought that sounded like a leader, you'd be right. Collins finds himself the only seasoned veteran among new faces in the receiver position, but he appears to be adjusting to the leadership role nicely. Collins is now the Tide's leading receiver and has become a "go to" player for the Tide, catching crucial passes in crunch time.

"It will probably be one of those games that I remember the most," Collins said of his performance on Saturday. "But it was a loss and that's not what I want to remember."

In addition, freshman quarterback Brodie Croyle threw his first complete pass at Alabama to Collins.

"It's definitely a confident feeling throwing him the first ball knowing he's going to catch it," Croyle said.

Success is nothing new for the senior, but playing behind a now injured Antonio Carter and Eagles wide receiver Freddie Milons Collins never got quite the exposure that he is receiving this season. Collins was the third leading receiver last season behind Carter and Milons finishing the season with 18 catches for 252-yards and had the most touchdown receptions with four.

Collins had a season-high four catches for 52 yards against Mississippi State in 2001, and had two touchdown receptions against Tennessee. He had two receptions for 28 yards in the Tide's 14-13 win over Iowa State in the Independence Bowl. Following spring practice the coaches awarded Collins with the "Ray Perkins Most Improved Receiver Award."

As the only returning senior starter at wide receiver, Collins has assumed the leadership role among Bama's wideouts.

Little did the coaching staff realize how much Collins had improved. Collins is leading a receiving corps that was dealt devastating blows in the off-season. Milons and Jason McAddley departed for the NFL and Antonio Carter, poised to have another spectacular year was lost to injury.

Collins had a record breaking prep career at Fayette County High School, claiming four receiving records for himself by graduation. Collins' 3,844 career receiving yards is an Alabama all-time record. Collins broke his own single-season receiving record with a 1.574-yard performance in 1997. He set the state single-game yardage record against Pleasant Grove with 298-yards, he also tied another record with five touchdown receptions in one game. Collins led his team to back-to-back Class 4A state championships.

"Sam might be the fastest receiver on the team," Croyle said. "He's a playmaker. When he gets the ball good things happen. I haven't seen anyone that I would trade him for."

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