"Tyler does a great job of getting us in the right play at the line and finding an open receiver and reading the whole field. Saturday was no exception. He was getting us into the right play and hitting the open guy."
The last two weeks Triandos Luke has been the star, catching multiple passes and racking up big yardage. But Receivers Coach Kenith Pope knew Collins' time would come. "He's been real patient," Pope said. "Saturday a lot of the game plan ended up going toward Sam, and he did a good job handling it. He had a very good day. Ten knockdown blocks and five explosive plays."
During one game or another, seven different athletes have led the Tide in receiving this season, including two different running backs and a tight end. And of course receivers Collins, Luke, Dre Fulgham and Zach Fletcher have taken turns as well.
So, did Collins win the pre-game lottery last Saturday? "No," he replied laughing. "But I understand. It seems like each week a different guy steps up. I can see how fans would think that."
Pope explained Saturday's game plan. "We felt like we could do some things to LSU's secondary. We attacked them on the perimeter. Sam made plays for us. We were trying to throw the ball vertically down the field a little bit more than normal."
So if being good friends with roommate and fellow fifth-year senior Watts won't help--and nobody's drawing straws in the pre-game locker room--just what does determine who catches the most balls?
"We just take what the defense gives us," Collins said. "We watch film every week, and we kind of know going into the game what's going to be open and what's not. We kind of know who's going to get the ball more than others.
"Really, it's fun just rooting your buddies along."
That unselfish attitude is appreciated by the Bama staff. "Sam has everything you like in a receiver," Pope said. "His speed is very deceiving, because he's a very fluid football player. And he has the right mindset and demeanor. Every day Sam comes to practice. We know what we're going to get from Sam. He's always a consistent performer.
"Some receivers are impatient, but Sam is not. When your number is called, you need to be able to respond."
With 115 receiving yards to his credit, Collins was definitely ready last week. In fact his fourth-quarter, tipped-ball reception was one of the most spectacular plays of the night. Up 21-0 early in the quarter, Watts spotted Collins one-on-one down the left side. The pass was slightly under-thrown, allowing the LSU defender to leap high for the attempted interception. But the football got by him, dropping into Collins' waiting hands. Four plays later the Tide kicked a field goal.
Pope remembered the 33-yard reception. "Sam caught a difficult ball in the fourth quarter. That was great concentration. The DB tipped it and he stayed with the ball. That takes a lot of concentration."
"I just tried to look the ball all the way in," Collins said. "He tipped it, and I never took my eyes off the ball, concentrating on it."
Earlier, Collins had kept his concentration in the face of an "enthusiastic" LSU welcoming committee. "When I walked out on the field for pre-game I had people coming off the sidelines talking smack to me," Collins recalled, "talking about how they were going to beat us pretty bad. Driving to the stadium, fans were rocking the bus. Shooting us birds. Throwing beer cans at us. Hitting on the bus. I think it was worse this year than it was two years ago.
"But the fans weren't there afterwards."
How did the team react? "I think it motivated us," Collins replied. "Going into a hostile environment when everybody is doing all that, it gets guys hyped and ready to go out and play."
And of course for all the frenzied yelling done by Tiger fans early on, Death Valley was quiet as a graveyard by the fourth quarter. "It was quite nice, actually," Collins recalled. "It says a lot for this team when you can go into a hostile environment on the road and send everybody home halfway through the third quarter."
When the game was finished and Alabama had clinched the best record in the SEC West, happy Crimson-clad fans dominated the stands. But perhaps surprisingly, players in the Bama locker room had other things on their minds.
"We didn't celebrate," Collins related. "Coach Fran talked about the game a little bit and congratulated us, but after about five minutes it was over. The celebration didn't last very long. We were ready for the Auburn game.
"It's a big game around here, and everybody knows that."
So which Alabama receiver will head the stat sheet this week? Who will step up to take his turn against the Tigers? "I don't know," Collins replied slyly. "I haven't watched that much film yet. So I don't know what's going to be there or whose turn it's going to be.
"I guess everybody will just have to wait and see."