LSU assistant coach Ron Cooper first saw Jalen Collins at camp this past summer, where the 6-foot-3, 180-pounder earned an offer after a string of dominant performances alongside names like David Jenkins and Ronald Martin.
He soon joined the aforementioned as a commitment to LSU’s 2010 class, and he has since turned out an impressive senior season that makes Tiger fans feel comfortable about the out-of-state addition.
On the year, Collins has 36 tackles, three interceptions, seven pass break ups and a blocked field goal. Last weekend, Cooper traveled to north Mississippi to visit Collins in person for the first time this fall.
“He stopped in to our game against Columbus, which we won 34-7,” Collins said. “He was happy he swung in on that night, because I had a touchdown and a tackle. I got to play a little bit of offense, but he was there to see me at cornerback, and I shut things down for him.”
This weekend the two will see each other again, this time in Cooper’s backyard.
“I will be down there on Saturday for the Alabama game,” Collins said. “I’m pretty excited about it. Coach said it was one that I didn’t want to miss out on, so I’m going to make the drive down. If LSU could pull it off, that would be huge.”
TigerSportsDigest.com caught up with defensive assistant Rob Pool, son of longtime Olive Branch head coach Leslie Pool, for more on the LSU commitment.
TSD: You first got to work with Jalen when he moved over from DeSoto in the offseason. What were those first practices like?
Pool: He got here in mid June, and by the end of the month we did some 7-on-7 workouts and the first thing I noticed was that he had good instincts. He would see a smash route and be leveraged just right so that he could break on most balls. That’s what jumped out at us. We certainly knew he had the talent.
TSD: At the end of the summer we were able to see Jalen in Hoover, Ala. at the National 7-on-7 tournament, where he held down Auburn commitment Jaylon Denson, among others. What did the staff take away from that weekend?
Pool: We found out how valuable he could really be. In certain situations we locked up on defense and played him on their best guy, and he did really well. And he has shown since then that it’s just what he does. He’s been strong with locking receivers down all year.
TSD: From the conversations you have had with Jalen and the LSU staff, what made the Tigers come forward with an offer after seeing him in person in July?
Pool: I feel like the main thing was that he is a 6-foot-3 cornerback who is rangy. When you look at numbers and you have a corner that is 6-foot-3 that you can match up, there are no questions on deep balls. And since he’s such a good athlete, he goes into a camp setting and can put a good number on paper with his shuttle and forty-yard dash times.
TSD: We’ve seen Jalen line up on both sides of the ball this year, and he scored an offensive touchdown last week with LSU coach Ron Cooper in attendance. What’s he been like going two ways?
Pool: It’s just about keeping the best guys in position to make plays. He had a touchdown catch against Horn Lake, too. He’s just a football player, so we want him out there as much as possible.
TSD: What’s been your biggest advice this season?
Pool: We’ve stressed to him that defense comes play by play. Regardless of the situation and time of the game, you can’t let the last play dictate anything. That was what he would react like when he first got here, but I think he’s made some progress since then.”
TSD: He comes across as the quiet type. Does that ring true with you?
Pool: Definitely, but he can open up. His mom has just made him act right, and he handles himself with a lot of class. He’s one of those kids who you never have to worry about academics with, because Jalen doesn’t slack off a bit – even as a senior. He can just pick up on stuff – in the classroom and on the field – and go with it.
Olive Branch (6-4) closes their season with a home contest against Tupelo this Friday.