LSU defensive backs coach Ron Cooper and his two sons stood on the sidelines of the Dutchtown practice facility on Wednesday, making the 20 minute drive from campus to Geismar to see the state’s top prospect: safety Landon Collins.
For Cooper, and Griffins head coach Benny Saia, seeing Collins roam the Dutchtown secondary is déjà vu.
This time a year ago, Eric Reid, now one of Cooper’s most promising young defensive backs, roamed the same secondary – with similar size and athletic ability.
“There really isn’t much of a difference,” said Saia when asked to contrast the two players as rising seniors. “Eric is known for being a genius and having the smarts, but Landon is a really good student, too. And he’s also got the football IQ. They’re obviously both great athletes with the body type. Eric was a little taller, and Landon is faster. But both are unbelievable players.
“There aren’t many like them in the country, let alone at the same school.”
Reid, a four-star prospect coming out of Dutchtown, finished his senior campaign ranked as the No. 4 overall safety in the nation. He turned the hype into immediate playing time as a freshman last fall, earning three starts in 12 games played and recording 25 total tackles and one interception, which came in the Cotton Bowl victory over Texas A&M.
Collins, who worked out with Reid earlier this week, said that Reid’s road drives home the appeal of early playing time.
“Seeing him get out there right away at LSU let me know that they are going to play their best guys, and that’s a good thing right now,” Collins said. “A lot of schools have told me I could play right away. For instance, a coach from Cal said that if I could skip my senior year he would start me this September (laughing). I just want to have that opportunity to compete.”
Collins said that LSU has maintained contact through recruiting coordinator Frank Wilson and Cooper, who would coach Collins if he chose to commit to the Tigers.
“That was coach Cooper’s second time coming out to see me this spring,” he said. “I know they have a close watch on me.
“My next stop at LSU will be the Bayou Picnic at the end of the month. I think Dwayne Thomas will get over there, too. I’m looking forward to hanging out with him.”
Next month, Thomas, a cornerback for O.P. Walker and 2012 LSU pledge, will spend two weeks in Geismar as he continues his summer workout routine closer to Collins.
“Dwayne and I have been close since we were young, so we are looking forward to being together now. In fact, after Katrina we almost both came over to Dutchtown.”
Standing a few feet away as he listened to Collins recap his friendship with the state’s top cornerback prospect, Saia was forced to interject.
“Why didn’t you make sure he got over here,” said Saia in a rhetoric tone. “Boy, that would have been one nice set of defensive backs to have right now.”
Fortunately for Cooper, the two could soon reunite in Baton Rouge, where the Tigers are quickly building up one of the nation’s elite defensive backfields.
“They have definitely been having some success with the young guys stepping in,” Collins said. “I’ve been watching. And Dwayne is probably going to be talking about it, too (laughing).”
While Collins has admitted to having a strong desire to play in the Southeastern Conference, offers continue to pour in from some of the nation’s top programs outside the SEC.
“Texas is one of the latest offers I got,” Collins said. “Their coach told me that they don’t often leave the state at this time of year to recruit a prospect, so that must mean they really want me. That’s another place I might have to get over to and check out. Florida State, too.”
Collins recently finished track season at Dutchtown, where the junior posted a 10.58 in the 100-meter dash at the state tournament on LSU’s campus earlier this month. Despite competing in numerous events, Collins maintained his weight for football.
“I never really went below 205,” he said. “I am now at around 210. I was happy with that.”
While Collins didn’t take reps on the offensive side of the ball when Cooper watched this week, the No. 1 prospect in Louisiana is headed for action at running back on Friday nights next fall.
“We lost Effrem Reed, so we are going to need to fill that void with a couple of guys,” Saia said. “Landon is one of them. He’s going to be focused mainly on carrying that defense, but he will also get about 10-12 touches a game at running back, and he can run it. People will be impressed.”