WVU head coach Rich Rodriguez, a former offensive coordinator at Tulane, was already familiar with Collins, and Mountaineer assistant coach Calvin Magee knew the in-roads of New Orleans having been born and raised there. LSU and West Virginia were the two early contenders for Collins, who was not academically qualified heading into his senior season but still received scholarship offers from both schools.
Collins made unofficial visits to LSU games in the second half of its season, even after committing to the Mountaineers. According to Fortier head coach Robert Welch, attending school and playing football closer to home became an issue for Collins.
"He wanted to be somewhere that his family could come and see him play," Welch told Tiger Rag. "That was important to him, and it made him think about his decision.
"LSU had been interested in him along and that made a difference, and I know he liked seeing them win the SEC Championship."
Welch starter Collins on his defensive line the past four seasons, playing him primarily as a defensive end where Welch thinks he will stay in college. He thinks Collins can add another 15 to 20 healthy pounds to his frame and still maintain his 4.8-second speed in the 40-yard dash.
"He's got a quick first step and that's what coaches have really noticed about him," said Welch. "He has good hands and feet and great strength, but it's the quickness that stands out."
Having a 400-pound mark in the bench press backs up Welch's claim that Collins is at home in the weight room. He is also a hard worker in the classroom and recently earned the necessary grades and test score to qualify to play as a true freshman in college. As a result of his eligibility status, additional colleges have come to call on Collins, but he remembered the school that had shown an interest all along.
Collins has been an all-district selection for the Fortier Tarpons the last three years and was the 8-5A Most Valuable Player as a junior. Although he picked the Tigers over WVU, Tulane and Florida, Welch expects these and other schools to continue their recruitment of Collins.
"They're going to continue to come hard after him," he said. "But I feel he's going to be with LSU. It's close to home, and that's become real important for him."
Elmassian resigns…again: Phil Elmassian, the defensive coordinator at LSU in Nick Saban's first year at head coach, has resigned from the same position at West Virginia University. He and LSU offensive line/ assistant head coach Rick Trickett left Baton Rouge after one season under Saban to join the new staff of Rich Rodriguez.
West Virginia's athletic department is not offering any official word on Elmassian's decision to leave after one year. Morgantown was the 13th stop in Elmassian's 27-year career. He is reportedly being considered for positions at Georgia Tech and Wisconsin, where he coached prior to coming to LSU. The Mountaineers' defense gave up an average of 449.9 yards per game under Elmassian while posting a 3-8 record in 2001.
Trickett is a West Virginia native who expressed a wish to return home after helping LSU to an 8-4 record in 2000. He coached at Division II Glenville State in Glenville, W.Va., before taking the job with LSU.