LINCOLN, Neb. - It took him eight games, but Nebraska sophomore defensive tackle Maliek Collins registered his first sack of the season last Saturday against Rutgers. Don’t be surprised if a few more follow in the coming weeks.
“Early in the season I was thinking I have to get a sack this game, I have to get a sack and a half this game and a couple hurries,” said Collins. “Once you go out there and quit thinking of stats and execute to the best of your ability, the plays just come to you.”
“Everybody on defense has one job and I’m trying to come out here and do mine on Saturdays.”
Through eight games, Collins has 24 tackles, 8.0 tackles for loss, and 9.0 quarterback hurries to go along with his sack. With four games left in the regular season, Collins has already demolished his numbers from last season when he was a true freshman.
Just his second year in college football, Collins is well on his way to becoming one of the best defensive tackles in the Big Ten.
The Nebraska coaching staff isn’t surprised.
“We thought he was really talented right from the get go,” said head coach Bo Pelini. “He’s a guy who wrestled. He was a big, explosive, talented athlete who was raw, which most guys are at that age. I thought there was a very high end to him. I think that’s showing that we don’t hit a lot of things right, but we hit that one right…
“I think he’s really talented. I think he’s a really good player right now, and that he can become a great player.” – Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini
Ultimately a four-star player by Scout.com when he signed with Nebraska, Collins’ offer list wasn’t as big as many would have expected when coming out of Center high school in the Kansas City area.
“He came from a school that wasn’t known as a football powerhouse. Coach (John) Garrison does a great job doing his homework down there in the Kansas City area and identifying him,” said Pelini. “It didn’t take very long for us to watch the film and say, ‘wow, this guys is pretty special.’
“All you have to do is look at the draft every year across the country year after year. It doesn’t really matter what you’re ranked, there’s a lot of good football players out there. You just have to do a good job of identifying them.”
After starting nine games in his short career, Collins has impressed his teammate with his ability to pick up the game so quickly. Big Red Report asked redshirt junior Kevin Williams how hard it is to be a spark up front early in a career.
“I think it’s a lot harder, this position is a lot more physically demanding,” said Williams. “Technique wise you have to be sound. At the skill positions, you can get away with being young if you have speed, can catch, or are agile - you can play. Playing at the high school level as a defensive lineman, technique is a lot different. At this level, things they want you to do, you are not really used to it.”
In eight contests, Purdue is No. 48 in the country in sacks allowed.