Don Callahan/Inside Carolina

UNC 'Definitely Up There' for DE Chris Collins

The Va. defensive end is heading into the homestretch of his recruitment.

RICHMOND, Va. --- Chris Collins has made three visits to North Carolina in less than two months. Thus, it's safe to say the Tar Heels are a major player for the 6-foot-5, 215-pound defensive end from Benedictine High.

"I feel like North Carolina is definitely up there for me," Collins said. "It's just the position coach -- I feel like me and Coach [Deke] Adams have a great relationship. And also, [I have a great relationship with] the defensive coordinator; Coach 'JP' [John Papuchis]; he's the recruiter for my area, so we talk on a regular basis.

"And, just the fit. I feel like I fit into the program."

Collins stops short of crowning UNC his leader. In fact, he doesn't plan to name favorites or publicly announce finalists at any point of his recruitment. Each of his 17 scholarship offering schools will remain in play until he makes a verbal commitment. 

In addition to UNC, Collins has visited Boston College, Duke, Georgia, Louisville, Maryland, Pittsburgh, Virginia, and West Virginia. For at least the time being, he's finished with recruiting visits.

Like most high school coaches, Greg Lilly, Benedictine's head coach, is very active in his players' recruitments. But since both Collins's parents are coaches -- his mom is an assistant coach for Coppin State's women's basketball team, while his father is Benedictine's defensive coordinator -- and completely understand the recruiting process, Lilly is more of a facilitator in this instance.

"I think UNC is right at the top -- he's been down there three times," Lilly said. "He's been to Pitt a couple of times. He had a good trip to Boston College last week. And I think he really enjoyed Louisville.

"He wants to go some place that's academically strong and he's thinking about majoring in communications, but he's also thinking about business a little bit, too. And then he wants to get better as a football player. And I think he wants to win -- he's hard to be around, and I probably don't help this, when we're losing."

Though he isn't exactly sure when he'll commit, Collins says he'll be committed before his senior year. That way, he'll be able to help his future school recruit.

"I want to be that lead recruiter for my school," Collins said. "I want to be all in and just focus on my senior season."

Though he will provide his future school with an extra recruiter in the short term, for the long haul Collins gives the team a long, edge rusher, who is eager to improve upon his craft.

"The first thing that comes to my mind is he's a student of the game," Lilly said. "His dad is our defensive coordinator. He's been a kid who has grown up around our football program; he was working out with us in 6th, 7th, and 8th grade. So, he's a kid who really buys into technique, wanting to know why you're doing certain techniques -- he always asks all the right questions. He's also the kid who's watching an hour and a half, two hours worth of film every week. He's into football and wants to get better, but also does the preparation that you need to do. 

"Secondly, he a kid who has fun playing. Last year, we were a senior-led group, but there was one younger guy who was always making noise and having fun playing -- that was him. I really think he has fun playing, I think he has fun being around the atmosphere of football and being around the team.

"He has good length; he has a good frame; he has the ability to put on some weight; and he's a good athlete. He's a kid who has good hip flexibility, gets off the football well, but he plays basketball and can run around the court a little bit."

Collins will spend the coming months mulling over his college decision.

"I'll definitely sit down with my mom and dad, and just write down the top things that are on my mind right now for each school -- like the pros and the cons," Collins said. "Whichever school has more pros than cons, that's the decision I'll be making."

Having both parents in the coaching field, Collins has taken a cerebral approach to his recruitment. After enjoying the glitz and glamour of UNC's elite junior day with his father in early March, Collins returned to Chapel Hill a couple of weeks later with his mother for a more comprehensive look at the school. The visit included sitting in on a defensive line meeting and watching practice. Both allowed Collins to fully evaluate Adams, the Heels' D-line coach.

"When I got a chance to see him in the film room, he definitely stresses the detail, which is always the key in winning," Collins said. "And then when I saw him on the field, [the D-lineman] took what they saw in the film room and they demonstrated it on the field. So that made learning it a lot easier.

"The D-line just put in a lot of work -- high effort, high energy."

Additionally, Collins and his mother met with Larry Fedora for roughly 30 minutes.

"She was just worried about player development," Collins said. "She just wants to see me develop as a player -- she doesn't want me to stay stagnant. Coach Fedora just stressed that he knows it's a big transition coming in from high school to college. 

"He also touched on my recruiting. Right now, they have me as their No. 1 'quick' end on their board."

While on spring break, Collins made visits to UNC, Boston College, and Virginia. The focus of his third Chapel Hill visit was spending time with its players.

"I got a chance to see the type of environment that it is," Collins said. "A lot of people don't get a chance to see if they fit into the program. So I got a chance to see if I fit in."

Jake Lawler, a freshman defensive end who enrolled at UNC last January, served as Collins's de facto host.

"He's a great guy," Collins said. "I got a chance to meet his roommates, who are all early enrollees. They were just telling me about their transition and they were giving me their perspective, because you know it's different hearing from a coach and from a player.

"I felt I fit in really well. I got a chance to go to class with Jake, also."

Benedictine does not allow early graduation. Otherwise, Collins would choose the midterm enrollment route.

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