Jerome Collins reported to Notre Dame as a wide receiver as a freshman but was quickly shifted to defense. His physical tools are impressive but the mental part of playing defense has been his biggest problem. "At first it was hard to make that switch but after awhile, you can't use that excuse anymore. I haven't played offense for a long time and it's time for me to become a defensive player and find that aggressive attitude all the time."
Collins says being aggressive has been the hardest adjustment he has had to make with his switch to defense and something he's trying to improve on. "I think my aggressiveness isn't always where it needs to be. Sometimes I feel like I'm doing all the right things but I'm not using my physical abilities to the most that I can. When I do that, you can totally see the difference when we watch film. When I get mad, you can see it and I take it out on whoever is across from me.""I've got to find to what to think about that turns that switch on," Collins said. "The coaches do a pretty good job of yelling at me and that gets me going most of the time. They won't always be there to yell at me so I have to find something inside myself to turn that switch on and be aggressive all the time."
Mike Goolsby hasn't been practicing this fall and his availability is questionable at best. Collins says they've made the adjustment at linebacker if Goolsby can't play this year. "They've moved Brandon (Hoyte) into Will (weak-side) and Courtney (Watson) to Mike (middle)--Derek (Curry) is playing Sam (strong-side). Occasionally Derek will move inside and Courtney will play Will and then I move into Sam. For the most part, it will be Brandon, Courtney and Derek because of the cohesiveness they have. I'll be in there for the nickel and dime."
The Irish face a lot of passing teams this year so Collins expects to play quite a bit this year. "The first three games will be a lot of passing and we should be in a lot of nickel and dime defenses. Washington State and Purdue throw a lot so I should be on the field quite a bit."
The Irish are looking for Collins to rush the passer a lot more this year. Collins says he's really worked hard this fall on his technique. "I've been doing really well. Coach Mattison has helped me out a lot with my technique. We've gone over a lot of different techniques that I didn't get a chance to work on last year. I think it's going to help me a lot with rushing the passer."
Linebacker coach Bob Simmons has also helped Collins. "I think Coach Simmons has really helped me become a better linebacker. He never really let me use an excuse as to why I ‘m not getting something done right. He's always in my face to trying to get me to go hard. In the long run it's helped me become a better football player."
Collins says he's enjoying his dual role so far. "I do enjoy rushing the passer because it lets me use everything I have which is size, speed and quickness. It's always different for me to do it because I'm not always in the mindset of doing it. Once I get in that mindset, it's all over from there."
"It's hard at times but it's also a compliment because they believe I can do. The fact that they believe I can play two positions is a compliment," Collins said.
Does Collins finally enjoy playing defense? "I do enjoy it more than I ever have before," said Collins. "At a certain point you need to forget about offense and move on. Right now its defense and I'm focusing everything I can on becoming a great linebacker and a great pass rusher."
Collins says he's a pretty mellow guy but he says one thing will likely fire him up a bit this year—his first sack. "I've always been a pretty laid back guy. Whenever I make a big play I usually don't celebrate too much. I don't get excited because that's what I'm supposed to do. When I get that first sack I might have to show some enthusiasm. I might get made fun of but I think I might get a little excited."
The Irish are in the middle of fall camp right now and Irish Eyes has been at every practice finding the latest inside scoop. Do you want to know how of the offensive line is progressing? How does Julius Jones? You will find it all in a Total Access Pass for Irish Eyes as well as updates on almost every player on the 2003 roster. Don't miss out on all the inside scoop.
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