Nico Collins, the No. 1 player in Alabama for the Class of 2017, had the audacity to attend G-Day this weekend. The 6-foot-5 receiver is a major Alabama target, and his high school teammate, T.J. Simmons, just enrolled early at Alabama back in January.
Yet, the nation’s No. 12 receiver decided to make at least his fifth trip to UGA over the last 15 months. He’s now been to Athens as many times as Alabama in his recruitment, and Collins saw UGA’s first and final scrimmages of its first spring practices under new coach Kirby Smart.
“I wanted to go over there to see what the new Georgia is like with Kirby there as the new head coach in the spring game,” Collins said. “From what I have seen, he’s doing a really great job with them.”
Collins noted the “crazy intensity” during last Saturday’s contest. He said he just feels “a little bit better” about UGA every time he makes it to Athens.
“I am thinking a lot of good things about Georgia right now,” Collins said. “The atmosphere there is just crazy. I am loving everything down there right now. The quarterback situation. The coaching staff. Just the way they do things. (UGA receivers) coach (James) Coley is a crazy dude. He’s fun to be around. You can have fun with him on and off the field. You can talk about anything with him. He seems like a pretty cool dude all the time to me.”
The nation’s No. 66 overall prospect has also reached this conclusion: The quarterbacks that are either at or on their way to UGA are better than at any other program recruiting him. That includes Alabama, Clemson, Florida State and Michigan. Clemson has Heisman candidate DeShaun Watson, but Collins will never huddle with him. Collins already feels Eason and Fromm are future NFL quarterbacks.
What did he tell his classmates at Clay-Chalkville High School Monday about G-Day?
“I told them I love it down there,” he said. “That’s the place to be. The atmosphere down there is just something you love to be around.”
His favorite part of G-Day was the pregame Ludacris concert. Well, until that freshman quarterback rolled out in the second quarter.
That changed when he saw freshman quarterback Jacob Eason sling a perfect back shoulder pass out to Riley Ridley for a huge gain.
“Everyone went crazy about that,” Collins said. “I thought that was a really good throw. Because the corner was all over the receiver and he just put it in the spot where only the receiver could get it. That was a big-time throw. It really impressed me.”
Collins said Eason was the type of quarterback that can be the difference in a recruit’s mind when choosing where he wants to attend school. He’s also already established a vibe with UGA Class of 2017 quarterback commit Jake Fromm. Those two competed together at the Nike Atlanta combine for “The Opening,” and they also spent some time together at G-Day.
Fromm, once an Alabama commit, flipped to UGA earlier this year. Collins said that’s the best friendship he has with a quarterback recruit he could potentially sign with in 2017.
“I think both of those guys are pretty good,” Collins said. “If one of those guys comes out, then you have another big-time quarterback who can fill his shoes. Jake Fromm is a real good quarterback. He was my quarterback at ‘The Opening’ and he threw the ball real well. Jacob Eason threw the ball well at G-Day, but I feel Jake can come out and throw the ball as well as he can.”
The junior anticipates Smart and his staff doing the same things at UGA that Nick Saban implemented when he arrived at Alabama a decade ago.
“I think Georgia’s defense will be pretty good,” he said. “Just look with what Kirby is bringing over from what he did at Alabama and then look at all this offense we have talked about, too. I think Georgia is going to be that team.”
His parents also made the trip. His father is from Michigan and grew up with the maize and blue, but it appears they enjoyed themselves at G-Day.
“I think they love Georgia,” Collins said. “I know they really liked it. They kept saying how Jacob (Eason) was a big-time quarterback and how Kirby is a pretty cool guy and everything.”
Look for Collins to try and enroll early. He’s going to work toward that. If he can’t, then he will go through his senior year and make his decision on National Signing Day next February. He said all those great things about UGA but did not name them or Alabama as his leader.
Collins watched the Bulldogs get a lot better from that first scrimmage. He said Eason did well in his first outing, but then noted the 6-foot-6 freshman showed more game than he’d seen before on G-Day.
The ‘Opening’ qualifier has already made plans to attend Georgia’s season opener against North Carolina in the Georgia Dome. Collins’ spring practices start up this week, but he plans future trips to Alabama, Clemson, Florida State and Michigan before school lets out.
The Clay-Chalkville standout has put up the eye-popping numbers to match his lofty ranking. He’s caught 31 touchdowns over the past two years on teams that have played for two Alabama state championships. He’s also a physical specimen with explosive leaping ability and strength despite his long frame. He can already power clean 275 pounds. That’s an impressive lift for a skill player of his size.
Jeff Sentell covers UGA football and UGA recruiting for AJC.com and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow him on Twitter for the latest on who’s on their way to play Between the Hedges. Unless otherwise indicated, player rankings and ratings are from the 247Sports Composite.