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Jeff Sentell / AJC
Clay-Chalkville (Ala.) senior Nico Collins is rated as the nation's No. 13 WR prospect for the Class of 2017.

Sentell’s Intel: Gut feeling is UGA has work to do to land a WR it needs to change the game

PINSON, Ala. — Nico Collins discussed his recruitment with several reporters over the weekend.

The 6-foot-5, 202-pound receiver is a major target in Georgia’s 2017 class. He is so highly valued that receivers coach James Coley was on hand to watch his Clay-Chalkville team play Friday night.

Change the game? Yeah. Georgia desperately needs guys like Collins to change the production it is getting from the receiver spot. While he’s not a Day 1 dominator, the Bulldogs don’t have a player like him on the roster.

Collins rates as the nation’s No. 13 receiver for this cycle and projects to be the highest-rated receiver Georgia could sign in 2017. DawgNation learned — as other outlets — that Collins essentially has no leader from a top group of Alabama, Georgia and Michigan.

That’s what he said. I try to scan more of the field than just the direct quotes.

His plans led me to believe Michigan is the team to beat, at least for now. Collins had 7 catches for 76 yards in a 28-6 loss to James Clemens and then planned to jump in a car shortly afterward.

The plan was to travel North Alabama to meet up with Michigan safety commitment J’Marick Woods. They were going to buckle up for an approximate 725-mile road trip to Ann Arbor. A likely commute of at least 12 hours would’ve given him the chance to see Michigan play for the first time.

According to reports, that ride fell through and Collins wasn’t able to make the 3:30 p.m. kickoff. He wasn’t able to see the No. 4 Wolverines thrash Penn State 49-10. That performance sets up a top-10 matchup against Wisconsin this week.

It also led to some confusion about where Collins will be this weekend. He told me on Friday night that he “for sure” planned to take another trip (at least his fifth) to Athens for the Tennessee game this weekend.

Don Collins, his father, said there were also plans for the family to go see Michigan-Wisconsin this Saturday. That was if both teams won last weekend.

We’ll monitor that closely as the week unfolds. An unofficial visit to Ann Arbor clearly would signify which school Collins is favoring. Especially if the trip causes Collins to miss Georgia’s most anticipated recruiting weekend of the season.

He’s also planning unofficial visits to see Alabama and Texas A&M games this fall. Collins also told DawgNation that he could himself playing at Alabama, Florida State, Georgia and Michigan so far during his recruiting process.

How Collins feels about Georgia now

The major pull to Georgia would be the quarterback situation. He has a great relationship with Michigan commitment Dylan McCaffrey, but that doesn’t beat what the Bulldogs have between 5-star freshman Jacob Eason and Class of 2017 commitment Jake Fromm.

“I’m watching Jacob Eason play right now,” Collins said. “That dude is balling even though he is a freshman.”

Collins is rated as the nation's No. 86 overall prospect for the Class of 2017. (Chris Kirschner / AJC)
Collins is rated as the nation’s No. 86 overall prospect for the Class of 2017. (Chris Kirschner/AJC)

Collins plans to take at least one unofficial visit to Georgia during the season. He’ll also take an official visit after the season leading up to the decision date on National Signing Day. That will be his decision day because he does not plan to enroll early or make a silent commitment to any school before then.

He’s such a priority target that he’s used to hearing from head coaches and not just position coaches or coordinators. Collins felt he’s heard more from Jim Harbaugh and Nick Saban, but he did hear from Kirby Smart during the last two weeks.

“He was saying how Jacob Eason played and was telling me that Georgia needs big-time receivers to throw the ball to,” Collins said. “He said they have a lot of smaller slot guys right now.”

He was sure that Alabama, Georgia and Michigan would get official visits. Florida State was the only other school that he felt strongly enough about to label as a likely official visit.

It often is stated it will be an Alabama vs. Michigan battle for Collins, but I don’t get that impression. I sense that not only is Georgia in it for Collins but the Bulldogs also seem more plausible than the in-state Crimson Tide.

That’s for several reasons. Collins has been to Georgia several times during the last 18 months. He also has a great relationship with Coley and receivers analyst Kevin Beard. Another big reason would be value. Collins would be the highest-rated receiver that Georgia could sign this year.

That wouldn’t be the case at Alabama. The Tide look to sign at least two receivers this year that are rated higher than him. They already have a commitment from one of those players in 4-star Jerry Jeudy. Former UGA commit Devonta Smith would also a very strong pull out of Louisiana.

Collins also plans to major in physical therapy.

What is he looking for? 

Collins gets his height from his father. Don Collins is at least 6-foot-4. The Michigan native grew up in East Lansing and always watched the Wolverines growing up. His father — and Nico’s grandfather — still lives there.

But Nico didn’t pay that school much attention until his first visit.

The Wolverines are clearly strong contenders because they fit a few things the 4-star prospect is looking for.

“I think he wants to go somewhere where he is comfortable and where he really fits in with the coaching staff,” Don Collins said. “He has to like the staff, and if he vibes with them, that is a big thing. The other big thing is I think he is really into the type of offense that a school will run. If they can run the pro-style set that is a good thing instead of the read-option primarily.”

Nico Collins said his son has been up to see Harbaugh’s team “three or four times.” So why Michigan?

“He always says that he feels the love,” Don Collins said. “Michigan is a special place. I kid you not. My very first time going there was Mother’s Day weekend even though I grew up there. I had never been actually on campus or to the games. I just watched it on TV. But it is a special feeling once you get on campus among the coaches and the staff.”

That said, his father felt Georgia was recruiting his son the hardest now.

“They are always texting or calling or sending him stuff,” Don Collins said. “He likes Georgia. My wife really likes Georgia. Georgia is right there at the top along with Alabama and Michigan. I don’t even think there is a favorite right now.”

Quick note about the Les Miles situation

Jacoby Stevens was a major Georgia target at safety leading up to his decision to commit to LSU about six weeks ago. The 5-star prospect now lives in Tennessee but wanted to return to his native Louisiana to play college football.

Stevens was once strongly considering Georgia, but opted to commit to play for LSU. (Jeff Sentell / AJC)
Stevens was once strongly considering Georgia but finally opted to commit to LSU. (Jeff Sentell / AJC)

What does the coaching shake-up mean for LSU? Well, Stevens told me how he would handle that potential situation on the day he made his commitment.

He was sold on having Miles as his head coach. The Oakland High senior (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) also had established a strong bond with several of his future coaches at LSU.

Was it safe to assume that he wasn’t going anywhere else as long as that staff remained intact?

“I will say that, but at the same time I’m committed to the school,” Stevens said. “The school will never change. I think Louisiana State University is going to be there and is going to be the same even if Les Miles or Corey Raymond or (player personnel director) Austin Thomas leaves, but I don’t see them leaving anytime soon.”

If LSU retains defensive backs coach Raymond, that will go a long way toward retaining Stevens in the long run.

If that attachment fades, Alabama will be the immediate beneficiary of the Miles decision. When Stevens committed to LSU in August, he said the Crimson Tide finished as his No. 2 school.

“It was a really close decision,” Stevens said. “It was a matter of which city has family there or not.”

It might allow Georgia to creep into the picture just enough to earn an official visit. Stevens told me earlier in the season that he was so set in his mind about LSU under Miles that he wasn’t planning any other official visits.

The 5-star prospect — it also should be noted — is having a tremendous senior season.

 

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Follow Jeff Sentell 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.

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