Savion Collins was mostly unknown when he first showed up at one of the Miami Hurricanes’ spring recruiting camps back in 2018. He had just wrapped up his freshman season at Miami Southwest and he wasn’t on anyone’s radar yet. In his debut season, Collins was still working on the fundamentals and relying on his sheer size to get on the field right away for a sub-.500 team.
Still, he thought he acquitted himself well, so he was a little peeved when he saw Jess Simpson offering another defensive lineman who had just worked out in Coral Gables.
“I was down about it because they didn’t come up to me, so I walked and I went to my coach, and he read my face and he was just like, Oh, why are you sad? You should be happy,” said Collins, who now stars at Miami Palmetto. “I’m like, ‘Happy about what?’ He’s like, ‘Dude, you got an offer.’”
Just a few months earlier, Collins would have thought such a thing was impossible. Instead, the Hurricanes’ scholarship offer kicked off an avalanche. The North Carolina State Wolfpack and Florida Gators both made offers within two weeks, and Collins is now one of the most coveted defensive linemen in all of Florida. The 6-foot-4, 290-pound junior is now the No. 19 defensive tackle in the 247Sports.com composite rankings for the Class of 2021, and the Gators have been pushing hard to pry Collins from the hometown team and out of Miami-Dade County.
Why Miami for Savion Collins?
So far, Collins hasn’t wavered from his pledge, even after former coach Mark Richt retired and Simpson left his post as defensive line coach to take the same job with the Atlanta Falcons. The Hurricanes had faith in him before anyone else, so he has faith in them.
“Certain schools didn’t really look at me how everyone else did,” Collins said, “but UM took a chance on me, so I had to take a chance on them.”
Back then, Collins was exceptionally raw. The defensive lineman only started playing football his freshman year at Miami Southwest. His mother is a nurse, so she was always protective of Collins’ health. Collins was always massive for his age, and she was afraid of having him play up against older competition. Coach after coach came by their home to try to convince her to let Collins play and she finally relented when he got to high school.
Anyone who watched him then, Collins said, just saw an overweight, unpolished kid — a massive project, who would have to prove himself in high school. Miami, though, was fascinated by Collins’ quickness, even at his size. Watching Collins work in person at one camp was enough for the Hurricanes to offer him a scholarship.
Later in the year, Collins decided he had mulled it over long enough: He committed to Miami before the end of 2018. This was the team he and his mother both root for, and it was the first to truly believe in him as a prospect. He’s now the second longest tenured member of the Hurricanes’ 2021 recruiting class.
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“I really didn’t think I was going to go far,” Collins said. “I was told that I was going to have a limit, you know? And there was going to be a cap for me, so the best choice I had at the time was Miami, plus I’m from here, my mom loves it here. So it was just a perfect fit.
“People decommit, but the thing is that things change. It’s always a constant change. You’re never going to expect the same thing. You might not like those changes, but at the end of the day you committed to Miami. It’s not just a certain aspects that’s going to deter you from the rest of the thing.”
Before last season, Collins transferred from Southwest to Palmetto and is now a key cog in one of South Florida’s best defenses, playing next to five-star defensive tackle Leonard Taylor, who has been one of his best friends since both were young. Mike Manasco said he was his most improved player on defense in 2019.
“His work ethic is really, really good. When he first got here, he was a little out of shape and he worked himself into really good shape. He was my most improved defensive player throughout the year,” the Panthers coach said. “The best is ahead for him. It’s hard when you’re the biggest guy. People assume that you know how to do this or you should be doing this just because you’re the biggest guy. I forget sometimes he’s 16, 17 years old. You want to treat him like he’s 30 because that’s what he looks like, but you can’t.”
Miami versus Florida for Collins?
Collins visited both the Hurricanes and the Gators for junior day events in January, and he plans to visit both again during spring practices with Palmetto.
For now, it’s a two-team battle for Collins’ services with the Hurricanes still holding the edge. He knows there will be plenty of Florida fans in his ear throughout the process, though.
“Me and my mom are UM fans,” Collins said. “UF was my aunt, my uncles, my dad — the whole family’s just like, ‘Go Gators,’ and then me and my mom are like, ‘Go Canes.’”
This story was originally published March 5, 2020 10:50 AM.