Varsity Zone

Former Center football standout Collins impressing at Nebraska

Updated: 2013-08-09T17:09:59Z

By SAM McDOWELL

The Kansas City Star

Former Center High School standout Maliek Collins once worried his talent would be overlooked while playing for a small-class Missouri school.

So when Nebraska presented him with an offer in early November — on the same day he recorded six tackles for loss in Center's 21-6 playoff upset of previously-unbeaten Oak Grove, no less — he didn't wait long before accepting it.

"It's Nebraska," he said after committing. "It's a big football school, but the coaches told me they would give me the chance to play right away."

It appears the Cornhuskers coaches are staying true to their word.

Collins has made a quick impression on Nebraska defensive coordinator John Papuchis, who praised Collins' toughness and desire in a story that appeared in the Omaha World-Herald today.

"You got to be willing to put your face in there as a true freshman against some pretty good lineman and not back down from the challenge," Papuchis told the paper. "That's part of it.

"The second part is he's extremely gifted athletically. His wrestling background helps him. He has a great power base. ... After four practices, I've been impressed with where he is. But he still has a long way to go."

Collins' wrestling background includes a Missouri Class 2 state championship last year in the heavyweight division. He was the only Class 2 wrestler in any weight class to finish the season undefeated.

Nebraska defensive line coach Rick Kaczenski told the World-Herald that coaches are working to improve Collins' technique.

"It's not just running upfield," Kaczenski said. "You got to know what the guy next to you is doing. That's for all freshmen. But he's a talented guy. We're glad he's here. I'd like to have about five more of him."

To reach Sam McDowell, send email to smcdowell@kcstar.com. Follow him at twitter.com/SamMcDowell11.

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