Kelby Collins, Alabama football DL target, could have monster year after commitment

Jerell Rushin
The Tuscaloosa News

To start July, Kelby Collins took a week to get away from his recruitment. He's back with an idea of what he wants ahead of his season season.

Collins, a four-star Class of 2023 defensive lineman from Gardendale, is one of the top players to watch this season in Alabama high school football.

He will commit to either Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Oklahoma and South Carolina.

Collins, 6-foot-5 and 280 pounds, said all five have an equal chance as of now, but he'd ideally like to make a decision before the first game, at James Clemens on Aug. 19.

So far, he has taken official visits to Florida, South Carolina and Georgia and is working on trips to Alabama and Oklahoma.

Gardendale football four-star defensive line recruit Kelby Collins.

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"He’s a low maintenance player," Gardendale coach Chad Eads said. "He’s just going to be here, he’s going to show up, have his stuff ready and be ready to go. Goes out and does his work. Runs around and talks more now. You hear him on the field. You don’t have to talk him into practice or practicing hard."

Collins, the nation's No. 65 recruit according the 247Sports Composite, is due for a big season in large part because the consistency he's had at Gardendale.

Eads is the only coach Collins has had, and Eric Firestone has been his only defensive coordinator. Collins understands what's expected as he leads Gardendale, which made the AHSAA 6A quarterfinals last season.

"I feel like I’m positioned to do good," Collins told the Tuscaloosa News. "I’ve been working real hard, doing technique and tips from these college coaches and putting it into my game. I feel like I can have a better season."

He has his work cut out to beat a junior season where he was a 6A all-state first-team selection, but Collins and Eads are confident he'll be better in both what shows in the stat sheet and what doesn't.

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Collins' top schools have recommended he attack with his hands to get off blocks, where in the past he's relied more on sheer size and speed. He had 109 tackles, 14 for loss, 17 sacks and two forced fumbles as a junior.

"I just want to work on my pass rush to get more sacks," Collins said. "I had a lot of sacks last year but I want to up the number and try to get the player of the year in Alabama."

There's another reason on the opposite side of the defensive line why Collins should be better as a senior — Caiden Combs.

The  6-foot-4, 255-pound sophomore committed to Auburn baseball on Tuesday said he will still play defensive end this fall. He was ahead of the curve as a starting freshman a season ago and still could earn Power Five football offers.

Collins didn't have a teammate to show him what it's like to start as a freshman, so he's shown the ropes to Combs, 6-3 and 265 pounds, and helped him progress.

"(Caiden) being another big body definitely draws more attention to himself," Collins said. "Not all focus is on me. They got two ends they have to focus on. So they might double-team him one play and I might be one-on-one, or it might be the opposite. It just creates opportunities for us and the linebackers."

Jerell Rushin is a recruiting reporter for the Tuscaloosa News and the USA TODAY Network. Reach him at jrushin@gannett.com and follow him on Twitter at @JerellRushin_.