Breaking Zaven Collins' top plays from the 2020 season
Tulsa just survived one of the craziest games in program history, one that topped the comeback a week earlier. It's been a wild and exciting season for the Golden Hurricane, one that's featured a defense that's dominated and kept Tulsa in numerous games. In that defense is one of the best defensive players in college football. Zaven Collins started as a freshman, and all he's done since then is make plays. He's taken that to a new level this season, and showing why he's rising up NFL Draft boards quicker than anyone. He's made a number of great plays, and some of them deserve another look to break down what he does well and how it's impacted his team.
This is just the most recent play on Collins' resume. I don't know how many 260-pound football players you've watched run before, but they don't run like this. Tulane had the ball on Tulsa's three yard line, and Collins outran everyone for the game winning score. That's athleticism that you don't see in a guy that big, and it will be something that an NFL defensive coordinator will love. It's not the first time we've seen his speed and quickness on display, though.
Context helps here. UCF has some of the fastest players in the country, and while his teammate helps slow Otis Anderson down, Collins still could have made the play. He's a quick reader which helps him get to the spot to make the play, but this one required a little extra. There aren't many plays that he can't make thanks to his speed, but being 6'4" helps too.
It's a desperation swipe, but there's not another player on the field that can force this fumble. Who knows if USF scores on this play if Collins doesn't give up, but they don't because he makes a last ditch effort. His awareness is what makes the fumble happen. Instead of trying to swipe for the feet, Collins sees that Noah Johnson didn't tuck the football to his body, so he decides to take a swipe at Johnson's arm. It's a big play late in the first half with USF driving, and just adds to Collins resume to show his awareness on the field.
Zaven Collins is having a career season, and his numbers would reflect that if they played a full slate of games. Even with fewer games, he's already posted or will post career high numbers, and the question will be if he stays for another year. There's plenty of tape to watch, and he's made a number of plays that will stick out and wow scouts. His blend of power, speed, and athleticism are on full display, and he's a big reason why Tulsa has championship aspirations.
And just because I want to, here's an example of his power.
Shane Buechele definitely felt that one, and Collins followed it up with a game-sealing interception late in the game too. Just another example of Collins' awareness, knowing where the quarterback wants to go with the ball.
There's not another defensive player that's been as impressive as Collins, and his future in the NFL looks promising. For now, he'll continue making plays and have us gushing over his talent. From a player no one wanted to one of the best in the game, Collins is writing his own story in emphatic fashion, and it seems like he's just getting started.