Zaven Collins Looking to Become Third Tulsa Player Drafted in 1st Round
Tulsa LB Zaven Collins is one of 98 underclassmen hoping to hear his name called in the 2021 NFL Draft, hosted by the Cleveland Browns later this month. He is also looking to become just the third Tulsa player drafted in the first round in the history of Tulsa football.
A 3-Position Football Star in High School
Collins was a do-it-all player on the football field, playing three positions: quarterback, linebacker, and safety. He attended a small high school in the small town of Hominy, Oklahoma (pop. 3500). Zaven led his team to a Class A State Championship his senior year with a 14-0 record.
As a quarterback, Collins accounted for 3120 total yards and 50 touchdowns during that title run. For his high school career as a signal-caller, he accounted for 7140 yards and 86 touchdowns.
On the defensive side of the ball that year, he made 91 tackles, recorded three interceptions, and made a fumble recovery.
College scouts told Collins he had all the talent and was a good player. He had good grades, a high ACT score, and he stayed out of trouble off the field. There were no flaws in his character. But the scouts also told him that the competition level played at such a small high school did not prepare him for the competition he would face at the D-1 level.
Collins held just two college scholarship offers, both from his home state: one from FBS member Tulsa and one from Central Oklahoma. He chose the FBS route and the Golden Hurricane.
A Solid Career at Tulsa
After a redshirt season, Collins started 10 games as RS-Freshman, recording 85 tackles, 9.5 TFL’s, 1.5 sacks, and 1 INT. That production earned him Freshman All-American honors.
As a sophomore, he racked up 106 tackles, 9.5 TFL’s, and 2 sacks. Collins was named to the 2nd Team All-AAC.
In a COVID-shortened eight-game season in 2020, Collins recorded 53 total tackles, a team-high 11.5 TFL’s, 4 sacks, and 4 INTs. He returned two of his interceptions for touchdowns, including a game-winning 96-yard touchdown return against Tulane.
As a result, Collins swept the awards for the most outstanding defensive player, winning the Bronco Nagurski, Chuck Bednarik, and the Lombardi Awards. He was named the National Defensive Player of the Year and was named a Consensus All-American by the Associated Press (AP).
He was the only FBS player to record 4 sacks and 4 interceptions in 2020.
Zaven Collins at the Next Level
Based on evaluations by NFL scouts, Collins has a unique combination of size and athleticism. He turned in high-impact production consistently for three seasons at Tulsa (235 career tackles in 30 career starts). And his second effort tackling is outstanding.
The weaknesses in Collins’ game are that he is not aggressive enough. Also, his instincts are average. And, he is not a natural pass-rusher when lining up on the edge.
NFL scouts grade Collins at 6.39. It is believed that with his talent and skills, he would become an NFL starter within his first two seasons in the league.
Thanks for reading thegridironnews.com.
Material for this article was sourced from cfbstats.com, nfl.com, and a story by Jason Butt, Atlanta-Journal Constitution, April 6, 2021.