By Mark Clements | LSU Reveille
After the 2011 recruiting class displayed one of the most talented groups of Louisiana athletes in recent history, the 2012 class hopes to make a name for itself starting with Dutchtown High School's Landon Collins.
The junior safety has already gained national attention, receiving offers from several schools across the country and being named one of 12 prospects featured on the Rivals.com list of five-star prospects for 2012.
"I love the hype," said Collins, who has raked in offers from Auburn, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Tennessee, Texas A&M and USC, but named LSU and Alabama the clear front-runners. "It's been fun, and I've been keeping my mind open."
The recruiting experts agree the hype is much deserved.
Collins was the leading tackler for Dutchtown last year and helped lead the Griffins to an undefeated regular season along with a run to the quarterfinals of the 5A playoffs.
"He's such a physically gifted football player already," said Rivals.com recruiting analyst Mike Scarborough. "He's obviously one of the top safety prospects in the country, and I can tell you from talking to the folks at Rivals, he's going to be one of the top players in the country."
Shea Dixon, managing editor of TigerSportsDigest.com, agreed and said Collins' size and versatility has college scouts drooling.
"The biggest thing you notice is his size," Dixon said of the 6-foot, 200-pounder. "What you really love from him is the speed and the ability with that size to play outside linebacker or he can play safety. Not only is he a hundred-tackle guy and a guy who can get interceptions, but he's played a couple different positions."
Both Alabama and LSU are familiar with highly touted Dutchtown recruits.
In 2009, the Crimson Tide reeled in Dutchtown First-Team 5A All-State running back Eddie Lacy who carried the ball 56 times for 406 yards last season.
Last year, the Tigers snagged safety Eric Reid, who played in 12 games, recording 32 tackles and two interceptions.
"[Collins] already has the frame and he's got the head on his shoulders just like Reid does," Dixon said. "He's the exact same type of player coming out of the same high school. He's very physical with unbelievable ball skills."
Even with all the national attention, only LSU and Alabama have been able to get the Geismar native on campus.
In his unofficial visit to Baton Rouge, Collins said he spent time with LSU coach Les Miles, defensive backs coach Ron Cooper, defensive coordinator John Chavis and running backs coach Frank Wilson.
"The coaches are cool," Collins said. "LSU is a great school for me because it's close to home. Who wouldn't want their parents to come to their game every Saturday?"
Collins also said academics is a major influence in his decision and was glad the coaching staff showed him around some buildings on campus.
"I'm really trying to get my degree," said Collins, who plans to major in mass communication. "I want to go to the next level after college, but I want to get my degree in the process too, so I need the best college to do that."
Derek Ponamsky, recruiting analyst and publisher of BayouBengalsInsider.com, said he predicts a year-long dogfight between the Southeastern Conference rivals for Collins' services.
"I don't really have a firm grasp on where I think he'll end up at," Ponamsky said. "I think LSU and Alabama are going to be schools that are both neck and neck the entire way."
Collins said he plans to announce his decision Jan. 10 at the Under Armour All-American game, which is also his birthday.