10-Day Hoo Preview ’07: Collins Catching On

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Nate Collins is expected to share a heavy portion of the nose tackle snaps.

When he came to Virginia, Nate Collins knew very little about playing nose tackle. Sure, he had taken a few snaps on the defensive line in high school, but he says that the exposure was limited to basics. In other words, just go out there and create some havoc.

“I played nose tackle a couple of times in high school,” Collins recalled. “Usually during the game the kid was tired and no one really knew what to do at the position and Coach [Dan] Gouin said get in there and blow up the center.”

As soon as he arrived at UVa, however, the basics quickly became a college level crash course in the 3-4 defense and the nose tackle’s role. He got a rapid introduction to the position when starter Allen Billyk ‘s playing time was limited by a preseason ankle sprain and, later, a midseason sprain on the other leg. What the first-year player realized is that the nose tackle position requires both brains and brawn.

“It’s a position that you’ve got to be high intensity and technique perfect for a player to be successful,” says Collins.

Defensive coordinator Mike London says this season the education is continuing for Collins, but he likes the sophomore’s potential to become a standout performer.

“He’s still learning the defense,” London said. “He played as a true freshman out of necessity last year but I think as he learns the technical functions of this defense, he’s going to get better.”

Collins appeared in all 12 games in 2006, recording 17 tackles while finishing tied for third on the team with five quarterback pressures. He added four tackles for loss in just 202 plays.

“He knows more,” added London. “He knows the defense better; he’s gotten bigger, faster, and stronger. The thing that helps