The 11th installment of this sixth edition of the Better Know a Buckeye series continues with a recruit in the class who is both the least heralded non-specialist prospect (sorry, Sean Nuernberger) and arguably the most important. Stephen Collier commmited to Ohio State on June 21 of last year despite few Ohio State fans, even those that follow Ohio State football in the off-season with due diligence, knowing who he was.
His commitment to Ohio State came when Ohio State's quarterback search had hinged on flipping Deshaun Watson from Clemson at the expense of losing other options like Drew Barker to Kentucky and Kyle Allen to Texas A&M. Ohio State also saw quarterback prospects like Brandon Harris and Zack Darlington commit to Louisiana State and Nebraska. Enter Stephen Collier of Leesburg, Georgia, who chose Ohio State over offers from Boston College and Cincinnati.
I retell this story below before turning attention to his commitment, details of which was announced at Eleven Warriors. Thereafter, I discuss Collier's strengths and areas for improvement even though all expectations of Collier include a redshirt in 2014. I provide senior film to watch before finishing with miscellaneous things about Collier you may find interesting.
High School: Lee County High School; Leesburg, GA
It seemed unlikely that Collier would be enrolled at Ohio State. Buckeye fans knew that the coaching staff was looking elsewhere. Intent on taking a quarterback in the class, most of the attention was focused on flipping Deshaun Watson from Clemson. However, Watson did not waver from his commitment and is currently enrolled at Clemson.
The "all in" focus on Watson may have created opportunity costs with Kyle Allen and Drew Barker. Allen (Scottsdale, Arizona) and Barker (Burlington, Kentucky) were high on the Buckeyes but were seen as secondary options for a coaching staff focused on Watson. Allen committed to Texas A&M and Barker committed to Kentucky.
Meanwhile, Ohio State was still searching for its quarterback in 2014. Despite being somewhat sure Braxton Miller would return for a senior season and perhaps high on the then-enrolled 2013 signee J.T. Barrett, most coaching staffs prefer to have at least one quarterback in every recruiting class. Urban Meyer's staff does not appear to be any different.
Ohio State's courtship of Collier begins in the first week of May. Urban Meyer's staff took interest in Collier after the Elite 11 combine in Atlanta. Collier impressed observers at that combine leading to an in-school visit from Ohio State coaches. By this time, Collier's offer sheet was limited to Louisiana Tech, Marshall, Middle Tennessee, and Troy.
It subsequently picked up when Boston College and Cincinnati offered. The offer from Boston College, coached by Urban Meyer's former offensive coordinator at Florida, may have portended the Ohio State offer to follow. Cincinnati is coached by Tommy Tuberville, the former Auburn coach familiar with the area of Southwest Georgia that Collier called home.
In the next month, Collier and family visited Ohio State. Collier participated in a workout monitored by Urban Meyer. Meyer liked what he saw and told Collier he would call him and let him know where he stood shortly.
Around 9:30 p.m. on June 21, 2013, Collier, then an unknown to Ohio State fans, tweeted the following.
I'm a BUCKEYE! Let's goooo!!!!!
— Stephen Collier (@S13Collier) June 22, 2013
In short, Ohio State had its quarterback in 2014. Eleven Warriors followed up that tweet with the details that led to Collier's announcement.
"He told me that I was their guy," Collier told Eleven Warriors. "(Meyer) said that he needed to sit down and talk again with the coaching staff and Coach Herman after Father's Day because he'd been fundraising since all the stuff happened on (last) Friday night."
"The stuff" Collier is referring to was the news that Apopka (Fla.) QB Zack Darlington and Bolivar (Mo.) QB Rafe Peavey, who were both scheduled to make their play for a Buckeye offer — as Collier did at Ohio State on June 9th — would both be passing on their chance; Darlington committed to Nebraska and Peavey reconfirmed his commitment to Arkansas. That opened the door for Collier, who has been a primary target for the Buckeyes since they first checked in on him in late April, to get the offer he was most coveting.
"Coach Herman called me a little bit after the camp tonight, and he said 'let's cut to the chase,'" Collier told Eleven Warriors. "He asked me if I would like a scholarship offer from Ohio State and I said yes. So, as of right now, I'm committed to Ohio State. My family and I are so grateful and excited. I've been holding back tears."
Collier chose Ohio State over a few other offers, principally Boston College and Cincinnati.
Where He Excels
For a three-star prospect from off the beaten path in Southwest Georgia, Collier has attracted a fair bit of attention on the recruiting trail after his commitment to the Buckeyes. Perhaps Jim Tressel was right when he told Mark Sanchez, "the two most important people in the state of Ohio are the governor and the Ohio State quarterback. And the Ohio State quarterback is No.1."
A lot of prominent college scouts and pro football personalities have spoken well of Collier. His biggest cheerleader might be, of all people, Trent Dilfer. The ESPN personality and 13-year veteran of the NFL punctuated his analysis of Collier's Elite 11 performance in Atlanta with, "his good is still very very good. He has moments where you don't know if he knows how good he can be."
Nearly all comments on Collier's strengths and weaknesses use the term "upside" or something synonymous with it. Their use of the word carries a stronger connotation than other quarterback prospects for whom "upside" is used in an analysis. His height, his frame, and some of the things he demonstrates in drills, camps, and in-game competition suggest a quarterback with more pro potential than the average FBS prospect worthy of an offer from a program like Ohio State.
Further, I love his attitude. I like that he takes to Twitter to (sub)tweet that he didn't come to Ohio State to sit around. I also like that it pisses him off enough to be one of the first players to arrive at practice and one of the last, if not the last, to call it a night. Beyond that, his attitude has kept him in check just enough to know that he knows he has a way to go if he is to realize his potential. He shadows Tom Herman and Braxton Miller in practice. I can dig it.
Must Work On
Whenever "upside" is used as loudly as it is in the case of Collier, it also suggests a prospect who is "raw" and has a long way to go before realizing his potential. Both are appropriate assessments of Collier.
One recurring theme I have read is Collier's internal trust issues. Remember how Terrelle Pryor had that bad habit of double patting a football before he threw it? In essence, stuff like that broadcasts where and when the ball is going. Most quarterback coaches say that a window that is open when a quarterback is 100% sure of the decision is also open when he is 80% sure of the decision. The difference is a loss in protection, a more difficult, longer throw, or time gained for a cornerback (for example) in making up lost ground.
Collier's mechanics and his release tend to be inconsistent as well.
No one will confuse Stephen Collier for Braxton Miller. Comments about his mobility have been raised, mostly noting that he is not an elusive quarterback nor particularly fast. I think these comments miss the point about what Urban Meyer's offense tries to do with quarterback runs, but they do mean we likely will not get a stutter step on a 60-yard touchdown run in the future.
Yes, unless something really bad happened along the way in Ohio State's 2014 season. I like Collier's potential, but not in 2014 nor even in 2015 or 2016. I think Collier could be a great return on the investment come his redshirt junior year.
These are from Collier's senior year.
- 11W Community Interview.
- The family is "all in" for Ohio State.
- His father is a pastor. The family recently relocated to the Cincinnati area to be closer to Collier as he begins college at Ohio State.
- Jim Tressel was recruiting Collier when he was in the seventh grade.
- Collier graduated early with a 4.0 GPA. He was also receiving attention from Ivy League schools, which like attracting football talent but do not extend athletic scholarships.
- He is currently enrolled at Ohio State and is wearing lucky no. 13. He took two snaps in the spring game.
- He previously lived in Kentucky. He was a pee wee teammate of Kentucky signee Drew Barker.
- Collier's Lee County Trojans finished 10-2 in Collier's senior season. His team was bounced in the second round of the state playoffs.
- In his senior season, Collier threw for 2,291 yards with 24 touchdowns. He ran for 1,051 yards and an additional 20 touchdowns.