In their words: Maliek Collins
CHICAGO - Maliek Collins flashed some nice potential as a true freshman in 2013, but he seemed to really come into his own last season. The defensive tackle finished with 45 tackles, including 10.5 for loss, and really emerged as a pass rusher at the end of the campaign - 3.5 of his 4.5 sacks came in Nebraska's final four games. He was selected as a second-team All-Big Ten pick and already has the attention of NFL scouts - ESPN's Todd McShay Jr. projects Collins will be a first-round pick next year if he decides to leave school early.
You've heard Collins' teammates and coaches talk about him plenty, but what do his Big Ten peers think? HuskerOnline spoke with some of the Big Ten's best offensive linemen on just how tough it is to line up across from Collins.
Center, Michigan State
Credentials: 2014 All-American (USA Today), Rimington Award finalist, 2014 first-team All-Big Ten, started 35 career games
Collins vs. Michigan State: 3 tackles (0.5 for loss)
On what he remembers from matching up with Collins: "He's just a big guy, I'll tell you that right now. Just trying to block him is like trying to block two humans almost. He's got good hands and he keeps coming."
On where Collins ranks among the Big Ten defensive tackles: "I would say he's one of the harder guys to move. There are obviously quicker guys, like Anthony Zettel from Penn State, but with Collins, he's just a hard guy to push back and not get pushed around by him."
On if Collins gets special mention in the scouting report: "Yeah, on our scouting report there are names in red. His name is definitely in red."
Offensive guard, Iowa
Credentials: 2014 second-team All-Big Ten, started 35 career games
Collins vs. Iowa: 7 tackles (1.5 for loss), 1.0 sack
On what makes Collins so tough to block: "I think it's just his athletic ability. He knows what he does well and he goes out and does it. It's very evident watching him on tape - he just does what he does. I think he's a great player and his play speaks for itself."
On where Collins ranks among the Big Ten defensive tackles: "He's probably one of the best. It's kind of hard to remember. I'd have to go back and watch film of all the guys, but when you say his name, I know what kind of player he is."
On what kind of a challenge it is to take on Collins: "Any time you're going against a good guy, they're always tough to block, especially a guy like (Collins). I think his partner there, Vincent Valentine, is also a good player. They're definitely two different people, but they do what they do well."
Offensive guard, Illinois
Credentials: 2014 honorable mention All-Big Ten, started 31 career games
Collins vs. Illinois: 2 tackles (0.5 for loss)
On how tough Collins is to block "He's a good player and I think he got recognized in the postseason awards. It was me and him all day because they don't flip their defensive tackles, so yeah, it was a tough game. It was one of those Big Ten slug-matches. You've got to bring your best or you're going to get run over by him."
On what makes Collins a tough matchup "He's a big kid with a little speed. He's got some good moves and a good get-off. He's an experienced player and that's a dangerous combination."
On where Collins ranks among Big Ten defensive tackles: "He's right up there. I've played a lot of people who are in the NFL now. It's probably one of his goals to get there, and he ranks right up there with everyone else. Week in and week out you're going to play someone who is going to the NFL (in the Big Ten), and it could be him."
Credentials: Team captain, two-year starter at center, 2014 honorable mention All-Big Ten
Collins vs. Purdue: 5 tackles (1 for loss), 1.0 sack
On what he remembers most from facing Collins: "He's a great player. I respect him a lot. He's got that combination of strength and size and athleticism that makes him great. He can beat you either way, and guys like that or dangerous."
On how Collins varies his attack between speed and strength: "You can't set for one or the other. You have to set for both, and he does a great job of mixing it up."
On where Collins ranks among the defensive tackles he's faced: "He's up there for sure. One of the best I've played against came in practice - Kawaan Short, and he was like that, where he had both (speed and size). Collins is similar to that."