Last season: 11-2 (7-1 SEC)
All-time record: 838-323-43
SEC championships: 23
Opener: West Virginia in Atlanta on Aug. 30
COMING MONDAY: Arkansas
A night to remember for Landon Collins turned out to be a night many college football fans will never forget.
Collins was a top-20 national prospect when he committed to Alabama in January 2012 at the Under Armour All-American Game in St. Petersburg, Fla. His announcement was on ESPNU, and sitting beside Collins was his displeased mother, April Justin, who told the national audience, "I feel that LSU is the better place for him to be."
Two seasons into his career as a Crimson Tide safety, Collins insists all is well within the family.
"Going against the wishes of my mom was very hard," the 6-foot, 222-pounder from Geismar, La., said this past week at SEC media days. "Not speaking to her because of my decision was very hard, but to see the outcome of what I decided to do, and she sees it, makes her very proud."
From an 11-2 season that ended with two consecutive losses, Alabama is moving on with new offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin and a new quarterback, whether it's Blake Sims or Florida State transfer Jacob Coker. Seven offensive starters return, including a wealth at tailback and receiver, but Kirby Smart's defense has just five starters back.
Collins, who finished second on the team last season with 70 tackles and had an 89-yard interception return for a touchdown against Tennessee, is a returning starter, as are linebackers Trey DePriest and Denzel Devall. The biggest cause for excitement defensively may be a promising front containing the likes of Brandon Ivory, Jonathan Allen, Dee Liner, D.J. Pettway and A'Shawn Robinson.
Rivals.com's No. 1 national recruit Da'Shawn Hand soon will be entering that mix.
"We're in a little bit of a rebuilding situation defensively, even though we played a lot of young players who have the right attitude and character to improve and be more consistent players," coach Nick Saban said.
Said Collins: "We're kind of young, but coaches are teaching us to be accountable for what we have to do."
The week after Collins, a semifinalist last season for the Jim Thorpe Award, committed and irritated his mom was among the most difficult of his life. He credits his father and stepmother for suggesting a get-together so Collins and his mom could smooth things over.
"They knew every time I came home that I would just go straight upstairs and go to my room and just stay to myself," Collins said. "After that situation, I wouldn't talk to my mama, and my mama and I talked every day. Not talking to her was destroying me, because I was raised by her all my life.
"She came in and checked me out of school one day, and we went to the movies. I think we saw 'Tranformers.' We had a relaxing, calm day, and we talked everything out."
Defensive lineman Gerald Willis, Collins' younger brother, signed this past February with Florida over Alabama and LSU.
"It was the same situation," Collins said. "She wanted him to stay home, but he wanted to go somewhere else. I think it was easier for her the second time around."
Collins and Willis are scheduled to gather Sept. 20, when the Crimson Tide and Gators vie at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Playing LSU will forever be another matter for Collins, who joins former tailback Eddie Lacy, Devall and a pair of heralded freshmen -- tackle Cam Robinson and cornerback "Hootie" Jones -- among the growing number who have come to Alabama from the Bayou State.
Alabama has managed to top LSU twice since Collins arrived, but this year's game is in Baton Rouge.
"I love going to Tiger Stadium," Collins said. "It's crazy there."
And does he still get heckled by Tigers fans?
"Oh, it's worse than that," Collins said. "Between me and my mom, it was smoothed over in like a week or so. Between the two schools, I don't think it will ever happen. That was a big day and I guess a big loss for them."
Contact David Paschall at email@example.com or 423-727-6524.
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...