Nebraska vs. Illinois, 10.3.15

Illinois quarterback Wes Lunt (12) is sacked by Nebraska defensive tackle Maliek Collins (7) in second-quarter action Saturday, Oct. 3, 2015.

Nebraska junior defensive tackle Maliek Collins has the team's seniors in mind this week as the Huskers prepare for the season's final regular-season game, against unbeaten Iowa on Friday in Lincoln.

It's conceivable that Collins, highly regarded by many NFL Draft experts, might be playing his final home game for Nebraska.

Is it difficult for him to avoid thinking about the NFL?

"I don't think so," Collins told reporters Monday. "I'm determined to make the most out of this season right here."

Even so, Collins acknowledged the NFL "has always been a dream of mine. I mean, that's why you play this game. So you can play at the highest level and compete at the highest level."

However, "I'm playing for the University of Nebraska right now," he said.

The 6-foot-2, 300-pound Collins has 28 tackles this season, including six for losses. He has 2 1/2 sacks and four quarterback hurries. His numbers are down from last season, in large part because he's attracting more blockers now that rush end Randy Gregory is in the NFL.

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"I haven't met my standards," Collins said.

His standards obviously are high considering earlier this month he was No. 20 on NFL Draft analyst Matt Miller's Top 100 prospects list for the 2016 Draft. Many regard Collins as a safe bet to be selected sometime during the first three rounds, if he would choose to skip his senior season.

Whatever he ultimately decides, Collins will retain a hunger to improve.

"I nit-pick myself and see so many things I can work on," he said. "I think that's what keeps you humble as a person. Football is a game that can humble you totally once you look at the film. Because film doesn't lie. I mean, it shows every false step, hand placement -- those types of things.

"It shows everything."

Even the good plays. And Collins makes plenty of those, too.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7440 or ssipple@journalstar.com.


Husker columnist

Steven, a lifelong Nebraskan, newspaper enthusiast and UNL grad, joined the Journal Star in 1990 and has covered NU football since 1995.

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