The New York Giants' 2015 second-round pick learned a valuable but costly lesson in his final college game before entering the NFL: Take no opposing player for granted.
Landon Collins, the Alabama safety for whom the Giants moved up to select No. 33 overall in this year's draft, didn't recognize the threat Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones posed entering the Crimson Tide's College Football Playoff semifinal against the Buckeyes in January, according to Tide defensive coordinator Kirby Smart.
And neither did other veterans in the Alabama secondary.
"Looking back, when we had exit interviews with our players where you look in hindsight, I asked every kid, Landon Collins, Nick Perry, Jarrick Williams, the really smart (players) on our team, 'Where did we go wrong? What did we do wrong?' All three of them said 'We did not respect the quarterback.' Our job as coaches was to make them respect the quarterback," Smart told 680 The Fan.
Jones, of course, excelled in the game and led the Buckeyes to a national championship win over Oregon, too. The Alabama game was only his second career start as the substitute for injured starter J.T. Barrett, who led OSU to an 11-1 regular season. Smart noted the difficulty of preparing for a quarterback with only one game film to evaluate, but he also said the perception that Jones would struggle against Alabama due to his inexperience was one the UA coaching staff should have stopped at the locker-room door.
"They heard from the media, they heard from ESPN and everybody that he was a third-string quarterback, and 'How can a third-string quarterback beat Alabama?'" Smart said. "We didn't promote him enough and they didn't value his talents enough."
Collins applied for early entry into the 2015 draft as a junior, and was widely expected to be chosen in the first round. When he wasn't, the Giants made a trade with the Tennessee Titans, moving from the No. 40 pick to No. 33, to take Collins.
The rookie should have no trouble respecting his next quarterback test. The Giants open the season on the road against Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys.