HOOVER, Ala. -- La'el Collins put off the NFL for one more season in college last winter to put himself in the best possible position as a prospect. And if the LSU senior has anything to say about it, he'll play like Philadelphia Eagles offensive tackle Jason Peters when his pro career finally gets underway.
"There are a lot of great offensive tackles in the league. I like to try to pattern my game off of Jason Peters. I love him," Collins said Wednesday at SEC Media Days. "He's a physical beast, man, and I like guys like that. I like (Redskins tackle) Trent Williams, (Seahawks tackle) Russell Okung, great athletic, big tackles who are strong and physical. Those are the kinds of guys I try to take something from."
Collins was the lone LSU underclassman last season -- at least among those with a real chance to be drafted -- to return to college for his senior year. And when LSU guard Trai Turner announced he was turning pro, it was a relief for running back Terrence Magee to later learn that Collins would stay. Magee also made a bold prediction on Collins' future in the game.
"I was very excited. (Running back) Kenny Hilliard texted me and said 'La'el is coming back,'" Magee said. "At the next level, I think he'll do a tremendous job, and from day one, he'll most likely be a starter in the NFL."
NFL Media analyst Bucky Brooks ranked Collins among the top offensive tackle prospects in the college game, but noted improvements the senior must make in the areas of balance, body control and lateral quickness. Last year's crop of offensive tackles in the SEC included three first-round picks (Greg Robinson, Jake Matthews, Ja'Wuan James), and several others drafted later. Collins' draft status could easily have been lost amid the strength of that group, but by staying at LSU, he has put himself in a better position.
"La'el Collins and Jerald Hawkins will be two of the finest tackles in our league," Tigers head coach Les Miles said.
Collins said his decision to return was an easy one.
"It wasn't hard at all, because growing up, I always wanted to be part of this program," Collins said. "Why would I want to give up that (part) of my life? This is everything I always wanted, before anyone started talking about the NFL."
Peters signed a five-year, $51.3 million contract extension with the Eagles in February. Collins, no doubt, hopes to emulate the Philadelphia's standout tackle in that way, as well.