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Virginia Tech's J.R. Collins having a big senior season


Virginia Tech senior J.R. Collins doesn't have the measurables desired in an NFL defensive end, but Collins is playing about as well as any end in the ACC.

Collins (6-feet-2, 248 pounds) has had an inconsistent career with the Hokies. He had an excellent sophomore season in 2011, with 57 tackles, six sacks, 9.5 tackles for loss, an interception and an astounding 29 quarterback hurries. But he gained a lot of weight that offseason, eating his way to 274 pounds, and ended up in the coaches' doghouse. He still managed to make 31 tackles but had just 1.5 sacks and six tackles for loss.

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Collins has regained his fitness and his focus this fall. He was dominant in Saturday's triple-overtime win against Marshall, with nine tackles, 1.5 sacks, three quarterback hurries and a forced fumble.

At Saturday's postgame news conference, the moderator announced that Collins would be the next player on the podium. Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer corrected the moderator, saying "Mr. J.R. Collins" would be the next player.

Collins has 22 tackles, five tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks and nine quarterback hurries this season; he is tied for fifth nationally in sacks. Fellow senior James Gayle (6-4, 255) is the Virginia Tech defensive end who gets all the attention, but Collins is outperforming him this season -- and also outplayed him in 2011.

Collins lacks ideal size and isn't all that quick. But he is instinctive, physical and plays with a high level of intensity.

His ability to stop the run needs to come to the fore this week, as the Hokies meet Georgia Tech on Thursday night in a key ACC Coastal Division game. In two career games against the Yellow Jackets, Collins has 17 tackles and two tackles for loss.

Mike Huguenin can be reached at You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.

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