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Rebels want freshman Tyleek Collins more involved

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Steve Marcus

UNLV’s Tyleek Collins (9) carries the ball during a game against UTEP at Sam Boyd Stadium Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018.

Freshman receiver Tyleek Collins scored two touchdowns in UNLV’s win over UTEP on Saturday — the first two TDs of his college career — but when he met with the media after practice on Tuesday, he didn’t seem all that excited about it.

“My first touchdown, it was cool,” he said. “It wasn’t really anything outstanding, but it’s a good achievement for me.”

When asked why he was so nonchalant about his first trip to the end zone, Collins did have a reasonable response.

“I’ve got many more to come,” he said with a smile, before adding, “in a humble way.”

If the UNLV coaching staff has anything to say about it, Collins’s somewhat-humble prediction will come true. The 5-foot-9 athlete from Savannah, Ga., is a bundle of quick-twitch explosiveness, and the Rebels are already committed to getting the ball in his hands by any means necessary.

Tony Sanchez believes Collins is capable of being a playmaker right now. He said Collins played 50 offensive snaps in Week 1, and he got five touches against UTEP (three rushes, two receptions, one kick return). For the season, Collins has four rushes for six yards and three catches for 26 yards. His kick return went for 22 yards.

Sanchez said the goal is to get Collins in open space, where his elite acceleration and change-of-direction skills make him difficult to tackle.

“We’d really love to see him in the open field,” Sanchez said. “I can’t wait to see that. We had a couple opportunities where we thought we were going to get him broken loose, but he’s pretty dynamic. We’ve got the luxury of watching him every day in practice, and he’s an explosive, electrifying guy. So as the season goes on we definitely want to be able to create space for him to maneuver in. He’s really versatile in the different stuff he does.”

Collins is already becoming a big part of the offensive game plan. His two scoring plays against UTEP were designed specifically to get him the ball and let his speed do the rest:

Sanchez said Collins possesses big-play potential on the level of proven playmakers such as senior running back Lexington Thomas and sophomore quarterback Armani Rogers, so it makes sense to build sections of the playbook around his skills.

“There are certain guys [who have packages built around them],” Sanchez said. “Obviously Lex, there’s a lot of things built around him. There are certain run-game [plays] that are meant for Armani to carry the ball. [Tyleek] falls into that category…We’ve got some Tyleek plays. Not everybody has a package for them, but he is a guy that each week we try to create opportunities for.”

Collins returned punts and kicks quite successfully in high school, and he’s currently listed at No. 2 on the depth chart as a return man. Sanchez said he wants to work Collins in slowly on special teams, but that the speedster should eventually get more consistent opportunities for runbacks.

Collins said he doesn’t mind how the ball ends up in his hands.

“I describe myself as a role player, to be honest,” Collins said. “Set the edge, speed, have everybody chasing me. That’s pretty much it.”

“I can take handoffs, quick catches, deep vertical threat,” he continued. “That’s pretty much me.”

Mike Grimala can be reached at 702-948-7844 or [email protected]. Follow Mike on Twitter at twitter.com/mikegrimala.

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