If you’re looking for a diamond-in-the-rough prospect in this year’s class of defensive linemen, your search can stop with TCU’s L.J. Collier.
One of the nation’s most versatile players at his position, Collier recently spoke exclusively with MCM about what he’s out to prove at this month’s Senior Bowl, his pass rush arsenal and why he can’t wait to sack Baker Mayfield again.
JM: Congratulations on your Senior Bowl invite.
LJC: Thank you so much. I appreciate that.
JM: Where were you when you found about it and what was your initial reaction like?
LJC: I had been asking my coaches about it because the invite hadn’t arrived yet. I kept wondering if I was gonna get it or not. I got the NFLPA invite and I heard the Senior Bowl was potentially going to reach out to me. I didn’t believe it ‘til I saw it. When it came in, I went to [head] coach P’s [Gary Patterson] office and he handed it to me. I was actually in the weight room when coach [Gary] Patterson told me he had something for me in his office. I was in the weight room when I got the news about it. I’m super excited about it.
Congrats, @ljcollier91! There is debate among our NFL personnel sources about which @TCUFootball defender is the better prospect, Collier or OLB Ben Banago. We’re just excited to have both at the @seniorbowl. Collier is a versatile DL that can pressure from different alignments. pic.twitter.com/XTOmEPKzL9— Jim Nagy (@JimNagy_SB) December 10, 2018
JM: What’s the lasting impression you’re hoping to leave on the general managers and scouts in attendance?
LJC: I just want them to realize that I’m a hard worker and I can rush the passer at the next level. I play the game with a high motor and I hope they realize that as well.
JM: That’s a good impression to leave. You returned for your senior season, how would you say your game improved this year?
LJC: I got in better shape this year. I learned some things that I didn’t know last year. I learned that I could do more. I realized that I could play some different positions and get in better shape than I was last year. I became a better, smarter player overall. I’ve tweaked certain parts of my game and became a better pass rusher because of it.
The Cheez-It Bowl between TCU-Cal is the final bowl game of the night. TCU has a pair of EDGE rushers in Ben Banogu (#15) and LJ Collier (#91) who are worth monitoring in this game.— Jordan Reid (@JReidNFL) December 27, 2018
Intriguing NFL Draft prospects who both will be playing in the Senior Bowl.
JM: What’s one thing that maybe you didn’t know that you learned this year? Something that you think is valuable going forward.
LJC: I learned that you can’t take anything for granted. We had a lot of injuries this year. You have to play every game like it’s your last. You can’t go out there and worry about injuries or the NFL. You just have to play your game and the rest will take care of itself. I just go out there and do what the coaches ask of me. You have to follow and understand the scheme. I play every game like it’s my last. That’s what I did this year.
JM: How would you describe your pass rush arsenal?
LJC: A lot of people describe me as a power guy. I have other things I’m capable of doing though. Power isn’t the only tool in my bag. I can go inside if I want too, in and out. The scheme that we had at TCU, I like to keep outside containment and force the quarterback to get outside of me. I pretty much just worked the bull rush, outside swipe and stuff like that. I’d say my arsenal is deeper than what I’ve put on tape so far, and I plan to show that at the Senior Bowl.
JM: How do you counter if your initial move is stopped?
LJC: I can counter with a snatch or something inside to get them off their feet. I can use my speed to get up the field or hit them with a spin move. I need to do whatever I can to get the tackle thinking. I can’t let them think they’re only gonna get a bull rush from me. I need to keep them guessing.
JM: Speaking of tackles, who’s the best offensive tackle you’ve ever faced?
LJC: This year?
JM: You can pick from previous years as well.
LJC: Yodny Cajuste from West Virginia was pretty good. I played against him this year. He’s getting drafted for sure. Orlando Brown and Bobby Evans from Oklahoma were pretty good as well. The two tackles [Thayer Munford and Isaiah Prince] from Ohio State were also pretty good.
JM: That’s a solid list. Is there an NFL quarterback you’re looking forward to sacking?
LJC: I’m looking forward to sacking Baker Mayfield again.
JM: I like that you said again (laughs). Why him?
LJC: He’s a hell of a player, but he’s a cocky guy. You enjoy playing against guys like that though. He’s competitive and that lights a fire under me. I would love to sack him again. He gets you going out there. He knows exactly what to say to piss you off (laughs). You always wanna go up against a guy like that.
JM: No doubt. I love how blunt you are. Who are some players you enjoyed watching growing up?
LJC: I was a skill guy growing up so I didn’t really watch too many defensive linemen. Since I started playing defensive line, I love watching Khalil Mack. Von Miller and Aaron Donald are a lot of fun to watch. I like watching guys that excel at rushing the passer. James Harrison was a lot of fun as well.
JM: Can you believe that Aaron Donald recorded 20.5 sacks from the interior this season? I mean, wow.
LJC: That guy’s an animal so it doesn’t surprise me. He still works so hard. He’s an inspiration to me. It was a stacked league this season and the Los Angeles Rams paid him the big bucks for a reason. He’s showing why he got paid.
JM: No doubt about that. Do you think your game is more refined as a pass rusher or against the run right now?
LJC: I’m more refined as a pass rusher right now. I’m always working on it though.
JM: How did TCU prepare you for what’s next?
LJC: Coach Patterson has been there developing guys for years. He makes sure our practices are serious and intense. He pushes us hard every day. They never let us settle. I think that helps me understand what’s expected of me at the next level. I’ve never been at a program that let us get away with any silly stuff. We didn’t take days off. They prepared me to always think on the move and to play fast.
JM: That’s a great answer. Thanks for your time tonight, L.J. The next chapter is about to be written, what can TCU fans expect from you going forward?
LJC: They can expect me to play on Sundays. I’m gonna keep that horned frog in my mind and my heart at all times. I’m gonna play hard and smart until someone takes my cleats away from me.