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The topic in question immediately brought a smile to the faces of Madison La Follette teammates Ben Mogilevsky and Rodney Poe.

What — in their minds — is the trademark of Lancers free safety Marcus Collins’ game: His coverage or his physicality?

“The interceptions are always exciting,” said Mogilevsky, a senior linebacker, “but (Collins) is just such a big guy and he’s so fast that when someone comes through the middle, it’s fun to watch him hit. When he hits a running back, there’s always a crack.”

Poe concurred.

“We can always rely on (Collins) to make that big hit,” the senior cornerback said.

At 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds, Collins — a Pittsburgh recruit and returning first-team All-Big Eight Conference selection — brings a unique mix of size and speed to La Follette’s secondary.

But more importantly, in the opinion of Lancers coach Mike Harris, the senior also is a student of the game.

His father, Willie, played outside linebacker at the University of Wisconsin in the late 1970s and early ’80s and has enjoyed a successful stint coaching La Follette’s defensive linemen.

Growing up in the coaches’ office, as Harris put it, has given Marcus Collins a unique perspective on the game.

“Every year, there’s never a disappointment,” Collins said. “It’s just a brotherhood you get with all your guys out here. Just the love of the game, it keeps me going.”

And with Mogilevsky, Poe and Collins back as La Follette’s only returning defensive starters from a team that was essentially one touchdown away from reaching the playoffs last season, his teammates will need him more than ever.

“He gives us a little bit more freedom to explore some possibilities,” Harris said of Collins, who once was a quarterback at the youth level. “Marcus’ best asset is his lateral coverage. He can go from sideline to sideline very fast. That allows us to concentrate on players who might need a little bit more of our attention.”

Still, Harris believes Collins is just beginning to tap into his potential. He’s added four inches and 40 pounds to his frame since his freshman season, yet still is posting a sub-4.6 in the 40-yard dash.

“This offseason and this past spring, he has just blossomed in the weight room,” Harris said. “When I say blossomed, I mean he really has put on some great strength and size.

“I still consider him raw athletically. I think any college that gets him will notice that. But he’s really starting to understand that push it takes to possibly play at the next level.”