When LSU's offense takes the field vs. Miami in the season opener, the Tigers will be staring a familiar name straight in the face: Gerald Willis III.
Willis, the brother of former Alabama standout Landon Collins, is in his second season in south Florida. He followed in Collins' footsteps in 2014 when he chose Florida over LSU during a nationally televised commitment at the Under Armour All-America Game. Collins himself spurned LSU for Alabama two years earlier, and the video of the disappointment from his mother, April Justin, was an Internet sensation.
Willis transferred from Florida to Miami after one bumpy season in 2014. He reportedly got into a physical altercation with then-teammate Skyler Mornhinweg over cleats. And he notably pushed Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston in the face while on the sidelines during their game. Willis was tagged with a personal foul, and the coaches sent him to the locker room.
Fast forward to 2018, and the fifth-year senior is reportedly the Hurricanes' starting nose guard.
Bandele Alexander couldn't believe it.
“I’ve been waiting for this opportunity for a long time,’’ Willis recently told the Miami Herald. “...I got my body right, got my relationships right with my family. I’m a better person. I’m ready to ball and play with my brothers."
Willis, who prepped at Edna Karr in New Orleans, was part of an elite group of five five-star players LSU hoped to secure commitments from on the same day in 2014. The other four players? Leonard Fournette (St. Augustine/New Orleans, LSU), Jamal Adams (Hebron High/Dallas area, LSU), Speedy Noil (Karr High/New Orleans, Texas A&M) and Tony Brown (Ozen High/Beaumont, Alabama).
Miami coach Mark Richt had high praise last Sunday for Willis, who played on the scout team last year while taking a personal leave and “just terrorized everybody every day’’ during practice in 2017, Richt said.
Now Willis will get a chance to prove it in a game for the first time since 2016.
“I really want to ball against LSU,’’ Willis said. “That’s my hometown. I want to...be able to give the fans a show.’"