MISSOULA — Missoula Sentinel’s Dylan Rollins had quite the six-day stretch in late November.
The senior offensive lineman won the State AA title with the Spartans on Nov. 20, he was offered a football scholarship by Minnesota — one of the final five schools he’s considering — on Nov. 22 and he was named a Sports Illustrated All-America finalist three days later.
The latest of those accomplishments place him among the top 250 high school seniors in the 37 states who played this fall. Within that list, he’s one of the top 40 offensive linemen. The first-team, second-team and honorable-mention picks will be announced later in December.
Colleges have recognized his improving play, too. He's garnered 16 Division I offers, the past eight of which have been FBS offers as his stock has risen.
He now has a big choice to make after narrowing down his list to five teams, with FBS teams Minnesota (Big Ten), Oregon State (Pac-12) and BYU (Independent) all in his top tier and offering full-ride scholarships.
His second tier includes FCS programs Montana State (Big Sky) and North Dakota State (Missouri Valley). He has a full-ride offer from MSU, where his brother plays and his father played. He doesn’t have an offer from NDSU but said he’s been in contact with the Bison and will consider them if they offer him.
“It’s just how I felt like I matched up with their programs and their coaches and built some strong relationships there and felt like I’d be comfortable there and be successful in their programs,” Rollins said of narrowing down his list to those schools. “With BYU, Oregon State and Minnesota, those are all FBS Power 5-level schools, which obviously BYU is independent, but they’re still high level.
“You look at MSU and NDSU, and those are both teams that have the potential to be competing for or winning an FCS championship in the next four years or five years when I’m there. Then, they’re also all programs that are based off of hard work, and that’s something that aligns with my values.”
Rollins, who’s the highest-rated recruit to come out of Montana in six years, per 247Sports, had been named to SI’s 1,000-player watch list over the summer, when he had just two FBS offers, only one of which included a scholarship. He’s since been picked to play in the Blue-Grey All-American Bowl on Jan. 18 at the Dallas Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium.
The factors that separate Rollins from other linemen come from how he improved physically and technically, Sports Illustrated Director of Football Recruiting John Garcia Jr. told 406mtsports.com. He felt Rollins’ character shined through in how he made the improvements he did when the offseason structure across the country was far from normal due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“He’s just a grunt,” Garcia said. “He’s a kid who finds work. At that position, that’s what you want. He’s bigger and stronger than most everyone he faces, which is not uncommon when you look for the nation’s best. It’d be one thing if he just sort of executed his assignments and moved on, but what I like about Dylan is he’ll execute his assignment and just go look for someone else to get his helmet on. At that position, more than any, it reveals the character of him.
“Yes, do I like that he’s a wide-stanced run blocker who’s really strong at the point of attack and has great extension? Yeah, I love all of that. But how does he play whistle to whistle after he does what he’s supposed to do at 6-6, 285 and dominate the kid in front of him? That’s what I noticed about Dylan most is he finds work. I think every offensive line coach appreciates that, and as evaluators, that’s certainly something we appreciate as well.”
The 6-foot-5½, 285-pound Rollins is open to playing wherever his college team needs him, although he’s heard from the schools he’s considering that they’ve seen him more as a tackle.
He’s shown his versatility along the line in high school, playing guard the past two years after starting at tackle because the move allowed Sentinel to get its five best linemen on the field.
“Talking to BYU, they told me you’re going to play tackle until you show us that you can’t play tackle,” Rollins said. “Right now, it’s looking like tackle. I feel more comfortable at tackle, but playing the last two years at guard, I feel good about that.”
Garcia sees Rollins having a high floor and upside to play multiple positions at the college level.
“He’s got a tackle frame: 6-5, 6-6, 280, 285, that’s a dream frame for a tackle,” said Garcia, who felt Rollins would have even more FBS offers if he played in a state where he'd go up against other D-I talent more often.
“But in that Sentinel scheme, it’s very run dominant, and he’s able to get out on the move a lot as a pulling guard, which is something I think is a big strength. It’s easier for a guy like that to be great in the phone booth, but when you’re out on the move against guys who are smaller than you, should be able to avoid you and you’re still making consistent contact, it says a lot about where you game is and the floor of your game.
“He can eventually play tackle, and he’ll have to work on his pass protection, like every high school offensive tackle because it’s just easier to run block the younger you are. But I think the guard traits are really intriguing because of how comfortable he is on the move.”
Rollins’ other offers have come from FBS teams Nebraska (Big Ten), which is a walk-on offer, Central Michigan (Mid-American) and Mountain West schools Utah State, UNLV and Air Force.
He also has FCS offers from Big Sky schools Montana and Northern Arizona, Bucknell of the Patriot League and Ivy League schools Harvard, Yale, Cornell and Dartmouth.
Rollins said he’ll make a decision on which school to attend by the time the early signing period begins Dec. 16. He’ll leave his opportunities open if more offers come, but he’s not expecting a rush of offers to arrive this late.
Rollins is also thinking about whether he’ll go on an LDS mission after high school, like his brother did at MSU, and he said the schools he’s considering “are open to the mission. They said they want me either way.” So, there are several other factors he’s considering.
“Just in general,” Rollins began, “it’s the fit of the school and how I feel like I will be successful in their program and their school with getting a degree and how I fit with the guys that are there and the guys I will be with for the next four years and lifelong friends with after that. It comes down to what’s the best fit for me.”