Eric Axley, who won The Rex Hospital Open earlier this year, carded a 7- under-par 64. He stands alone in second place, one stroke clear of Boo Weekley, Steve Larick and Brian Henninger.
Collins, who won at the Henrico County Open back in May, began with a bogey on the second. He got that stroke back with a 25-foot birdie putt on the fifth. That started a big run for him.
The Indiana-native made it two straight as he birdied the par-5 sixth from six feet out. Collins birdied seven and eight to move to minus-3.
Collins kept rolling with a 12-foot birdie on the ninth. He made it six in a row as he got up and down for birdie on the par-5 10th.
'I haven't had a stretch like that in a while,' Collins said. 'I felt really confident with the putter today and that's what I've been struggling with since my win.'
Collins gave another stroke back when he bogeyed the 12th, but he dropped a sand wedge within six feet of the cup for birdie on the 13th.
The 26-year-old got to 6-under with a birdie on the par-4 15th. Collins closed with consecutive birdies from the 17th to secure the first-round lead.
'Starting the day it was extremely windy out there,' said Collins. 'I didn't have a whole lot of expectations after taking the last couple weeks off. This course really isn't that easy.'
Axley got going with a birdie on No. 10, his first, after he pitched his third to 10 feet. He parred his next four holes before carding his second birdie on the 15th.
The 31-year-old got up and down for birdie on the 17th and made it two in a row with a 12-foot birdie putt on 18 to make the turn at minus-4.
Axley drained a birdie on the par-3 third and came right back with a two-putt birdie on the short par-4 fourth to move to 6-under. He then birdied the par-5 sixth and closed with three straight pars to end alone in second place.
'I played solid today,' Axley said. 'Early on I was hitting it well. I hit a lot of greens today and even when I missed the greens I had good birdie chances.'
Chattanooga Classic winner Jason Schultz posted a 5-under-par 66 in the opening round. He was joined in a tie for sixth place by Scott Petersen, Roger Tambellini, Tommy Tolles, Scott Weatherly, Jeff Klauk, Chip Beck, Jeff Gove, Bubba Dickerson and Jeff Freeman.
Troy Matteson, who won the Virginia Beach Open this year, leads a large group of players one stroke further back at minus-four.