In one respect, its easy to see why Bobby Collins would leave Cornelius, N.C.s Hough High School to become the new head football coach at Lancaster.
Collins started the Hough program in 2010 and went 25-20 in his four seasons as the schools only head football coach, including a combined 19-5 record the past two seasons, and an 11-2 mark in 2013. But Collins, a Sumter native, said one of the appealing facets of his new job was the tradition that a one-school town can offer.
I wanted to get to a place that has generational football, as I would call it, traditional football, said Collins on Monday. I wanted to go somewhere and coach football where a guys father, his grandfather possibly played there. Thats like the place where Im from. Coaches at Sumter right now are coaching players that their dad played at that high school, or their granddad played at that high school. You want to be able to build on that football, build on that tradition.
Collins track record at Hough suggests hes capable of rebuilding a Lancaster program that has fallen on tough times. The Bruins are a combined 2-18 the last two years, a lack of success that partially prompted coach Bennie McMurray to step away and retire. Lancaster administrators feel like Collins is the guy to rekindle the fire.
We liked the fact he started the Hough program and has built a winner there in a tough football conference, Lancaster principal Dr. Joe Keenan told the Lancaster News. He has a good presence about him. In 18 years as the principal at Lancaster High School, Ive been fortunate to work with two hall of fame coaches (Johnny Roscoe and Bennie McMurray) and I feel he has the potential to be the third.
Collins, 32 years old, played at Sumter High School for Tom Lewis before playing offensive tackle at South Carolina State under head coach Buddy Pough. Collins also spent a short stint in arena league football before beginning his coaching career in the early 2000s. After graduating from S.C. State, Collins was a graduate assistant at the school, then became the defensive coordinator at West Mecklenburg before leaving for Providence Day where he worked for Hall of Fame coach Bruce Hardin, also as a defensive coordinator. In 2010 Collins was offered the chance to launch the program at Hough, which he did with great success.
Collins spoke with Buddy Pough, McMurray, Chester coach Anthony Sterling, and others about the Lancaster vacancy.
From playing Lancaster in high school and following a great coach in coach McMurray, I know the place has a lot of good athletes. Its a town that will support the community and I just want to help restore the tradition of the program, said Collins.
The Lancaster football team will meets its new coach for the first time on Tuesday. Collins said that this coming fall the Bruins will try and play really good defense, be sharp in special teams and not turn the ball over on offense.
If we do those three things, itll put you in the situation in a lot of games to be able to win it at the end, he said.
The Bruins new coach wont determine an offensive and defensive style until hes fully analyzed his new players abilities. He utilized spread and pro-style offenses at Hough, as well as 3-4 and 4-3 defenses, depending solely on the playing personnel that was available.
Ive been watching the guys on film here the last couple of days and I see a lot of athletes that are out there trying and competing, Collins said. We just want to be able to get them to continue to do that.
A crucial facet of the Lancaster job for whomever was hired is player recruitment. Whether thats from the middle school level or kids roaming the halls at the high school that werent playing previously, increasing participation in the Bruins football program will be paramount for Collins to succeed.
Thats the goal, being able to reach those players as soon as possible, said Collins. Were going out to the middle schools to reach those players to buy into the new ideas, the foundations that we can get started at the high school.
Hes also excited about spring football, something that doesnt happen in North Carolina. The next few months will be critical for Collins to get his program jump-started.
Were gonna make sure we get our defense installed and do the little things on offense, the fundamentals, he said, adding that Lancaster will have a spring game too. His goal is to get the entire community to come out and watch us.
Bret McCormick • 803-329-4032; Twitter: @BretJust1T