Lancaster High athletics director Mark Strickland has been a part of a football revival before. He is impressed with what his new football hire, head coach Bobby Collins, has done so far with the Bruins’ program.
“He has got our guys excited about being a part of this team,” said Strickland. “He has them involved in the community already, and he and his family have already become a part of our community.”
Strickland said Collins can bring the Lancaster program back to the level it has seen in the past. Strickland was an integral part of a revival in the mid-1980s when he was on Johnny Roscoe’s staff. That first season produced a 1-9 mark, but the foundation had been put down for the program that would win big and make the state playoffs on a yearly basis.
Collins left a Hough High School program in Cornelius, N.C., to take over a 2-9 Lancaster team. But so far, he is pleased with what he has seen as he begins the task of bringing the program back to the prominence it once enjoyed.
“I am very encouraged at this point,” said Collins, who spent the past four years as head coach at Hough High School in North Carolina. “We are not where I want us to be, but we are getting close to the enthusiasm level that I want.”
Collins, a former standout at South Carolina State University, used spring practice to get his players use to a high tempo of practice as well as install the systems he wants to use on both sides of the ball.
“I told our players in the spring to allow themselves to be coached,” said Collins. “All of our coaches are very passionate about football and building not only a winning football team, but also building outstanding young men.”
Collins brought six coaches with him from Hough. All are veteran coaches.
“I feel like we have the best coaching staff this school has ever seen,” said Collins. “They will be teaching all the time. We know each other, and we work well together.”
Collins was pleased with the spring practice sessions as well as the summer workout program of lifting weights.
“Our practice environment is to push our players all the time,” Collins said. “That will take some getting used to, but we are getting there.”
When coaches move to a new school, they often change their offensive and defensive schemes to fit the personnel they inherit, but that will not be the case this fall for the Bruins.
“I have the players right here to do what I want to do on both sides of the ball,” said Collins. “The competition level will be high, and that will increase our enthusiasm.”
Keendarius Truesdale, a senior, is being counted on to be the quarterback and team leader.
“He has grown by leaps and bounds in both roles since I first saw him,” said Collins. “He is growing into a leader for this team.”
Collins has lots of prospects for the running back positions and flanker spots.
“That competition will make us better,” said Collins. “Quite a few players are working at more than one spot right now.”
Senior Cameron Meadows is expected to be the leader of the linebacker corps for the Bruins, while Will Jackson, a senior, will be counted on to be the leader in the secondary from his corner position.
Collins had high praise for senior Dre Bailey. He added that he will be on the field all of the time.
“He will return kicks and punts,” said Collins.” He will play at both the running back and receiver spots, and work in the secondary.”
Boosting roster numbers will be a challenge in the early-going, but Lancaster’s athletic director is confident Collins, who took over after Bennie McMurray retired last spring, is the right man to inflate the program again.
“I think that coach Collins can turn the program around,” Strickland said. “He is an excellent coach, he has enthusiasm that rubs off on his coaches and the players, and he has this community excited about this fall.”
Collins played at Sumter High School before going to South Carolina State, and taking the job at Lancaster is almost like being home.
“I wanted to come to a town that loved football. I love this town,” said Collins. “I wanted to come to a town that has a tradition. Lancaster has a good tradition and a good foundation. It just needs some renovation.”
Strickland added that he wanted a coach that understood what football meant to a community.
“Coach Collins understands that because he grew up playing in that type of environment,” Strickland said. “The people are pleased with what they have seen thus far.”
Lancaster has only four games at home in its 10-game schedule this fall. The opening game is at home Aug. 29 against Andrew Jackson.
“That is all we are worrying about right now,” Collins said. “We are working on getting better each day we come to the field, and preparing for Andrew Jackson.”