New North Lenoir football coach Jim Collins prepares for summer workouts
Jim Collins is looking to maintain the momentum of his predecessor.
On Tuesday, Collins was with North Lenoir players in his first day of summer workouts. Collins, who is taking over the Hawks program after Kim Brown, comes to The Swamp with 27 years of coaching experience — primarily in Michigan — including a 2012 state championship with Harbor Beach as an assistant. Collins grew up in the Wolverine State and was an all-state linebacker in high school, but was recruited at Highlands University in New Mexico as a punter.
Although his interaction with the Hawks has been limited early, Collins said he’s impressed with the talent.
“I’m excited to see what this team can do,” Collins said. “They’ve got a good work ethic and have a pretty good feel for the plays.”
The Hawks went through a 10-year stretch without winning more than three games in a season since a playoff appearance in 2005, but Brown changed the narrative during the 2016 season. North Lenoir won six games for the first time since 2004 to make it to the postseason — narrowly missing out on an Eastern Carolina Conference title in the process — while winning five games in 2017 despite losing numerous key players to injury.
“I’m taking what he did and running with it,” Collins said. “I want to keep the kids excited in the sport and show that I truly care about them. When the kids know you care, they tend to play for you and that was something Kim did very well. I hope to bring the same personality here.”
Collins has coached two years in North Carolina, first as an assistant at R.J. Reynolds in Winston-Salem in 2013 before getting the opportunity to become a head coach the following year at Edenton Holmes. There, Collins led the Aces to an 11-3 record and a third-round appearance in the NCHSAA 2A state playoffs, with the team averaging 350.9 yards per game on the ground.
“We’re going to run more of a Wing-T spread offense,” Collins said. “I kind of model it from Auburn and Coach Gus Malzahn, having had the opportunity to talk to the coaching staff there at length. We had some success with it at Harvard Beach and Edenton Holmes, and I think we have the kids to do it here.”
North Lenoir junior quarterback Christian Young said he’s optimistic about the new coach.
“I feel pretty good about him,” Young said. “He came in and was already talking to me about my game. The whole offense is going to change and I have a strong feeling he knows what he is doing. He brought in some pretty good coaches as well.”
Senior Onassis Gardner, who plans to play fullback and linebacker in the upcoming season, said the team will maintain its work ethic on and off the field with some tweaks early in practice.
“The workout program is a little more of an intense CrossFit session, which will help us get stronger and faster with a quicker pace,” Gardner said. “On offense, we’re doing some of the same things, but he’s made it a little easier to understand so we can run it smoother. On defense, we’re doing a lot of different things, but if we work hard enough and put the effort in, we can get it done."
Senior linebacker Lyrique Harris said the defense will have numerous looks thanks to Hall of Fame defensive coordinator Gerald Whisenhunt.
“I think the new schemes (on defense) will be really helpful,” Harris said. “We’re learning things in a different way and I think Coach is very intricate with his styles.
Harris said he believes North Lenoir can make an impact in 2018.
“Hopefully we can go all the way and get a ring,” Harris said. “It’s my senior year so, I want to go big.”
Overall, Collins said he has big plans for the Hawks.
“I told the kids my goal was to make it to the playoffs every year and the goal is to win a championship,” Collins said. “It’s going to be a tall order with some of the talent in the conference, but we’ll definitely fight.”