Patrick Ochs

Eric Collins: Warriors must buy-in to have success at D'Iberville

CHRIS MARQUETTE/PICAYUNE ITEM 
 Former Pearl River Central coach Eric Collins is eager to get started at D'Iberville. He said he understands the pressures involved with coaching the Warriors.
CHRIS MARQUETTE/PICAYUNE ITEM Former Pearl River Central coach Eric Collins is eager to get started at D'Iberville. He said he understands the pressures involved with coaching the Warriors.

As Eric Collins said Monday, he's not one to shy away from the frying pan. Well get ready for the heat to get cranked up real fast.

The former Pearl River Central and Tupelo coach has big expectations for D'Iberville and said he's excited to tackle a new challenge.

At PRC, the challenge was turning around a struggling program. Now, Collins will be tasked with getting the Warriors over the hump and back in title contention.

PRC and DHS

There aren't a lot of similarities at first glance between when Collins took over at PRC in 2010 and what he now inherits from long-time coach Buddy Singleton. The Blue Devils were coming off of an 0-11 season and hadn't posted a winning season since 2004. With the Warriors, Collins takes over a program that, while coming off of a 6-7 season, had previously ripped off four straight nine-win seasons.

The common thread -- at least Collins hopes -- is how the Blue Devils and Warriors work. There can't be a middle ground if the Warriors are to succeed.

"In order to push the kids as hard as we did at PRC, the kids had to allow that. They trusted us as coaches enough to do the things necessary to turn the program around," said Collins, who went 42-31 in six seasons in Carriere. "At D'Iberville, (buying in) is going to be key. There has to be buy-in to what you're doing. That's going to be the big challenge, getting the kids to buy into what we're selling.

"If they buy in, then the sky is the limit."

What's the identity?

Collins isn't a one-dimensional coach. Prior to arriving in Carriere, Collins helped turn guys like QB Chris Garrett and WR Chad Bumphis into LSU and Mississippi State signees.

His PRC teams boasted a ground and pound approach offensively that wore on opponents. Last season, the Blue Devils had three players eclipse 1,100-yards rushing.

He cut his teeth as a defensive coach but has since moved to the offensive side of the ball.

So what will the 2016 Warriors look like?

Collins said time will tell.

"I like what we did at PRC. (The Wing-T and 4-2-5 defense) fit PRC with our kids and talent base," Collins said. "I don't know that it would have been a good fit at Tupelo and I don't know that it will be a good fit at D'Iberville. It may be. I haven't seen the kids yet or had a chance to evaluate the talent level.

"We'll tailor-make our offense and defense to fit our abilities."

Collins also emphasized several times the need to be a hard-nosed and physical team.

Getting started

Collins' next order of business will be to get to D'Iberville and begin evaluating with the spring season in mind.

"I want to introduce myself to the kids to see what they're about and just get a lay of the land to see how they're working in the weight room," said Collins, adding that he's anxious to meet the remaining coaches on staff.

Building on tradition

When Singleton officially retired in late January he spoke of the commitment from the fan base. Just winning often isn't enough -- winning big is what will keep the natives happy.

"A lot of schools, you go to ball games and there's a lot of empty seats. Well, at D'Iberville it's packed out," he said. "You have great support (at D'Iberville). They love you when you win and cuss you when you lose. That's just the way it is."

The pressures of coaching in Class 6A at a school like D'Iberville aren't lost on Collins. He talked with Singleton before agreeing to the move and understands the expectations of the Warrior faithful and the demands of the community.

"I'm not going into a program that's void of winning football games. I'm following a legend. This is a program that has tradition. It has winning ways, and I'm just hoping I can come in and continue the tradition they have and maybe win us another state championship. That's the goal," Collins said. " ... With great opportunity comes great responsibility. I understand they are trusting in me the future of the program that Coach Singleton has basically built. I look forward to the challenge of continuing that and maybe -- hopefully -- building upon it."

Patrick Ochs, a Sun Herald sports reporter, can be reached at pochs@sunherald.com or followed on Twitter at PatrickOchs.

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