By Erik Harris
For The Tribune
PINSON — It was two days shy of September when Oneonta head football coach Don Jacobs stood on the Gilbreath Stadium turf. He had just ordered his Redskins out of the punishing heat and back into the cool field house moments before their 2013 opener against Pinson Valley.
Jacobs, unknowingly standing at the base of a state championship climb, looked down at the large, burgundy “O” painted on his 50-yard line and said what kept him tossing and turning all night.
It wasn’t global warming or the neighbors’ outspoken dog. Things so small didn’t seem capable of rattling this 54-year-old man. But Nick Gibson, Pinson Valley’s 190-pound ball carrier, did the trick, and for good reason.
After leading his Indians past Class 4A No. 2 Oneonta that August night, the 2015 prospect went on to capture the Alabama Sports Writers Association Class 5A Back of the Year award with 2,205 yards rushing and 27 touchdowns.
Then-senior quarterback Brooks Garrett did the turning and giving that night as he did for the remainder of the Indians’ 7-5 season. Errius Collins, a junior dual-threat weapon, now takes the reins of the offense moving forward, and although he will be a first-year starter, Jacobs’ honesty regarding his team’s attention to the star running back should give Collins a little peace of mind.
As Collins took snaps this summer under the eyes of his new offensive coordinator Jon Clements, he surely took comfort knowing that opposing coaches, like Jacobs, will devote such heavy attention to the Mississippi State commit.
There’s a small body of work to study on Collins, especially since he was forced to operate without his new quarterbacks coach/offensive coordinator throughout the spring.
Clements served as quarterbacks coach at Class 4A runner-up Charles Henderson in 2013. Austin Ingram quarterbacked the Trojans to a 14-1 campaign that saw a potent offense average 42 points per game. Ingram had a 31-7 touchdown-to-interception ratio.
Clements was still waiting to be approved by the Jefferson County Board of Education when Pinson Valley traveled to Mortimer Jordan for the spring game in May. Defensive-minded head coach Matt Glover admitted that Collins and the offense were not at full speed for the spring finale.
“I just told (the team) that they had the worst offensive coordinator in the nation calling plays because I had to do it this spring, so our offensive play calling was very limited,” Glover said after the 13-6 loss.
Collins struggled in defeat. The righty went 9-for-15 through the air for 90 yards, a touchdown and three interceptions. But Clements has since been cleared to blow whistles and bark orders, which should greatly help the young quarterback.
There hasn’t been much time for the quarterback and the coordinator to bond so time efficiency has been important. It hasn’t been uncommon for Clements to answer his phone at night to discuss Xs and Os with his eager signal caller.
“He’s going home and watching film and asking questions,” Glover said. “Coach Clements told me (Collins) called him (one) night and they talked for like 30 minutes.”
With Collins under center and Clements holding the playbook, this year’s offensive play calling should look a little different, though Glover wouldn’t have you know that.
The coach added that this year’s passing game will look to operate under a more play-action system, which will give Collins opportunities to burn overeager defenses. Glover likes what he sees out of Collins when he escapes the pocket and delivers the ball on the run.
“I like throwing the ball better on the run because I can see more and when I’m on a rollout I have a choice: I can either run or I can throw it,” Collins said.
Considering that Collins’ predecessor was most comfortable making decisions in the comfort of a secure pocket, it’s not delusional to expect much different play calling this season.
Pinson Valley averaged a touch over 33 points per game last season, but ended the year a little slow by coming up short of that in its final three games. Collins now looks to spark this unit as a new-look quarterback and get the Indians in the playoffs for the fifth straight season.