New Head Coach David Collins Sets Out to Make Pine Tree An East Texas Power
LONGVIEW -- The buses pulled up at 3:15 p.m., the players were on the field by 3:17 p.m., stretches started at 3:20 p.m. and a loaded practice was underway by 3:29 p.m. Exactly one minute earlier than new Pine Tree head coach David Collins drew up as the deadline for Tuesday's spring session to start.
The rookie head coach entered Tuesday's workout with a very modest Pirates program. Starting with punctuality and a good attitude, he's asking his players for more on a daily basis.
"I walked into the program not knowing what to expect," Collins said. "We're not where we want to be, but we're light years ahead of where I thought we might be. The attitude of the kids has been amazing. You see the enthusiasm and the way that they're playing.
"I don't know how good we're going to be, but I do know these guys will improve everyday. As a staff, we're going to continue to push them and then we'll let everything else play out the way it does."
Pine Tree has not had a winning record since 1998 and yet it snagged one of the most highly-regarded assistant coaches in Texas.
Collins arrived over winter break from the wildly successful Lake Travis High School program, a school that won consecutive Class 4A state titles from 2007 to 2011 and then punched its way to the Class 5A Division II state semifinals last season.
The Pirates' new head coach was there for the last 4A championship and the semifinal run.
It's easy to see what the Pine Tree administration means to accomplish between the hire and last year's completion of a $16 million stadium. And then three other Lake Travis coaches followed Collins.
Lake Travis' sustained success is very straight-forward.
It has a high rate of participation from the student population, it's ultra-competitive in its hiring of coaches and followers ponied up to provide it with outstanding facilities.
Those aren't things out of Pine Tree's reach, and coaching as well as facilities are nailed down for the moment.
"This stadium is second-to-none," Collins said. "The capacity may not be 20,000, but you look at what our community and administration has given us. The stage is set. Now it's simply a matter of changing the attitude of working toward what we need to do to be successful. How do you prepare? How do you go to work everyday? How do you overcome things?
"I think that's what we've got to change."
It was in that stadium on Tuesday that you found Collins, in a bright yellow sweater that screamed head coach, building his team. He's a very hands-on coach and oversees the offense, especially quarterbacks and the passing game.
This is the guy who coached Kolton Browning at Mabank, Jared Barnett at Garland and Baker Mayfield at Lake Travis. Each of those players gained notoriety on the college level. Mayfield started the very first game of his collegiate career.
Many other players of Collins' offenses went on to play college ball.
He has a scheme that is proven and has evolved over the years.
"When I first got to Lake Travis, I was a pure 'Air Raid' guy," Collins said. "I had studied (Mike) Leach, (Hal) Mumme. Then when I got to Lake Travis I was obviously influenced by Coach Morris, (Gus) Malzahn and since then I've tried to marry both systems."
Pine Tree uses the up-tempo styles of Texas A&M and Texas Tech. The offense must have received 200 snaps between individual drills, skeleton drills and live competition against the defense. Skill players got a lot of reps with four quarterbacks lined up and throwing the balls to different parts of the field on every rep.
Defensively, there's promise along the line and other position groups coming along.
Coaching stood out the most. This team efficiently received an incredibly high volume of repetitions in a structured practice that lasted exactly an hour and 45 minutes.
"They want to win and they've changed our expectations for ourselves," defensive tackle Jakorey Sherow said. "We all want to win and make this program better than it has been. The coaches inspired me because they told us what they wanted to do and they're showing it to us right now. They're showing us what they want us to think about ourselves and to get a championship team."
It's been a long time since Pine Tree fans could be optimistic on a game-by-game basis.
The new sheriff and a supportive administration could change everything.
"This was just an opportunity to make a difference," Collins said. "You get into the business because you want to do thing that make a difference in other's lives. The guys that came over from Lake Travis, we sat down and we talked about it. We said, 'You know what, we've had a great run at Lake Travis and loved all the kids there, but we have the chance to make a difference in some other guys.'"