It has been only a little over a month since Cliff Collins was hired to lead the Southwest Mississippi Community College football program, and already the Gloster native is not only making himself at home in Summit but also hitting the ground running.
Collins was a guest Thursday at the McComb Exchange Club meeting and spoke about his transition to being a head coach at SMCC — not only a previous stop where he was an assistant, but also his alma mater.
One of Collins’ main goals is to turn around a program that has won only one game in the past three seasons.
“Effort, attitude and toughness, that is the brand when we walk into a weight room or walk into a facility. We are going to have a shirt with that on it, that is what we stand for,” he said. “I want to bring effort every day.”
Collins wants to transform the program. He plans to implement a spread style offense and a 4-3 defense.
And in order to do that, he has already put forth a strong effort in recruiting, not only in several areas in Mississippi but especially locally in the southwestern corner, a place that he calls a hidden gem, full of talent.
“It is a hidden treasure,” he said. “We are building something special here at Southwest and we want the local kids to definitely be a part of it.
“You have to get great athletes to do things the right way and that helps you build a program and become successful.”
Another topic that Collins addressed Thursday was filling out his staff. While he is still in the process of hiring, he did retaion two coaches from the previous staff: Dominique Sullivan and Trevor Stigers.
Sullivan — a Taylorsville-native and former wide receiver at Southern Miss — will coach the Bear receivers while Stigers — an ex-Mississippi State defensive lineman — will stay at his post leading the defensive line.
Collins said he hopes to finalize the remainder of his staff soon.
With years of experience as an assistant coach — including two runs at East Mississippi Community College, where he was part of a staff that won five national titles — Collins was no stranger to recruiting, which he is now doing as the man in charge of the program.
“The only difference is now when you offer a kid, I say that I am the head coach and you are going to play,” he said.
Until lately, Collins and the Bears had few kids commit to Southwest. In addition to Thibodaux, La. quarterback Luke Alleman, Parklane’s Elijah Burns and North Pike’s Jackson Fortenberry also have recently committed.
And now that he has been the head coach of the team for the past few weeks, Collins said that the transition has been pretty smooth.
“It hasn’t stopped rolling yet,” he said. My wife and my family understand what time of year it is. We can’t win football games without players and I have to get out and recruit. “I just started drinking coffee and that has helped a lot. It has been great.”
In addition to talking about a renovated weight room on campus, Collins also noted the beauty of Southwest and the upgrades made since the last time he was on campus.
“It has changed a lot since I played,” he said. “We have a rehab facility and one of the nicest weight rooms in the state when you talk about space and square footage. We can work out 70 guys in there at one time and not be cluttered.”
Collins knows that many Bear fans already know of him not only for being from neighboring Amite County and from his time as a player and an assistant coach. But for those who aren’t familiar with him, he said they should expect many positives.
“You can expect a team that is going to be noticed as soon as we hit the field with our energy, our attitude and toughness,” he said. “It is like I said, we are Bears and we eat. That is where the energy, attitude and toughness stand for and that is going to be our slogan.
“We are going to bring the energy, have fun and be loose. We are definitely going to have an attitude and be tough on both sides of the football.”