VIDEO: J.P. Stevens HS has new football coach

VIDEO: J.P. Stevens HS has new football coach

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VIDEO: J.P. Stevens HS has new football coach

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EDISON

Jim Collins, who began his first full week as the J.P. Stevens High School football team’s head coach on Monday, has a lot of catching up to do with his new charges.

Thanks, however, to a full staff of assistants that was in place well before his approval by the Edison Township Board of Education last week, Collins considers himself to be slightly ahead of the game.

“It’s been a little rough because we are so late,” said Collins, who previously served as a defensive backs coach/co-defensive coordinator at Union (2009-12) and as a defensive coordinator at Colonia (2002-08).

“My coaching staff basically ran everything by themselves prior to me coming in. They kept the team on track, had them in the weight room. It made my life easy walking in. (J.P. Stevens) had great numbers every day, a testament to (assistants) keeping everything together.”

Collins replaces Mike Ryan, who compiled a 7-23 record over three seasons, and who should be credited with making the one-time state powerhouse program competitive again.

Ryan inherited a bare cupboard in 2009 when the Hawks were outscored 392-49 (34.3 average margin of defeat) en route to a 0-10 record.

J.P. Stevens was vastly improved last season, finishing 4-6 after winning three of its last four games. The Hawks nearly upset three-time defending sectional champion Sayreville and dropped a three-point decision to Central Group 5 semifinalist Old Bridge.

Collins, who played college football at Farleigh Dickinson University and who graduated from Colonia in 1997, will build his offense around Chiebuka Chukwuneke, one of the state’s most dynamic players.

Chukwuneke was the Greater Middlesex Conference’s second-leading scorer (136 points) and third leading rusher (1,207 yards) a year ago.

He finished with nearly 1,900 all-purpose yards including 324 yards receiving and 355 return yards. An outstanding defensive back, he registered five interceptions. His pass breakup in the end zone preserved a 7-6 win over cross-town rival Edison in the 2012 season finale.

“We’ve completely revamped the offense to really showcase his speed,” Collins said of Chukwuneke, who will be used out of the backfield and as a slot receiver. “The kids have responded well to what we have installed so far.”

Collins will run a spread pistol offense that starkly contrasts the intricate Wing-T Ryan utilized the past three seasons. Collins is also implementing a 4-3 defense, a staple of his teams at Union and Colonia.

Collins credited all of his assistants, especially Vin Gioffre, who previously served as a head coach across town at Edison, with “taking the bull by the horns” and maintaining continuity in the program.

“I’m looking forward to getting my kids ready for the first game,” Collins said. “We’re trying to become a family as quickly as possible.”

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