J.C. Collins always suspected there was a cold side to the business of college football.
“You see coaches changing jobs all the time, guys who are being recruited deciding to de-commit from schools,” Collins said. “You know that’s part of it.”
Collins, a quarterback and defensive back who led Williamstown to a 12-1 record and the South Jersey Group 5 title, has first-hand experience on the precarious nature of college recruiting.
A first-team All-South Jersey selection, Collins is back in the market for a scholarship after the University of Massachusetts pulled its offer to him following a coaching change.
Collins has an official visit planned to New Hampshire for later this month but no assurances at this point that he will be signing with an NCAA Division I program during the second signing period, which begins Feb. 6.
“Everybody is telling me not to panic,” Collins said. “They said if something doesn’t happen for me in February, then I guess I’ll have something to worry about.”
The 6-foot-1, 180-pound Collins was a three-way star for the Braves, excelling as a runner and passer on offense and as a cornerback on defense.
Collins ran for 1,208 yards and 16 touchdowns and passed or 1,236 yards and 11 touchdowns as Williamstown won its first 12 games -- capturing both the West Jersey Football League American Division title and the sectional crown -- before falling to Sayreville in heartbreaking fashion in the Group 5 South/Central Bowl Game Nov. 23 in MetLife Stadium.
Collins had committed to Massachusetts in July.
“All season I was UMass, UMass, UMass,” Collins said. “I went up there, I was following them all the time. I thought that was the place for me.
“I had some other schools that were interested in me, Kent State, Old Dominion. But they backed off when I committed to UMass.”
Massachusetts made a coaching change after the season. Mark Whipple was fired. He was replaced Dec. 5 by Walt Bell, the former offensive coordinator at Florida State.
Bell and his new staff informed many of the athletes who had been recruited by Whipple that they would not be offered scholarships.
“I kind of saw it coming,” Collins said. “I was seeing it on Twitter, so many guys de-committing or saying they weren’t going there.”
Massachusetts coaches informed Williamstown coach Frank Fucetola, who passed the news along to Collins' parents.
“It’s an ugly situation,” Fucetola said.
Complicating matters: Whipple and his staff had asked Collins to accelerate his schoolwork to graduate in January, then enroll at Massachusetts in time for the spring semester to take part in spring football.
Collins cut out his study halls and took an online course. He’s close to completing enough credits for graduation, even though he has no plans to enroll in a college this month.
“I still have to finish English online,” Collins said. “I’ll still be going to Williamstown [until graduation in June], but I’ll probably have a couple extra study halls, take [a couple of electives] and get out most days by noon.”
Collins said he prefers to look at the disruption of his plans as a learning experience.
“I thought along that UMass was the place for me,” Collins said. "But it wasn’t meant to be. I was meant to be somewhere else. Maybe it will be somewhere a lot better for me.
"I’m not angry about it. It just goes to show, you never know what’s going to happen. You have to be able to deal with different things.
“I don’t see it as a negative. I know I’m going to be OK.”
Al Orio, who spent 13 seasons as Deptford’s head coach from 1998-2010, has returned to take charge of the Spartans' program.
Orio replaces Steve Scuderi, who resigned after last season. Deptford was 6-5 in 2018, the program’s first winning season since Orio led the team to an 8-2 mark in 2006.
Under Orio, Deptford won three sectional titles. His 2003 and 2004 teams went a combined 23-1 and won back-to-back South Jersey Group 3 titles.
Orio, a social studies teacher at Deptford, has been an assistant coach in recent seasons, serving at Kingsway, Overbrook, and West Deptford.
“I am Deptford football,” Orio said in a statement. “You know what I thought about during my years coaching elsewhere? I was helping other kids get into college. That was great, but it wasn’t Deptford kids. That weighs on your being a Deptford guy.”
Several South Jersey players have picked up scholarship offers from Temple in recent weeks, including Timber Creek freshman quarterback Donovan Leary, Willingboro sophomore quarterback Au-Shaun Davis, Willingboro junior wide receiver/defensive back Chis Long and Camden sophomore defensive back Duce Chestnut.
Chestnut, also a reserve guard for Camden’s undefeated basketball team, has offers from Rutgers and Baylor as well.
Camden junior linebacker Tirek Austin-Cave has offers from Baylor, Temple, Rutgers, Massachusetts, Old Dominion, and Maryland, according to Camden coach Dwayne Savage.
Rancocas Valley is looking for a “Zero Week” game after Camden Catholic, which is in a full rebuilding mode, opted out of the second half of a two-year deal with the Red Devils and added a likely more competitive game with Bishop Eustace.
Rancocas Valley, which finished 9-3 and made the South Jersey Group 5 title game for the second year in a row, has had preliminary discussions with St. Joseph, Phillipsburg, Mt. Olive, and Toms River North, but nothing has been finalized, according to athletic director Mike Lamb.
St. Joseph, which went 10-2 and won the Non-Public 2 state title, has had talks with Philadelphia Catholic League program Neumann-Goretti about a “Zero Week” game, but nothing is finalized.
Woodrow Wilson, which went 9-4 and won the South Jersey Group 3 title, won’t play Philadelphia Public League team Frankford again next season, according to athletic director Will Hickson.