Maus Collins has certainly been around long enough to know how to evaluate football talent. But even if he had Joe Montana at quarterback, Walter Payton at running back, the Los Angeles Rams' offensive line and the Chicago Bears' defense, the Archbishop Carroll High School coach would still insist his team needed work.
Right now, Carroll is 3-0, having outscored its three opponents by a combined total of 99-7, and is ranked first in the metropolitan area. Still, Collins says the jury is out on his team.
"Oh, no. We're sitting ducks again. We don't deserve to be No. 1," said Collins, who has won more than 200 games in his 25-plus years at the Northwest D.C. Catholic school. "We could go 0-8 the rest of the year."
The Lions, who have won 23 straight games from Interhigh League teams, opened their season with impressive victories over Anacostia (26-0), Eastern (26-0) and McKinley (43-7). On the surface, most coaches would be pleased with what appears to have been a fine effort both offensively and defensively. But not Collins.
"I don't know if those first three games helped us or hurt us. Our scrimmages were not real good and, except for Anacostia, the Interhigh schools just weren't ready yet," Collins said. "That's been our biggest problem. We just haven't been tested yet. These next two games will serve as a good indicator of just how good we are. We have some talent and the kids have worked hard, but I just don't know where we stand yet."
Two years ago, Carroll finished 11-0, ranked first in the metropolitan area. The Lions gave up only 55 points and posted five shutouts. Last year, Carroll, hardly as experienced, deep or talented overall, ran its three-year winning streak to 13 games before losing at Gilman (Baltimore), 12-9. The roller-coaster season included a 6-6 tie with McNamara, a 19-17 loss to Good Counsel and a season-ending, 14-8 defeat to conference champion DeMatha.
"We came within a touchdown or two of winning the whole thing last year," Collins said. "I think this team could be very good. At least, we're hoping so. Our defense has played very well and I'm pleased with that. The offense was our main worry and it still needs work."
Collins has the material to work with. Senior quarterback Philip Barnhill is a good runner and that makes his passing that much more effective on rollout plays. Split end Hank Jackson has good moves and the ability to get open, accounting for his five touchdown receptions in three games. The versatile senior also has a 63-yard touchdown on an interception return.
"Philip has been steady and Hank is a fine player," Collins said. "But we haven't unleashed our ground game yet."
Collins is also hoping some of his younger players improve so he can limit the number of his top personnel going both ways. In addition to Jackson, Darryl Williams plays running back and linebacker, Greg Downs plays runnning back and cornerback, Fred Dillard and Richard Saunders are two-way linemen and Sean Green plays center and linebacker.
"We don't want all of our players to go both ways, but we only had seven starters coming back from last year," Collins said. "I've seen two of the Metro teams and they can both beat us. We still have a young team."
Collins the Coach. Collins the Motivator. One and the same.
Amazing how quickly those young Lions grow up in the games that count. Simply amazing.