The Detroit Lions filled a couple vacant roster spots earlier today after the release of safety Taylor Mays and receiver Jared Haggins on Saturday.
Former Bethune-Cookman Defensive end Erik Williams and linebacker Justin Cherocci (Central Michigan) have been added to the roster.
Williams recorded 33 tackles, 15 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks for Bethune-Cookman last season.
The 6-3, 270-pound Williams, who spent time with the Buffalo Bills in the offseason, is the son of Lee Williams, an 11-year NFL veteran who played for the San Diego Chargers and Houston Oilers.
Williams will wear number 67 while Cherocci will wear 51.
The Bethune-Cookman football program has spent most of the last five seasons nationally ranked and atop the MEAC standings. In that same timeframe, the Wildcats have posted more victories than any other conference school and advanced to the postseason on four occasions. Yet despite its recent run of success, the buzz surrounding the program has been relatively quiet heading into the 2015 campaign. Questions abound as to rather BCU’s window of success is closing or if the Cats are poised to continue their reign as one of the premier programs in the HBCU and FCS ranks.
Here are 5 mysteries that must be solved if Bethune-Cookman is to remain consistent in its winning ways.
The Man following the Man
First year head coach Terry Sims inherits a roster full on talent but lacking in experience. Sims won’t be afforded a honeymoon period to acquaint himself or his young squad to the high expectations in Daytona Beach. Wildcat fans fully expect Sims to continue and build upon the success of former head coach Brian Jenkins.
Sims is well respected within the BCU athletic department. He is ultracompetitive, detailed-oriented, and perhaps better credentialed than was Jenkins when he first took over the reins in 2010. But there are some aspects of the head coaching position for which only the crucible of experience can prepare you. The manner in which Sims responds to tense, split-second and sometimes unpredictable moments on and off the field will go a long way in determining the success of this year’s squad.
Fantastic Four or Fantastic No-more???
Yogi Jones is arguably the best defensive coordinator in the MEAC. He will need to rely on all of his experience and know-how to ready a defense that features nine new starters including an all new front four.
Not only will the defensive line feature four new starters but the four new starters were not even enrolled at Bethune-Cookman this time last year. Thankfully, they all have some post-high school playing experience under their belts and they all possess great athleticism and potential. Getting this group of new faces to actualize their talents and replace the production void left by the likes of Erik Williams, LeBrandon Richardson and Rony Barrow will be quite a task even for Yogi Jones.
Inexperience at Linebacker
Donald Smith returns as the lone starter at linebacker. We expect Robert Way, our preseason pick for breakout player of the year, and Deland high school product Trenton Bridges to join Smith as the starting linebackers. All three guys will lay a good thump on you. We just want them to get in the habit of getting ball carriers on the ground and racking up tackles. We’ll worry about highlight reel hits down the road.
OC or Oh-No?
While Yogi Jones has proven his mettle as a great defensive coordinator, the jury is still out on 4th year offensive coordinator Jim Pry. BCU has never averaged more than 30 points per game or more than 400 yards of total offense under Pry’s guidance. In fact, Pry’s units rarely racked up huge numbers in his previously stints as offensive coordinator at Dartmouth, Akron and Duke. Granted, you can’t measure success by statistics alone and the offensive talent he had at his disposal while serving as OC at the aforementioned schools generally were not as good as the competition he faced. But coaching is a bottom line business. Pry will need to have the BCU offense prepared to carry more of the weight this season to give the new faces on defense time to jell and gain experience.
Step it up QB
In 2010, BCU entered Fall Camp unsure who would emerge as the primary signal caller. Senior Matt Johnson stepped up, made the job his own, and proceeded to have one of the best seasons any Wildcat quarterback has ever experienced. We’re hoping redshirt senior Quentin Williams can find some of that same magic in his final year.
Williams has not been bad as a starter but he has struggled with consistency at times. Q needs to step up his production this season. Whether he does or doesn’t isn’t an issue of talent but one of confidence.
Larry Brihm will challenge Williams for snaps all season and the thought of both quarterbacks taking meaningful snaps is not out of the question.
The Terry Sims era of Bethune-Cookman football begins on Saturday, September 5th when the Wildcats travel to South Florida to take on FBS powerhouse University of Miami. Kickoff is scheduled for 6:00 pm. The game will be broadcasted on ESPN3.
Bethune-Cookman gave the public its first peek at the new athletics department logo at Friday’s annual MEAC Press Luncheon. The new logo is a simplified version of the former primary athletics department logo. The school’s initials are more distinguishable and prominently pronouncedly in the latest rendition. The official font for the logo is being finalized according to one university source. It was also revealed that a secondary logo featuring a Wildcat could be in the works soon.
Intentional or not, the new branding represents the next chapter for the football program. Terry Sims takes over for Brian Jenkins as head ball coach after serving five years as an assistant on Jenkins’ staff.
Initial reviews of the new logo have been very favorable on social media. Here is a look at the first iteration of the revamped logo.
The MEAC announced its preseason offensive and defensive player of the year awards, its All-MEAC first, second and third teams honorees, and the 2015 predicted order of finish. All votes for the conference’s preseason awards are submitted by the league’s head football coaches and sports information directors.
After winning at least a share of four of the last five MEAC crowns, BCU was predicted to finish third this season. North Carolina A&T was predicted to finish atop the standings while perennial power South Carolina State was slotted in the number two spot. The Aggies and Bulldogs also boast the league’s preseason offensive and defensive player of the year.
NCA&T running back, Tarik Cohen and SCSU defensive tackle, Javon Hargrave were selected as Preseason Offensive and Defensive Player of the Year respectively. Cohen earned Co-Offensive Player of the Year honors last season while Hargrave was selected as the 2014 Defensive Player of the Year.
Seven Wildcats earned All-MEAC honors. Junior offensive line, Dariusz Bladek was the lone first team honoree. Michael Jones (RB), Trevin Huff (OL), Marquis Drayton (DB), Quentin Williams (QB), Anthony Jordan (RB), and Jonathan Cagle round out the Wildcats’ 2015 preseason All-MEAC selectees. Congrats Cats.
Green Bay — Soon after signing with the Green Bay Packers as an undrafted free agent, Tavarus Dantzler received a phone call from another Bethune-Cookman graduate: Nick Collins.
The former Packers safety had hyped up Dantzler’s team before a game last season, but the two weren’t necessarily close.
Collins got Dantzler’s phone number from a friend in Green Bay and surprised the linebacker.
His message was straightforward.
“It’s a job now,” Dantzler recalled Collins’ telling him. “There’s no class. So just get in the playbook, learn, come here, and come with an attitude of wanting to learn. Ask questions.”
The expectations for this Bethune-Cookman star won’t be set nearly as high as that 2005 second-round pick who’d go on to star in Super Bowl XLV, but the Packers will throw Dantzler into the mix at inside linebacker. This 6-foot-2, 240 pounder promises to bring an angry, determined playing style.
“Linebacker is a physical position,” Dantzler said. “Either you have it or you don’t. I like to play with that anger, that chip on my shoulder. I just pride myself on things like that.”
Green Bay bypassed all inside linebackers through the first three rounds of the draft, taking Michigan’s Jake Ryan 129th overall. A three-year starter, Dantzler finished with 176 tackles (19 for loss) and six forced fumbles. The Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference of the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) is a tad different than the Big Ten, though Dantzler’s workout numbers certainly got Green Bay’s attention.
Dantzler ran the 40-yard dash in 4.61 seconds, posted a 35½-inch vertical leap and has 34½-inch arms.
By comparison, Clay Matthews ran a 4.67 with a 35½-inch vertical out of USC and has 32¼-inch arms.
For Dantzler, the key was a newfound focus midway through college. Defensive coordinator Charles “Yogi” Jones remembers an 18-year-old kid who could care less about his classwork.
He had the talent. He was a “happy-go-lucky guy,” Jones said.
Heading into his third year, Dantzler had a daughter and Jones saw a metamorphosis.
“He’s determined to be in position to provide for his daughter,” Jones said. “This is what he wants to do to make a living. He’s not going to be denied. He wants it. This is a kid that’s hungry….It changed his life. It changed his perspective on his education, on his day-to-day work ethic, it changed everything.
After a 16 year hiatus, the latest rendition of a postseason bowl game to determine a black college football national champion is now official. The champions of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference and the Southwestern Athletic Conference will meet in a postseason bowl game on December 19th at the Georgia Dome in the inaugural Celebration Bowl.
A press release stated, “the Celebration Bowl is committed to providing the champions of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference and the Southwestern Athletic Conference, and their alumni, fans and sponsors a first-class bowl experience while continuing to celebrate the legacy, values and traditions of Historically Black Colleges and Universities.”
“As part of the conference’s continued efforts in branding and increasing its exposure on a national platform, I am elated that champions from the MEAC and the SWAC will compete in a bowl game, during the most exciting time of the year for collegiate football,” MEAC commissioner Dennis Thomas said in a statement. “Our continued partnership with ESPN will give our coaches, student-athletes and fans an opportunity to participate in an exciting bowl game, on a national stage, which will showcase their institutions and talented football programs. Adding a national television opportunity for our champion, during this time of year, only furthers our branding and marketability.”
The Celebration Bowl is the most recent incarnation of the now dormant Heritage Bowl and defunct Pelican Bowl. One major and controversial distinction between the Celebration Bowl and its predecessors is the MEAC champion will relinquish its automatic qualifier (AQ) slot into the FCS Playoffs in order to participate in the game. (The FCS Playoffs did not exist when the Pelican Bowl was operational (1972, 74-75) and the MEAC champion sometimes declined the automatic Heritage Bowl (1991-99) bid in favor of participating in the FCS (then I-AA) playoffs.
The financial payouts, length of the contract, and other pertinent details of the agreement have not yet been divulged. What we do know is the game is the property of ESPN Events and will be broadcasted on the ESPN family of Networks. It will be the second ESPN-created MEAC-SWAC game. (The MEAC/SWAC Challenge has been played for the past 10 seasons on Labor Day Weekend.) We also know there remains a chance that a MEAC team can participate in the FCS playoffs if it receives an at-large invitation. Bethune-Cookman is believed to have been the first at-large team omitted in 2014 and South Carolina State received an at-large invite in 2013.
Although not specifically stated in the release, the internal investigation is thought to center on alleged misconduct by former head football coach Brian Jenkins. The Montgomery Advertiser reported several former players including linebacker Rahdeese Alcutt, tight-end Justin Henderson, and offensive lineman Blake Pritchard alleged Jenkins violated NCAA rules by providing improper benefits to players, failing to make proper housing arrangements, and violating weekly practice time limits.
According to the Official Statement, BCU athletic department officials state they became aware of allegations of possible rules violations during the 2014 fall semester and immediately notified the NCAA and MEAC upon receipt of this information. Bryan Harvey, BCU’s Assistant Director of Athletics, also stated the school has launched an internal investigation; however, the school was not currently being investigated by the NCAA.
Jenkins is now the head coach at Alabama State. He enjoyed a highly successful run at BCU in which he won or shared four MEAC titles and earned three FCS playoff berths in five seasons at the Daytona Beach university.
See BCU’s official statement below.
Bethune-Cookman Issues Statement on Internal Investigation into Football Program
“During the fall semester of 2014, Bethune-Cookman University (B-CU) received information about allegations of possible violations of NCAA rules regarding our football program. We immediately notified the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) and National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) of this matter.
“B-CU has also launched an internal investigation which is ongoing in an effort to ensure and maintain compliance.
“The University will have no further comment until the investigation has been completed.”
Former players at Jenkins previous coaching job, Bethune-Cookman, have accused him of everything from leaving them homeless and toying with their scholarships to threatening them with steak knives, according to the Montgomery Advertiser. The Advertiser reports that Jenkins was being investigated at BCU prior to accepting the Alabama State job in December.
According to the report, former players have accused Jenkins of:
BCU began an investigation on Jenkins after he reportedly threatened two players, linebacker Rahdeese Alcutt and defensive end Brandin Hudson- with a steak knife.
According to a letter Alcutt provided at the request of Bethune-Cookman officials as part of the investigation, a teammate accidentally spilled a drink and Alcutt began laughing. Because Jenkins doesn’t allow talking at the pre-game meals, the commotion irked the head coach, Alcutt said.
“At this time, Brian Jenkins walked over to me and picked up a knife and pointed it at me and (Hudson) saying, ‘Do I have to cut your (expletive) throats to get you to be quiet?” Alcutt wrote in the letter. Jenkins then stared at the two players for several seconds, he said.
Ex-players have also accused Jenkins of forcing them practice more than the 20 hour per week maximum set out by the NCAA.
Former tight end Justin Henderson said that despite being on scholarship and getting Pell Grant money, he wound up with no place to live after transferring from Memphis to BCU. When he decided to transfer, Jenkins never signed his release form. He ended up coming back to BCU after he was told he couldn’t apply as an early applicant for the NFL Draft, but had to do so without a scholarship. That meant he had to go back to sleeping in his own truck, despite starting for Jenkins.
“Of course the coaches knew this,” Henderson said. “They could see my truck in the parking lot with everything I owned in it. They called it ‘living off the land.’ When you didn’t have a place to live, you were ‘living off the land out there,’ they said.”
Jenkins has not responded to the Advertiser’s attempts to reach him. Jenkins went 46-13 in his five seasons at BCU.
Sims served on Jenkins’ staff as assistant head coach, safeties coach and special teams coach for the past five seasons. Perhaps more importantly, Sims was regarded as the stabilizing agent in the BCU program over that same timeframe.
Director of Athletics Lynn Thompson stated “as we began our process of where do we go from here, we had to take stock in several things. We had to make sure we turned over every stone. We are not looking to become champions. We are champions.” (With that thought in mind,) “we saw best to stay in house. We looked to the rock of the program over the last four or five years, and it is my pleasure to introduce to you the new head football coach at Bethune-Cookman University, Mr. Terry Sims.”
“I’m bubbling right now” Sims stated. “It’s a great Christmas gift and I can’t wait to get going.”
The new head coach mentioned many aspects of the program would remain the same. “Coach Jenkins (and I) sat in that building with a bunch of men in 2010 and laid a plan, we worked the plan, and the plan has been successful. Why change?”
However, Sims did state, “I will be different from Coach Jenkins (in some aspects). I’m a people person so we will be different in that sense.” Sims also went on to state the offense would speed up and be more wide open under his reign.
One difference for sure between Sims and Jenkins will be the level of external expectations from Day One. Over the past five years, the Wildcats:
- have become a perennial Top 25 FCS program,
- have won at least a share of 4 MEAC titles, and
- have made three FCS playoff appearances.
BCU fans expect Sims to win immediately and to build on the success of the past five seasons. Sims took his first major step in ensuring the Wildcats’ continue their winning ways by keeping the majority of the coaching staff intact. Sims confirmed Yogi Jones (defensive coordinator), Jim Pry (offensive coordinator), Terry Williams (defensive backs), Lawal McCray (assistant head coach and tight ends), Earl Lane (defensive line), John Powers (offensive line) DJ McCarthy (player personnel), and Carl Franks (running backs) will all return to the BCU sidelines next season.
Coach Sims is a native of Jesup, Georgia and is the 17th head coach in program history. He played collegiately for Knoxville College. Previous coaching stops include:
|1994||Linebackers (Student Assistant), Knoxville|
|1995-96||Defensive Backs (Graduate Assistant), Louisville|
|1997-99||Running Backs/Recruiting Coord., Austin Peay|
|2000||Defensive Backs/Recruiting Coord., Texas Southern|
|2001-03||Asst. Head Coach/Defensive Backs, Texas Southern|
|2004||Defensive Backs/Special Teams, Prairie View A&M|
|2006-09||DBs/Special Teams/Recruiting Coord., Howard|