Defensive backs and linebackers preview

The strength of this year’s Wildcat squad is the defensive “back seven”.  The Cats return 4 linebackers and 3 defensive backs who started at least 2 games last season.  The top 6 tacklers are all back, 5 of whom are either defensive backs or linebackers.  

Secondary

Terry Williams, who was a great Wildcat DB in his playing days (2ndround draft pick of the NY Jets 1988), has built quite a resume for himself as BCU’s defensive backs coach.  During his tenure at Bethune, Williams has coached Buchanan Award winner and NFL Pro Bowler Rashean Mathis, All-Pro Safety Nick Collins, AP first team All-American and Buchanan Award finalist Bobby Williams, and All-MEAC first team performer Travis Roland.   Thankfully for the Cats the accolades for the secondary extend beyond individual awards.  The Wildcat secondary has held opponents to an under 50% completion rate in 5 of the past 7 seasons and they produce their fair share of turnovers year in and year out.  Last year, ball hawks Arkee Smith and Michael Williams recorded 11 interceptions from the safety position alone.  Smith

BCU's Michael Williams intercepts a pass

has since graduated but the Cats will look to M. Williams for leadership and production in the defensive backfield.   Although he did not start a single game in 2010, M. Williams finished the year with 6 INTs, was fourth on the team in total tackles, and was voted as a first team All-HBCU performer by BoxToRow/BASN. 

Returning starters Aaron Bagsby (FS) and Daniel Rhodes (CB) join M. Williams in the defensive backfield.  Bagsby and Rhodes ended 2010 5th and 6th respectively in total tackles.  DJ Howard started two games in 2010 before suffering a season ending injury.  Howard is a versatile athlete who can play both safety and corner.  3 Star recruit Dion Hanks participated in eight contests as a true freshman and will likely see increased playing time this year.  Jean Fanor, Cincinnati transfer Quincy Quetant, North Carolina Prep signee Marquis Drayton, and incoming true freshman Nick Addison are all likely contributors in this year’s secondary.

The one area of criticism for this group last year is that they did not make enough plays near the line of scrimmage.  The secondary and particularly the safeties will need to do a better job of recognizing and providing support against the outside zone and zone read plays that plagued the Wildcat defense a season ago.     Grade- B

Linebackers

Ryan Lewis (81 tackles, 4 ints, and 5 sacks) and Reggie Sandilands (81 tackles, 1 int, and 3.5 sacks) team up to lead what is arguably the best linebacking corp in all of HBCU football.  Lewis has been named as the preseason MEAC Defensive Player of the Year and a 2nd team All-American by the Sports Network.  Sandilands has received his share of preseason recognition as well being named on the first team All-MEAC defensive squad as well as on several watch list.  Lewis and Sandilands share a rather symbiotic relationship.  Both players are entering their third year as starters for the Wildcats and their height (6-1), weight (220), and playing styles are nearly identical.  Both players even have flowing dreadlocks hanging from their helmets as they chase down opposing running backs.  The superlative duo will be joined by returning starter Rock Angrand and capable backup Jarkevis Fields.  The linebackers possess great closing speed, they do a very nice job of shedding blockers, and they’re very instinctive.  Rutgers transfer Al-Ghaffar Lane will add more speed, athleticism, and depth to this already talented bunch.  There really are no glaring weaknesses amongst this group.   Our grade- A.

Advertisements

Quarterback, Running Back and Wide Receiver preview

There is an old adage in sports that states “defense wins championships”.  Perhaps that’s true, but the last I checked the team that scores the most points wins the game.  In this article we take a look at the units responsible for scoring touchdowns; the quarterbacks, running backs, and wide receivers.

Eddie Poole (pictured) scored 9 TDs in 2010.

Wide Receiver

Eddie Poole (Glades Central High School/Rutgers) is the most polished of BCU’s talented wide receivers.  He has good size at 6-3, 190 pounds, he runs good routes, but most importantly, he consistently wins in one-on-one situations.  Poole caught 33 passes for 550 yards and scored 9 touchdowns a year ago.  Poole’s former Rutgers teammate, Keith Stroud, is a welcomed addition to the receiving unit.  Stroud, a 4 star recruit (Fork Union Virginia Military Academy/Rutgers)  provides the Cats with another big, athletic target (6-4, 206 pounds) on the outside. http://rivals.yahoo.com/footballrecruiting/football/recruiting/player-Keith-Stroud-72410

Maurice Francois and Courtney Keith are former Option quarterbacks who transitioned to wide receiver last season.  Keith and Francois’ athleticism and football instincts allow them to make up for their inexperience at the position.  They are dynamic playmakers who are electric with the ball in their hands.  Both players should progress in their 2nd year as wide receivers.  Randy James and speedster Preston Cleckly are also expected to see playing time at the position. Sophomore Jordan Murphy provides the Cats with a sure-handed target at the tight end position.

The depth and versatility of the receiving corp makes it the highest rated unit on the offensive side of the ball.  Grade: B

Running Backs

Isidore Jackson scores in the 2nd Quarter of the FL Classic

Despite being a backup last year, Isidore Jackson led the squad with 11 touchdowns and only Matt Johnson rushed for more yards.  The offseason signing of Ole Miss transfer, Rodney Scott, means Jackson will likely have to share carries again this season. 

Rodney Scott is an agile runner who possesses the type of speed and vision that makes him a scoring threat from anywhere on the field.  Andronicus Lovette and Jonathan Moment provide good depth at the position combining for 524 yards and 9 tds last year (Lovette 264 yards and 6 touchdowns, Moment 260 yards and 3 touchdowns).  Last year’s unit was a servicable bunch but the Cats will need to get better production and more explosion from the running back position if they wish to duplicate last year’s success.  Grade: C- 

Quarterbacks

Jr. QB Jackie Wilson (#5)

The success of Brian Jenkins’ second season as a head coach will depend heavily on his team’s quarterback play.  Gone is the reigning MEAC Offensive Player of the Year Matt Johnson.  Jackie Wilson, David Blackwell, and Quentin Williams will look to replace Johnson as the primary signal caller.

Jackie Wilson is the only one of the three that has taken a snap from center against FCS competition.  Last year Wilson completed just 47 percent of his passes throwing 3 TDs and 2 INTs in the process.  Blackwell played quarterback for Iowa Western Junior College in 2009 before redshirting at BCU in 2010.  Although Blackwell and Wilson both took snaps with the first team during spring drills, Coach Jenkins has yet to reveal which player enters fall camp atop the depth chart. 

True Freshman Quentin Williams, the 2010 Florida “Mr. Football” award recipient is already the most popular quarterback on campus.  Williams is the state of Florida’s all-time leader in TD passes (109) and passing yards (10,384).  Yet “major” FBS schools were slow to offer him a scholarship because of his height (6-0).  Williams is extremely poised, he has a very strong and accurate arm and he is a threat in the running game.  A source close to the Wildcat program has stated “Williams will have a chance to play quarterback on Sundays when his college career ends”.  Quentin Williams is certainly the future of Wildcat football but the immediate question is ‘is he ready to contribute right away’?  The Wildcat Quarterbacks are a talented but unproven bunch.   Our preseason grade is a D+.

Offensive and Defensive Line preview

It’s only fitting that we start our preseason preview by highlighting the units that are traditionally the most overlooked; the offensive and defensive lines.

Offensive Line—Grade B-

All-American Center (#70) celebrating with teammates

While QB Matt Johnson received much of the praise last year for the success of BCU’s vaunted “Speedway Offense”, it is the offensive line that deserves much of the credit.  All American Center Natiel Curry leads the men upfront.  The Senior from Miami Norland appears on numerous preseason All-American and “Watch List”.  Tackles Marquell Rozier and Alex Monroe join Curry as returning starters on the O-Line.  The Cats will have to replace both starting guards from last year’s squad. Expect Junior College transfers Stavion Lowe and Blake Pritchard to compete for starting positions and add depth in the trenches.  Lowe, a 4-star recruit who originally signed with LSU in 2009, projects well at both guard and tackle.  http://rivals.yahoo.com/ncaa/football/recruiting/player-Stavion-Lowe-64825

The Wildcat offensive line had their share of struggles inside the Redzone in 2010. It’s hard to know if their redzone woes were a result of play-calling, scheme, or execution.  What is known is that this unit must iron out their redzone issues and produce better results inside their opponents’ 20 yardline if they hope to improve upon last year’s success.

Defensive Line

2010 FCS playoffs vs. UNH

Last year’s defensive front was solid.  They didn’t get pushed around, but they didn’t make as many “splash plays” as the faithful would have liked.  They also seemed to struggle getting lined up properly from time to time.  However, this description of the group does not describe the play of defensive end Ryan Davis.  The stud from Tampa Blake led the team with 6.5 sacks and shared the team lead for the most ‘tackles for loss’ with 14.   The coaches believe he has next level talent and that offenses must account for him at all times. Erik Williams and Eugene Solomon are solid players who could blossom into difference makers in their 2nd year in this defense.

The greatest void along this front a year ago was the lack of a consistent inside push against the pass and an interior anchor against the run.  Harold Love, a Feather River Community College transfer, may provide the type of consistent productivity missing from the tackle position a year ago. He seems to possess the type of off-the-ball explosiveness required to be a disruptive force in the middle.  But Love may not have been the biggest addition to the defensive line this past offseason.  The Wildcats signed Coach Earl Lane to be their new defensive line coach.  Yes, that Earl Lane; the former LSU defensive line coach who helped the Bayou Tigers earn a BCS championship and helped Glenn Dorsey win the Lombardi and Outland Awards in 2007.

Fueled by the off the field leadership of Lane and the one the field play of Ryan Davis, we expect this bunch to be the most improved unit on the Wildcats’ squad.  Our grade; C-

Upcoming preview–Backs and Receivers

Upcoming 2011 Preview

Salutations Wildcat fans.  “Da Beach” (Daytona Beach) forecast calls for highs in the 90s with afternoon thunder showers.  That could mean only one thing…football season is nigh.  In less than 60 days, the Fighting Wildcats will begin their defense of their 2010 MEAC Championship and 2010 HBCU National Championship.

To help satisfy your yearning for Wildcat football, we will breakdown each offensive, defensive, and special teams unit of the 2011 Fighting Wildcats.  Following our position breakdown, we’ll preview the Cats’ opponents and provide our Outlook for the 2011 season. 

Be sure to visit often and comment freely.  We would love to hear from you!