Who Will Ascend – (Week 1) #20 BCU at Tennessee State

Credits: BCU Athletics

Credits: BCU Athletics

In the spirit of Bethune-Cookman’s legacy of faith…THANK YOU JESUS IT’S FOOTBALL SEASON.

In less than 36 hours, the 2013 edition of the Fighting Wildcats will square off against Tennessee State in one of the most anticipated matchups of the HBCU season.  BCU will look to jumpstart its season and proclaim to the HBCU and FCS football world that they are worthy of the preseason hype.

When the Wildcats are on Defense

BCU return 7 starters to a defensive unit that led the nation in turnovers and ranked 7th nationally in Total Defense a season ago.  Among those expected to impact Sunday’s contest are 2013 MEAC Preseason Defensive Player of the Year linebacker Jarkevis Fields (103 tackles, 4 BU, 4 PD); All-American defensive end LeBrandon Richardson (53 tackles, 8.5 sacks, 13 TFL); and All-American safety Nick Addison (68 tackles, 4 INT, 7 BU, 11 PD).  The Wildcat D will look to make the Tennessee State offense, who will be without starting quarterback Michael German (suspension), one-dimensional.  Redshirt freshman and Tallahassee native Ronald Butler has been named as German’s replacement.

Butler will take snaps behind an experienced offensive line which includes All-OVC left guard Kadeem Edwards and All-American tight-end and former University of Florida signee A.C. Leonard.  New Smyrna High School product Telvin Hooks is expected to take over the starting running back duties for Tenn. State.  In a twist of irony, Tennessee State’s key offensive starters are all native Floridians: Butler (QB-Tallahassee), Edwards (OL-Sanford), Leonard (TE-Jacksonville), Hooks (New Smyrna Beach).

Key Matchup #1: BCU’s Front Seven vs. TSU’s running game
The football adage suggests great defenses take away something from the opposing offense.  Can Yogi Jones’ defensive front seven control the TSU running game and force redshirt freshman quarterback Ronald Butler to beat them with his arm?

Key Matchup #2: Nick Addison vs. A.C. Leonard
BCU’s All-American safety Nick Addison and Tenn. State’s All-American tight end A.C. Leonard are sure to lock horns throughout this contest.  Conventional wisdom suggests Leonard will be the primary pass receiving option for TSU’s young quarterback.  On the second play of last year’s contest, Leonard’s 80 catch and run setup TSU’s first score.  BCU defenders, Addison chief among them, must account for Leonard in the passing game and limit his big play ability.

When the Wildcats are on Offense

MEAC Preseason Co-Offensive Player of the Year Isidore Jackson has gained more rushing yards than any running back in BCU history.  Jackson’s 2,449 career rushing yards only trails Allen Suber and Pa’Tell Troutman (both of whom were option quarterbacks) on the school’s all-time rushing list.  Jackson is expected to be joined in the backfield by Anthony Jordan.  The one-two punch of Jackson and Jordan provides the Wildcats with great mix of physicality and elusiveness in their rushing attack.

BCU’s two depth chart, released earlier this week, did not clearly reveal who will start the game under center.  The starting quarterback for this contest was listed as Quentin Williams –or- Brock Waters –or- Jackie Wilson.  Expect two (if not all three) of the aforementioned quarterbacks to see the field in some capacity on Sunday.  Quentin Williams ended last season with the best numbers statistically (1163 yards on 85 of 142 attempts, 11 TDs, 2 INTs—445 yards rushing, 3 rushing TDs), however, it appears that both Wilson and Waters have had good preseason practices and have earned the right to be considered for the top position on the depth chart along with Williams.

Eddie Poole returns on the outside for what will be his 6th year of eligibility.  Poole, who was granted a medical redshirt by the NCAA, has caught a pass in every game of his BCU playing career (35).  The former Rutgers man will look to extend his consecutive game pass catching streak and take advantage of the single coverage he is sure to see during stretches on Sunday.  Preston Cleckly, Jhomo Gordon, and Justin Henderson will also have opportunities to make an impact in the passing game.

Perhaps the most important unit to watch during Sunday’s contest is the Bethune-Cookman offensive line.  All-MEAC performer Alex Monroe will look to anchor a unit featuring at least 3 new starters.

Tennessee State’s defense was tops in the OVC and returns all 11 starters from a season ago.  Top performers returning to the Tiger defense include All-OVC performers Stephen Godbolt (CB), Daniel Fitzpatrick (safety), and Nick Thrasher (LB).

Key Matchups #1: BCU offensive line vs. Tenn. State’s blitz package
TSU simply did not respect BCU’s passing game during last season’s meeting.  The Tiger’s loaded the box and run blitzed the Wildcats for the better part of 4 quarters.  Will the young BCU offensive line gel quick enough to create seams for the running game and protection in the passing game?

Key Matchup #2: Eddie Poole vs. Stephen Godbolt
This is a matchup of two of the best athletes and players at their respective positions in all of HBCU football.  The winner of this individual matchup may very well dictate their respective team’s play-calling ability throughout this contest.

Other Notes:

  • Bethune-Cookman and Tennessee State played annually from 1982-1987 with TSU winning 5 of the 6 contests.  The series was revived in 2012 and played before a near capacity crowd in Daytona Beach.  TSU defeated the Wildcats 21-14 in last year’s contest to improve their series advantage to 6 games to 1.  Bethune-Cookman’s lone victory against TSU occurred the last time the two teams faced off in Nashville in a 16-13 Wildcat win (1987).   Although TSU holds a decisive head-to-head advantage, the series has been very competitive with 5 of the 7 matchups being decided by 7 points or less.
  • Isidore Jackson is just 449 yards away from becoming Bethune-Cookman’s all-time leading rusher.
  • The Marching Wildcats will be in attendance.
  • Kickoff is scheduled for 8:00 PM (EST).  The game can be viewed live on ESPN3 or the WatchESPN app; click here for link http://es.pn/BCUvsTNST.

2 New features: “Who Will Ascend” & “All Hail Yes!”

Today, we’re announcing two new features to HailWildcats.com. The first is the “Who Will Ascend” preview/wrap-up page.

Beginning this season, all Hailwildcats.com pregame previews and postgame write-ups will be tagged in the category “Who Will Ascend.” Site users can now quickly access game previews and write-ups from a centralized location. Simply click the “Who Will Ascend” widget from the sidebar or the self-titled heading link to access the content.

The “Who Will Ascend” title was inspired by longtime Bethune-Cookman football public address announcer Rev. Isadore Williams. At each B-CU home game, fans are treated to Rev. Williams’ silky baritone voice. Rev. Williams is best known for his dramatic pauses during his announcements of Wildcat firstdowns; and for his legendary pregame oration which is commonly referred to as “Who Will Ascend.” The monologue is carried out as follows:

    “In just a few short hours, the question will be answered;

     who will ascend to the top of the mountain?

     Will it be (insert visiting mascot and team) from (insert visitor’s city);

     or will it be the Wildcats of Bethune-Cookman University, Daytona Beach, Florida.”

The crowd then cheers like it’s the first time they ever heard the monologue.

It’s an awesome piece of HBCU and college football pageantry and with his blessing, all previews and write-ups will now be tagged under the “Who Will Ascend” category.

The second new feature we are rolling out this season is the new All Hail Yes! spotlight. In the spirit of B-CU’s All Hail/Hail Wildcats mantra, the recurring All Hail Yes! feature will honor a player (current or former), coach (current or former), administrator, auxiliary group, alumnus, and/or supporter who has made a positive contribution to B-CU athletics. Check in frequently to view and vote for All Hail Yes! honorees.

College Colors Day – Friday, August 30th

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Greetings Wildcats and HBCU fans!  We are less than a week away from the kickoff of the 2013 college football season and the atmosphere is ripe with anticipation.

On this upcoming Friday, August 30th, thousands of fans from across the country will adorn themselves in the colors and paraphernalia of their favorite universities during the annual Wear Your College Colors Wherever You Are – COLLEGE COLORS DAY We encourage all Wildcat and HBCU fans to join in this celebration by proudly sporting your school colors and gear throughout the day on Friday, August 30th.

College Colors Day is an annual celebration dedicated to promoting the traditions and spirit that embody the college experience by encouraging fans across America to wear their favorite college or university apparel throughout the day on Friday, August 30th.

 

Rashean Mathis working with Detroit Lions’ First Team

Rashean Mathis - Credits ESPN.com

Rashean Mathis – Credits ESPN.com

ALLEN PARK — Rashean Mathis was signed by the Detroit Lions on Friday.  Four days later, the defensive back is working with the first-team defense.

The longtime Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback got his first major reps with the first team on Tuesday at nickelback. He split time there with Bill Bentley, once the clear favorite to win that job.

He also has repped at corner and especially safety, providing a veteran versatility that could help him land a spot on the 53-man roster.

“We value versatility,” Lions coach Jim Schwartz said. “He’s a very experienced player and a very savvy player. It showed in his ability to pick things up quickly and be able to get him on the field.”

Mathis was a standout safety at Bethune-Cookman, and played the position for 10 games as a rookie with the Jaguars before an injury to another player forced him to corner.

He found a home there, playing 10 years for the Jaguars and making one Pro Bowl in 2006.

Read on: http://www.mlive.com/lions/index.ssf/2013/08/new_signee_rashean_mathis_alre.html

All-American Tackle Terrance Hackney Academically Ineligible

The Bethune-Cookman football team will be without the services of All-American left tackle Terrance Hackney when they take to the gridiron this season. Sources close to the program have stated Hackney is academically ineligible this season.

The 6-6, 310 pound junior from Chapel Hill, NC helped anchor the MEAC’s top offense in 2012 and earned numerous All-American honors including Lindy’s 2013 Preseason All-FCS First Team and Sports Network 2013 All-FCS Second Team recognition.

Sources state an official release regarding Hackney’s status is expected on Monday.

Additionally, class of 2012 signee and highly regarded wide receiver Ray Martin has also left the program. According to online reports, Martin has transferred to Fresno City College in California

Wildcats debut at #20 in FCS coaches poll

FCS_logoSPARTANBURG, S.C. – The Bethune-Cookman Wildcats are ranked 20th in the 2013 Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) Preseason Coaches Poll.  BCU, winners of two of the last three MEAC crowns, finished 23rd in the final Coaches Poll last season and 15th in 2010.

Two time defending FCS National Champions North Dakota State received 23 of 26 first place votes and grabbed top honors in the poll.  Montana State earned the No. 2 preseason ranking, Eastern Washington is third, followed by Sam Houston State and Wofford rounding out the top 5.

The FCS Coaches Poll is based exclusively on a voting panel of head coaches in the FCS under the cooperation of the Collegiate Commissioners Association (CCA) and the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) and is administered by the Southern Conference.

Preseason 2013 FCS Coaches Preseason Poll

Team (No. 1 Votes) 2012 Record Points Final 2012 Ranking

1. North Dakota State (23) 14-1 645 1

2. Montana State (1) 11-2 591 5

3. Eastern Washington 11-3 549 4

4. Sam Houston State (1) 11-4 534 2

5. Wofford 9-4 450 7

6. Central Arkansas 9-3 428 10

7. South Dakota State 9-4 410 17

8. New Hampshire 8-4 386 13

9. Villanova 8-4 381 16

10. Illinois State 9-4 379 9

11. Cal Poly 9-3 348 11

12. Towson 7-4 347 15

13. Stony Brook 10-3 326 12

14. Richmond 8-3 274 18

15. James Madison 7-4 235 21

16. Northern Iowa 5-6 218 NR

17. Lehigh 10-1 198 14

18. Northern Arizona 8-2 196 20

19. Eastern Kentucky (1) 8-3 188 19

20. Bethune-Cookman 9-3 159 23

21. Coastal Carolina 8-5 140 24

22. Montana 6-2* 135 NR

23. Eastern Illinois 7-5 120 25

24. Youngstown State 7-4 107 NR

25. Chattanooga 6-5 104 NR

Others receiving votes: Wagner (87), Colgate (67), Tennessee State (52), Harvard (48), Delaware (47), The Citadel (39), Liberty (39), Arkansas Pine-Bluff (35), Indiana State (27), Stephen F. Austin (19), McNeese State (16), Penn (13), Alcorn State (12), Jacksonville State (11), Samford (10), Norfolk State (7), Alabama State (7), UC Davis (7), Southern Illinois (6), Maine (5), Albany (5), Tennessee Tech (5), UT Martin (4), Gardner Webb (4), Sacramento State (3), Hampton (3), San Diego (2), Jackson State (1), Missouri State (1), Brown (1)

* Final 6 games of 2012 vacated

Note: The following programs are ineligible for the Coaches Poll due to their transition to the FBS- Appalachian State, Charlotte, Georgia Southern and Old Dominion.

 

5 Questions from Fall Camp

 

DSC_0119The Bethune-Cookman football team has enjoyed a prolific run of success under the leadership of now 4th year head coach Brian Jenkins.  Over the past 3 seasons, the Jenkins led Wildcats have accumulated the highest winning percentage of all Division I (FBS and FCS) football programs in the state of Florida; BCU has earned 2 MEAC titles during that span; and they are currently riding a 14 game conference winning streak.

14 starters return to the offensive and defensive units (7 on each side) this season.  Among those returning are 2013 MEAC Preseason Defensive Player of the Year, Jarkevis Fields (linebacker), and 2013 MEAC Preseason Co-Offensive Player of the Year, Isidore Jackson (running back).  The Beach Cats led the conference in Total Offense (387.9 yards per game) and ranked 7th Nationally in Total Defense (301.4 yards per game) a season ago.

In less than 30 days, the Wildcats will carry their talented squad and extremely high expectations into Nashville to square off against fellow Top 25 foe Tennessee State.

Here are 5 key storylines to watch throughout Fall Camp as BCU continues its pursuit of becoming one of the nation’s premier FCS programs.

 

How Well/Quickly Will the Offensive Line Gel?

BCU suffered its greatest attrition from a season ago along the offensive line.  All-MEAC first teamer Alex Monroe and capable starter Rashard Brown will look to anchor the unit.  Brian Dorsey, Michael Jones, and Josue Joseph are all highly talented players who have played quality minutes at the collegiate level.  The trio will have first dibs at claiming the 3 vacant starting roles along the offensive front this season.

The Wildcats signed 6 quality offensive linemen on signing day including 2 JUCO transfers; and if history is any indicator, coach Jenkins’ has one or two transfer offensive linemen walking around campus whose identities will remain concealed until kickoff draws near.

There is no shortage of talent or bodies at this position.  The question is will this group gel quickly enough and well enough to help BCU lead the MEAC in Total Offense for a 4th consecutive year?

 

Will the Passing Game Progress in 2013?

The overall success of this year’s team may very well come down to how effective the Wildcats will be in the passing game.  The Beach Cats passed for a pedestrian 147 yards per game and only eclipsed the 200 yard passing mark in one contest last season.

Top pass catching target Eddie Poole returns for another year as does big play potential receivers Preston Cleckley and Jhomo Gordon.  CFPA Awards Watch transfer tight end Justin Henderson is a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses and provides the Wildcats with another quality pass catching option.

Jackie Wilson, Quentin Williams, and Brodrick Waters are in their 4th, 3rd, and 2nd year respectively in this offense.  Brian Jenkins has repeatedly stated that all three quarterbacks are capable of leading the Wildcat offense, but if BCU is to truly take that next step, at least one of the aforementioned signal callers will need to elevate the passing game into a more lethal component of the BCU attack.

 

Who Will Emerge as the Team Leaders?

Coaches lay the foundation and parameters of a successful program, but players lead players.  BCU received a great deal of on the field and emotional leadership from players like D.J. Howard, Eugene Solomon and Dawud Lane last season.  All three have moved on and a new crop of vocal, performance and emotional leaders must now emerge.

Speaking about leadership only excites coaches, but it is as critical to a team success as 1,000 yard rushers and All-American quarterbacks.

 

What Newcomer Will Have the Greatest Impact?

Justin Henderson has yet to play an official down for the Maroon and Gold, yet the transfer from the University of Memphis has already been named to the CFPA Awards Watch list for tight ends.  Henderson enjoyed a highly productive spring campaign and will look to provide BCU quarterbacks with a security blanket and matchup advantage in the passing game this coming fall.  On the defensive side of the ball, University of Miami transfer Thomas Finnie will likely compete for one of the starting cornerback spots and help bolster a defensive backfield which led the country in takeaways last season.

Returning players Anthony Jordan (RB) and Erik Williams (DL) possess all-conference level talent and will surely be highly impactful this season if they can overcome the injury bug.

 

How Well Will the Team Handle Expectations?

Bethune-Cookman received 16 of the 21 first place votes casted in the MEAC’s annual preseason poll.  The Wildcats are coming off a perfect 8-0 mark in conference in 2012.  Brian Jenkins’ squad is sure to get every team’s best effort in the 2013 campaign.  If the Wildcats wish to defend The Belt, they must stay emotionally and physically engaged for 12 weeks next season.

Bethune-Cookman travels to Nashville on Sunday, September 1st for a 7:00 P.M. kickoff against Tennessee State in the John Merritt Classic.  The Wildcats are 3-0 in season openers under the leadership of head coach Brian Jenkins.