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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.
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