It’s Game Week

Hello Wildcat fans. It is game week! That’s right. You heard me correctly. I said game week. As in we are mere days away from an official, competitive football game against another team, from another university, wearing different color jerseys. The last time Bethune-Cookman found themselves in this position was in November 2019 when they secured their 80th FCS win of the 2010s. BCU’s 80 wins in the 2010s was highest among HBCUs and 8th in all of FCS. That’s pretty dang-on good if you ask me.  

Since that feat, the Wildcats had an entire season canceled due to the COVID pandemic. They changed conference affiliations from the MEAC to the SWAC. Reggie Theus was installed as the new athletic director after Lynn Thompson’s 30 year run in that position ended. There is a new university president in place and frankly too many other changes to enumerate. What has remained the same is “football is still football”, as head coach Terry Sims often reminds us, and I am glad that it is back in full swing.

The Great Enigma

Bethune-Cookman enters its first season in the SWAC as a bit of a mystery. The league’s head coaches and sport information directors predicted BCU to finish fifth out of six teams in the Eastern Division. This despite the Cats winning their past 8 matchups against SWAC opponents.

The tepid expectations are easy to reason when you consider the productivity BCU will need to replace from 2019. Quarterback Akevious Williams has graduated. So has Mr. Do Everything offensive weapon, Jimmie Robinson. On the defensive side of the ball, gone are Marquis Hendrix, Marques Ford and Trevor Merritt who led the team in tackles, sacks and interceptions respectively. Coach Sims’ is reluctant to share roster information, depth chart information or any information about his team publicly which makes the already difficult job of making projections next to impossible in Daytona Beach. Here is a snapshot of what we think we know.

Probable Impact Players

Bethune returns 3 of 5 starters along the offensive line in Nicholas Roos, Jamal Savage and Cedric Jackson. Add in a couple of transfers from Grambling State and Mississippi Valley and the Cats’ offensive front emerges as the most experienced unit on the squad. We fully anticipate Arkansas Pine Bluff transfer, Shannon Patrick, to enter the first game as QB1. Patrick led the SWAC in completion percentage (62.8%) and was second in passing efficiency (160.5) in 2019.

Six foot six tight ends Tyron Mallard and Kemari Averett tip the scales at 250 and 260 and move well for men of their size. We expect both to feature prominently in this year’s offense. We also anticipate running back Que’Shaun Byrd and wide receiver Marcus Riley will share the Jimmie Robinson offensive playmaker role this year. Byrd and Riley are exceptional athletes with great top end speed. Their ability to play in space should suit them well in the SWAC.

The linebacking crew will have two new starters flanking BCU’s top returning tackler and All-SWAC 2nd teamer Untareo Johnson. The Defensive line and defensive backfield return a bevy of experienced players including, Judas McKenzie, Tony Bowman and Jamarquis Reeves along the front and Henry Miller, Omari Hill-Robinson and Devuntray Hampton on the backend.

The depth along the offensive and defensive lines, the experience in the defensive backfield and the different kinds of matchup issues the Cats can create on offense are all positives for this year’s squad. The two biggest question marks facing this year’s team will be (a) can they get consistent production from the quarterback position; and (b) will they be able to rush the quarterback consistently?

When you consider all of the above information; compare it with what we think we know about other teams around the HBCU world and throw it all in a really advanced sports algorithm, the results state we still have no clue of what to expect this season. Objectively speaking, Bethune-Cookman is as likely to finish atop the Eastern Division as they are to finish in their predicted order of fifth. We just do not know. We do not know how COVID protocols will impact teams and games. We do not know how Bethune’s long list of new players will acclimate, gel and contribute. We do not know how well Cookman will handle the transition to the SWAC, although watching NCCU handle Alcorn last week is at least an early encouraging sign. There are simply too many variables to make any predictions with any real confidence. The good news for all of us is we won’t have to wait much longer to figure it all out.

A faithful crew of supporters will travel to El Paso to cheer on our guys as they take on the University of Texas-El Paso Miners this Saturday, September 4th at 9:00pm in the Sun Bowl.

The Miners blasted New Mexico State 30-3 last week in their season opener. BCU enters the contest as 19.5 point underdogs against UTEP but an upset is not out of the realm of possibility. Crazier things have happened.  

Join us here and on socials for updates and insights all year long. You can also join us to talk Bethune-Cookman football everyone Thursday night from 8:30pm -9:30pm on 106.3 Joy FM in the Daytona Beach Area or world wide.

Happy Football Season Wildcats. All Hail!

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