5 Questions from Fall Camp

IMG_9324The 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

TSims

1st year head coach Terry Sims

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.

Donald Smith #16

Donald Smith #16

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.

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

Alvin “Shine” Wyatt awarded $771,000, lose age discrimination suit

alvin%20wyattOn Wednesday afternoon, Seventh Judicial Circuit Judge Terence Perkins ordered that Bethune-Cookman pay former head coach Alvin “Shine” Wyatt nearly $771,000 in restitution stemming from a wrongful termination lawsuit filed against the university in 2010.

Wyatt flamboyantly patrolled the sidelines of Municipal Stadium as Bethune-Cookman’s “head ball coach” from 1997-2009.  Wyatt accumulated a 90-54 record during his 13 year tenure and surpassed the legendary Rudolph “Bunky” Matthews as BCU’s all-time winningest coach.

Wyatt’s teams finished at 5-6 in three of his final four seasons and suffered drubbings (58-35 in 2008 and 42-6 in 2009) at the hands of in-state rival Florida A&M in his final two seasons at the helm.  He was unceremoniously fired by then BCU President Trudie Kibbe Reed at the conclusion of the 2009 season.

The now 65 year old coach sued the university in 2010 claiming breach of contract.  He stated in his suit that he was “wrongfully terminated without cause and without written notice as required in his contract”.  Wyatt also cited age discrimination as motive for his firing and sought $1.2 million in damages.

Judge Terence Perkins ruled that the university had in fact breached Wyatt’s contract and awarded him $771,000 in restitution.  The payment represents four years of salary, other guaranteed income, and retirement match contributions Wyatt’s existing contract would have paid him had he not been wrongfully terminated.

Judge Perkins ruled against Wyatt in his age discrimination claim against the university stating that no evidence of age discrimination was provided.

Wyatt graduated from Bethune-Cookman in 1970 and was drafted by the Oakland Raiders later that same year.  He spent five years in the NFL and World Football League before joining the BCU coaching staff as a defensive backs coach in 1975.  For 31 of the next 34 years, Wyatt held various positions on the BCU football staff including defensive backs coach, linebackers coach, defensive coordinator, assistant head coach, and head coach.

In 1998, Wyatt led BCU to its first winning season since 1985.  He guided the Wildcats to their first ever playoff appearance in 2002 and returned to the NCAA playoffs for a second time a year later.

Wyatt coached a bevy of players who went on to play in the professional ranks among whom include NFL pro-bowlers Nick Collins (Green Bay), Rashean Mathis (Jacksonville), and Eric Weems (Atlanta).  Other professional players coached by Wyatt include Steve Baggs, Damion Cook, Allen Suber, Anthony Bass and others.

Rashean Mathis receives banner honor

PORT ORANGE, Fla. – Rashean Mathis and his Jacksonville Jaguars teammates visited Port Orange Tuesday evening. The Jaguars graciously agreed to give B-CU stage time during which a stadium banner was unveiled honoring Mathis’ 2002 Buck Buchanan award winning season.   Mathis set an NCAA FCS Division record with 14 interceptions that year, lead the Wildcats to a Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference championship, their first-ever FCS playoff appearance and their largest victory over Florida A&M in 27 years.  Mathis was presented a replica of the banner that will hang alongside Larry Little’s NFL Hall Of Fame banner at the entrance of Daytona Beach’s Municipal Stadium.

Click here for the full story.  http://www.b-cuathletics.com/sports/m-footbl/spec-rel/060612aaa.html

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.