|« Richmond Head Coach Mike London Is One Energetic Spider||McGuire Makes Holy Cross ’Saders Lethal »|
Presby Blue Hose Beef Up for FCS Foes
Presbyterian gets bigger, stronger to be competitive in Big South.
CLINTON — When Bobby Bentley took on the task of moving Presbyterian College from Division II to the Football Championship Subdivision, he made clear his intention to be immediately competitive.
He made good on his word. The Blue Hose finished their inaugural year in the FCS with a 6-5 mark. Included in the win column were victories against two of their future Big South Conference brethren.
This year, Bentley has stepped up the schedule and his players have responded accordingly.
“I think everyone got bigger, faster, stronger,” said junior quarterback Tim Webb.
“For us to get where we need to go, we’ve got to go out and play some good teams,” Bentley said.
If that is what it takes, then the Blue Hose definitely will arrive in 2008. They open with Wofford on Aug. 30 and will have met three other Southern Conference foes before the end of September.
Looming on Sept. 27 is a road trip to three-time defending national champion Appalachian State.
“We’re probably doing that a little ahead of schedule,” Bentley said.
Not if the Blue Hose’s learning curve matches last year’s pace. It is a rare thing in college football to see a team step up a level in play and still manage to produce a winning record.
Granted there were a pair of laughers against overmatched Pikeville and Chowan, but victories against Coastal Carolina and Virginia Military legitimized the school’s program.
There are 15 returning starters from last year’s team, including Webb, who set a FCS record with 648 passing yards in a game against North Greenville.
Webb said the Blue Hose are much more comfortable in Bentley’s frenetic spread offense.
“Looking back on last year at this time, we’re a lot further ahead in terms of what we’re putting in,” he said. “Everyone understands the system now and we can move a little bit faster with it.”
Bentley said this year’s offense will feature more balance but cautioned the imbalance in last year’s numbers do not tell the full story.
In 2007, Presbyterian passed for 3,817 yards and ran for 1,473. However, in Bentley’s scheme, many of the pass attempts are backfield screens to running backs. Bentley considers those plays to be “extended handoffs.”
Running back S.J. Worrell was the team’s leading rusher (715 yards) and second-leading receiver (53 catches, 558 yards).
As comfortable as the offense appears to be so far in the preseason, it is the Blue Hose defense that has gained the most ground, according to both Bentley and Webb.
“Our defense has gotten a lot better. They’re giving us some fits out there,” Webb said. “We’ve had three scrimmages and in two of them, they have kicked our butts.”
Said Bentley, “Our defense is definitely ahead of last year, especially in understanding what we’re trying to do.”
Returning five of the top six tacklers from 2007 — including a Big South defensive player of the year candidate in linebacker Antwan Thomas — doesn’t hurt, either.
Despite all the apparent improvement, Bentley said he’s remaining realistic about what the season holds for Presbyterian. Because of the schedule’s difficulty, the Blue Hose might not be able to improve on last year’s record.
“It’s just going to take time,” he said. “Man, we’ve come a long way, but there is still a long way to go. But that’s the thing to do right now during the transition, since we can’t compete for the playoffs until 2011. Hopefully we can build momentum.”
Note: The Blue Hose will honor deceased receiver Larry Thomas this season by wearing his number on their helmets. Thomas died in an April automobile accident on Interstate 26.
Blue Hose beef up for FCS foes
By Patrick Obley, The State (SC)
Photo Credit: File Photo/The State