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10 reasons B-CU can match 2010 -- or better
One wonders what Bethune-Cookman coach Brian Jenkins can do for an encore.
In his first season as a head coach last year, Jenkins led the Wildcats to a 10-2 record, a share of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference championship and a Football Championship Subdivision playoff appearance.
B-CU finished second among FCS teams in scoring offense (38.2 points per game) and first in turnover margin (plus 27). The Wildcats were second in causing turnovers with 41 on the season. They were also the last team in FCS to lose a game, falling to state rival Florida A&M in the final regular-season contest after star quarterback Matt Johnson went down with an injury.
Now, as the rest of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference spent the offseason trying to figure out how to overcome B-CU’s spread offense, the Wildcats have been trying to find a replacement for Johnson.
But with B-CU decimating Prairie View A&M in the MEAC/SWAC Challenge to topen the 2011 campaign, the coach is not conceding an inch.
“Last season was exciting. It was pleasing, but it was not satisfying,” Jenkins said.
Maybe nothing short of an undefeated season would satisfy the coach. While an FCS championship would seem like a stretch, here are 10 reasons why B-CU can match last year’s season and capture another conference championship.
1. TOP ASSISTANTS
Jenkins had an outstanding staff last year. This year’s might be even better. The top additions include new offensive coordinator Rob Spence, defensive line coach Earl Lane, running backs coach Autry Denson and quarterbacks coach Joe Dailey.
Spence spent 15 years as an offensive coordinator at such schools as Clemson, Syracuse and Toledo. Lane was the defensive line coach at LSU from 2006-08. Denson was the all-time rushing leader at Notre Dame before continuing his playing career in the NFL, and Dailey played quarterback at Nebraska and North Carolina and coached at the University of Buffalo and Kansas.
2. DOWN YEAR FOR MEAC
Of the other top conference challengers, South Carolina State has to replace four-year starting quarterback Malcolm Long, while FAMU has to replace running back Philip Sylvester, who finished fourth on the school’s all-time rushing list with 2,998 yards.
Meanwhile, five MEAC teams are starting over with new head coaches.
3. TALENTED NEWCOMERS
B-CU has added eight Football Bowl Subdivision transfers to the two who joined the team last year. Six of those, including quarterback Jamarr Robinson (Maryland) and running back Rodney Scott (running back), are skill players on offense.
4. TOP RECRUITING CLASS
While this may benefit the Wildcats more down the road, freshmen receiver Jhomo Gordon (Palm Bay Bayside), cornerback Nick Addison (Riverview Spoto) and quarterback Quentin Williams (Tampa Jefferson) could make an immediate impact.
5. DEPTH AT SKILL POSITIONS
Rodney Scott and Iowa State transfer Bo Williams join a returning running back corps that rushed for more than 1,000 yards last year.
Transfers Keith Stroud (Rutgers), Xavier Reese (Purdue) and Jared Mitchell (Mississippi) join a returning receiver corps that tallied more than 1,100 receiving yards last year.
6. HOME SWEET HOME
The Wildcats play eight of their 11 regular-season games in Florida. That includes five in Daytona Beach, two in Orlando (Prairie View A&M and Florida A&M) and their “guarantee game” at Miami.
7. HIGH-TEMPO OFFENSE
The rest of the MEAC could not stop it last year. This year the Wildcats will be able to refine it even further. Even with a new quarterback, B-CU’s foes will have trouble keeping up with the no-huddle offense.
8. BIG-PLAY DEFENSE
Most of the players who helped B-CU cause 41 turnovers last year are back, including safety Mike Williams (six interceptions, one fumble recovery), linebacker Ryan Lewis (four interceptions, two fumble recoveries) and defensive back Daniel Rhodes (one interception, two fumble recoveries).
9. IMPOSING IN THE TRENCHES
Not only are the ‘Cats stocked with athletic skill players, they have a preseason All-American candidate in center Natiel Curry (6-foot-2, 300 pounds) and the MEAC preseason Defensive Player of Year in Lewis (6-1, 245). Also projected as all-stars are inside linebacker Reggie Sandilands (6-1, 230) and defensive end Ryan Davis (6-4, 260).
10. THE WOW FACTOR IS GONE
The returning players know what to expect in their second year in Jenkins’ system, and what they expect is to compete for another conference championship. It won’t be easy to repeat last year’s record, especially with a likely loss at Miami, but Jenkins’ Wildcats don’t expect to take a step back.
Whom Wildcats start at QB was a mystery
According to Bethune-Cookman coach Brian Jenkins, the Wildcats’ quarterback derby had gone down to the wire.
Late Saturday night, Jenkins said he still didn’t know who be the signal caller when B-CU takes on Prairie View A&M in the MEAC/SWAC Challenge in the Florida Citrus Bowl in Orlando.
The smart money appeared to be on former Maryland quarterback Jamarr Robinson, who transferred this summer to B-CU for his final season of college eligibility. Robinson, who started in five games for the Terrapins last year, rushed for 326 yards and passed for 808 yards with six TDs and two interceptions.
In preseason camp, he competed with 2010 backup Jackie Wilson and redshirt sophomore David Blackwell, as well as true freshman Quentin Williams, last year’s Mr. Florida award winner who may redshirt this season.
Jenkins said the job had come down to Robinson and Blackwell.
“It will be a game-time decision as far as taking the first snap and taking it from there,” Jenkins said.
[Robinson got the nod and lead the Wildcats to a 49-7 lead in their 63-14 romp over PVAMU. Wilson and Blackwell saw significant second half action.]
The Wildcats were looking to replace MEAC Offensive Player of the Year Matt Johnson, who led B-CU to 10 straight victories before suffering a season-ending injury in a 38-27 loss to Florida A&M.
Filling in for Johnson in an FCS playoff loss to New Hampshire, Wilson passed for 192 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions.
New B-CU offensive coordinator Rob Spence said the Wildcats have tried to be fastidious in choosing a starter to run the no-huddle offense.
“You gear your offense to the personality and the talent of your quarterback position,” Spence said. “Your quarterback will affect the breadth and width of what you can do.”
Even though Spence wasn’t with the Wildcats last year, he said he has seen enough film to know that replacing Johnson won’t be easy.
“Matt was one of the best play-making quarterbacks I’ve seen in quite some time,” Spence said. “He was a point guard playing football, and that’s what you’re looking for in this style of offense.”
By BRENT WORONOFF, The Daytona Beach News-Journal