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JCSU driven to beat history, preseason poll
Golden Bulls aim for consecutive winning seasons
Published Thursday, August 16, 2012 8:23 am
by Herbert L. White

Johnson C. Smith quarterback Keahn Wallace isn’t impressed by the league’s preseason poll.

Conference coaches picked the Golden Bulls to finish fifth in the six-team South Division despite coming off a 6-5 season and Pioneer Bowl win in 2011. Wallace, the league’s offensive rookie of the year, was livid.

Johnson C. Smith football coach Steve Aycock (left) had much to smile about after the Golden Bulls’ 6-5 season in 2011. The goal in 2012 is to go above .500 for consecutive seasons – which hasn’t happened since 2003.

“It’s motivation at the same time it’s disrespect,” said Wallace, who accounted for 2,478 total yards and 24 touchdowns (16 passing) as a freshman. “What we did last year put a big dent in the CIAA from the standpoint of scoring, making plays, keeping our defense off the field. I look at it as disrespect because we’re building on what we have done and for them to rank us fifth in our side of the conference is disrespectful.”

Golden Bulls coach Steve Aycock is more philosophical, noting preseason expectations ultimately give way to on-field performance.

“It’s more of an incentive for us,” he said. “Our kids took it personal, but we’re playing in a hard (division) over here with Winston (-Salem State) going to the Division II playoffs and the final four, so this is an impressive side. The only teams we beat in the Southern Division were Livingstone and Shaw. I tell our guys we don’t control (polls). The only thing we can control is what happens in our circle – the players, coaches, managers and trainers. If we take care of that and keep our nucleus strong, we’ll be OK.”

The nucleus consists of 12 returning starters – six on each side of the ball – but change will be evident. JCSU lost most of last year’s receiver depth due to graduation and the transfer of two-year starter Avius Capers and key backup and kick returner B.J. Trimble to Charlotte and Auburn, respectively. But the Golden Bulls return Matthew Jeffries, who caught 20 passes for 345 yards and five touchdowns in six games last year.

“Juice worked out mad this summer and came in with one goal to be that guy,” Aycock said. “He showed us that in spurts last year but I’m looking for more of it this year. He’s going to be that guy who’s going to be on the field, and I’m not looking to pull him off.”

The Golden Bulls added Dimitri Lowry, who caught 67 passes for 1,209 yards and 23 touchdowns last year at Bluffton (S.C.) High to lead a freshman class of receivers.

“We’ve gotten 10 degrees better with the kids we recruited as true freshmen, like Fred Scott, who’ll take the role of Trimble and do it … better,” Aycock said. “Louis McGee and Lowery are two freshmen we recruited to take Avius’ place and we’ve been able to get (junior) Terrell Hutchinson into the slot position.”

First-year offensive coordinator Steve Shipp is diversifying the attack by spreading the ball to tight end Jimmy Drye and tailbacks Dedrick Anderson and Denzel Heartley in the passing game. Wallace likes the change.

“We lost our OC, we lost our receivers,” he said. “We’ve got new guys coming in. But the way we’re looking now, in my eyes, we’re able to go 8-2.”

Defensively, JCSU is set up front with all-CIAA end Derrick Johnson (Hopewell High) and Dylan Steele at end while Rashad Dukes returns at tackle. Linebacker Michael Coats led the Golden Bulls in tackles (76) and interceptions (4) to lead a group that’s sorting through multiple candidates.

The Golden Bulls are looking to improve on last year’s 26.2 points allowed average – 87th among 156 Division II teams.

“They are going to be a heck of a lot better,” Aycock said. “The defense set goals I know we can attain. One of their mottos is ‘87 with 55 to go.’ They’re trying to get into the upper third. We’re going to be a whole lot faster. I feel good about what the defense is trying to accomplish this year.”

As a group, JCSU is trying to post consecutive winning seasons for the first time since 1973. History and the CIAA coaches’ poll suggest it won’t happen, but the Bulls aren’t buying it.

“That’s always the toughest thing here, having a good second season, a back to back winning season,” Aycock said. “I’m excited. I was maybe a little bit disappointed about the pick overall, but we can’t control that. We know Sept. 1 is coming and West Virginia State is where we’ll travel to and look forward to taking on the challenge starting there. Hopefully, we’ll be playing somewhere in late November.”

Said Wallace: “It’s historical, but at the same time, from what we’ve done they have to give us our respect. We lost three or four games in our conference, but at the same time, look how we impacted our conference.

“For them to put us fifth in our side of the conference, I can’t stand it.”


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