|Forward progress at JCSU|
|With another winning season, expectations rise|
|Published Tuesday, November 20, 2012 2:56 pm|
After finishing above .500 and second in the CIAA South, Johnson C. Smith football has a definitive goal: Compete for the division title in 2013.
|Freshman linebacker Austin Jacques is part of a young but improving defense at Johnson C. Smith. The Golden Bulls didn’t allow more than 21 points in their final four games of the season – all wins – as JCSU overcame a sluggish start to finish 6-4. It was the program’s second straight winning season, which last happened in 1973.|
The Golden Bulls (6-4, 5-2 CIAA) have enough ingredients to at least improve on its 2012 record, which took a hit with upset losses to West Virginia State and Lincoln. They rebounded from a 2-4 record to win four straight to beat preseason expectations of the league’s coaches, who predicted a fifth-place finish in the six-team CIAA South.
JCSU coach Steve Aycock is looking to leverage the Golden Bulls’ consecutive winning seasons – which last happened in 1973 – as a selling point with recruits.
“We’ve had a few guys come in and visit with us that’s excited about what we’re doing,” he said. “We just hope people look at since we’ve taken over as head coach and brought the staff in that Johnson C. Smith is a team on the rise.”
Although Winston-Salem State is the undisputed king of the CIAA, JCSU returns enough personnel to perhaps contend for a spot in the NCAA Division II playoffs or Pioneer Bowl.
“Leadership and commitment is a big point of getting to Winston-Salem State’s level to compete with them,” sophomore quarterback Keahn Wallace said.
Here’s a look back at 2012 and forward to what’s possible in 2013.
Line: This is JCSU’s most important, yet understated asset. All five starters return, anchored by center George Orr and right tackle Rico Arellano, an all-CIAA pick in 2011. As a unit, they paved the way for the Golden Bulls’ 31.3 points a game scoring average. With another year of experience and good health, they could be even better.
Quarterback: Wallace produced the best season in school history, completing 175-of-278 attempts for a record 2,280 yards and 22 touchdowns. Wallace improved his decision-making over the final five games, which cut down his turnovers. Coincidentally, JCSU’s productivity improved as a result.
With another year in offensive coordinator Steve Shipp’s scheme, Wallace can take aim at breaking every meaningful passing mark at JCSU and perhaps all-CIAA.
Tailback: Dedrick Anderson, who produced the school’s first 1,000-yard rushing season since 1991, graduates, but Denzel Hartley (66 carries, 225 yards) returns and is capable of carrying the every-down load. In today’s pass-first environment, he’ll need to provide a threat as both a receiver and blocker. Freddie Jones (15 carries, 56 yards) is also a possibility.
“We did a great job recruiting,” Anderson said. “There (are) a lot of athletes at the back position. The backups, I know they’re going to carry it well. Fred is a great athlete and none of the linemen are graduating.”
Said Aycock: “We can’t replace Dedrick Anderson. We’ve got to find the next best one as we (recruit) running backs in the city. There’s some good running backs in the state of Georgia we’re going after.”
Receivers: Top target Matthew Jeffries is the only other starter who won’t return in 2013, but the cupboard’s stocked with freshman Fred Scott (47 catches, 610 yards, six touchdowns) joining juniors Terrell Hutchinson (32 catches, 352 yards, 3 TDs) and Chris Patterson (26 receptions, 262 yards, one score).
Tight end Jimmy Drye caught just nine passes but scored three touchdowns.
Line: Ends Derrick Johnson and Dylan Steele and tackle Rashad Dukes will graduate. Underclassmen Darius Robinson and tackle Jabari Carney will move up in the rotation.
Linebackers: Michael Coats graduates, but freshman Austin Jacques (42 tackles) and junior Spencer Shine (35 tackles, 2.5 sacks) are playmakers. Shine returned a fumble and blocked punt for scores.
Secondary: This was perhaps the most improved group. Safety Chris Sams, who led the Golden Bulls with 58 tackles, is graduating. Cornerback Damion Miles had 38 tackles to go with a team-high 12 pass breakups and 13 passes defensed. Sophomores Frantz Charles and Kerry Hartley provided an upgrade on the corners.
Said Aycock: “It looks good going into 2013, but we’ve got to get focused on what we’ve got in here. We’re going to get on recruiting hard. It looks good on board but we’ve got to coach these guys up and get them ready for winter workouts.”
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