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Proving ground
Picked fourth in CIAA South, JCSU aims higher in preseason
 
Published Wednesday, August 14, 2013 11:45 am
by Herbert L. White

If Johnson C. Smith football needed any motivation, CIAA coaches provided it last month.

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PHOTO/CURTIS WILSON
Johnson C. Smith quarterback, who passed for 2,280 yards and 22 touchdowns last year, is being challenged to improve his decision-making by coach Steve Aycock.


For the second straight year, the Golden Bulls were picked fourth in the South Division in preseason voting. Last season, JCSU won its final four games to finish 6-4 and second in the division and coach Steve Aycock is looking for better results in 2013.


“I wasn’t surprised” by the preseason poll, he said. “That drives our kids to continue to work on deserving some respect. We don’t control that. The only thing we can do is control our destiny with playing good, smart, fast, physical football. We just have to see how that comes out at the end.”


The Golden Bulls return seven starters to an offense that averaged 31.3 points a game last season. Junior quarterback Keahn Wallace, a preseason all-CIAA pick who passed for a school record 2,280 yards and 22 touchdowns last year, is being challenged to improve his decision-making, an area in which he struggled when JCSU opened 2-4. Andrew Alexander (Ardrey Kell High) and freshman Deondre Townsend are the backups.


“Keahn is the guy, but he’s still got me questionable about his big junior year,” Aycock said. “I’m looking for him to step up and start faster, but it looks like he’s in a big thought process, which is kind of hindering him from starting faster.”


The offensive line, anchored by center George Orr and right tackle Rico Arellano (Butler High) is basically set with the exception of left tackle, where senior Cam Ransom (Harding High) and junior transfer Darrell Martin are competing.


“It’s Cam’s job to lose, but I think Cam’s doing the things he needs to do to hold on to it,” Aycock said.


Defensively, the Golden Bulls have a new coordinator in James Lott, who was promoted from defensive backs coach. His task is to improve a unit that allowed 29.2 points per game last year.


“(Lott’s) stepping in and he’s putting a lot of things into the system,” sophomore outside linebacker Austin Jacques (42 tackles, 6.5 for loss in 2012) said. “He was our defensive backs coach last year, so not too much has changed, but the changes are very effective. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens this season.”


The Golden Bulls return starting senior outside linebacker Darius Wallace (34 stops, 2 sacks) as well as defensive ends Dylan Steele and Chris Randolph, but lost two of their top three tacklers in safety Chris Sams and middle linebacker Mike Coats to graduation.


“We’ve got a couple of new people, so that covers the personnel, Jacques said. “Everybody has a fair shot. If they step up, they’re definitely going to be able to be productive for the season.”


“(Wallace is) solid and he’s one of our fastest linebackers,” Jacques said. “He’s quick and very explosive. We’ve got a lot of new middle linebackers coming in and for myself, I’m just going to continue to work hard and make myself better.”


Lott, a Clemson graduate who played 13 years in the NFL, NFL Europe and Canadian Football League, has introduced a more intense tempo to the defense.


“He’s hard-nosed and it’s good to have a coach who’s been there,” Jacques. “He was an all-American at Clemson, he played 10 years with the Chicago Bears and he’s bringing all that to us. We’re just trying to take it in one day at a time and just make ourselves better.”


The receiver corps is stacked with preseason all-CIAA Fred Scott (47 catches, 610 yards and six touchdowns), Terrell Hutchinson (32 receptions, 352 yards, three scores) and Chris Patterson (26 catches, 262 yards). That group will get a boost with the return of Independence High graduate Avius Capers, who has returned to JCSU after transferring to UNC Charlotte last year. In two seasons at JCSU, Capers has 53 catches for 742 yards and six touchdowns, which gives the Golden Bulls another viable receiving option.


“Capers is a guy we’re glad to have back,” Aycock said. “I’m excited about having him back and I think he’s even more excited about coming back and being part of something great.”

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