|JCSU leans on experience and playmakers|
|Published Thursday, April 10, 2014 6:12 am|
Johnson C. Smith is scheming to stretch the field on offense.
The Golden Bulls worked on deep passing during spring drills to add more pizzazz to a unit that averaged 30.1 points per game in 2013 and returns the core of its skill position players.
“Most definitely more vertical based on what’s coming back,” JCSU coach Steve Aycock said before the April 9 with intrasquad scrimmage to close spring practice. The Golden Bulls are loaded with offensive weapons, starting with quarterback Keahn Wallace, who passed for 1,950 yards and 15 touchdowns last year despite being hobbled by injuries that limited his effectiveness.
Wallace’s completion percentage was nearly equal to 2012’s numbers (171-of-276 compared to 175-of-278) but the junior passed for seven fewer touchdowns and 330 fewer yards than a year earlier when the Golden Bulls went 6-4. They finished 5-5 in 2013.
“This year, what we’re going to try to focus on is getting the ball downfield in the air and letting Keahn take care of it by putting us in winning situations,” Aycock said.
Wallace will have plenty of experienced receivers with Avius Capers and Chris Patterson returning for their final campaign along with sophomore Fred Scott, JCSU’s top deep threat. Each scored five touchdowns last year while Patterson led the Golden Bulls in receptions (53) and receiving yards (728). Freshman Roderick Carter, who redshirted last season, adds another vertical threat.
“He’s going to be a big part of it,” Aycock said. “I think we can take advantage of Roderick Carter and Fred Scott on the field to help us win some games and put us in some situations on special teams with punt returns and kick returns to help us stretch the field.”
Defensively, JCSU is better situated at linebacker and the secondary than up front, where graduation took a toll. Jovontay Williams, a 6-3, 245-pound junior defensive end who rang up 12.5 sacks last season, is the only starter returning to the front four. The linebacker corps of Anthony Allen (team-high 77 tackles, 2.5 sacks in 2013), Jerel Miller (54 tackles, 3.5 sacks), Austin Jacques and Spencer Shine return.
The most improved unit may be the secondary, where free safety Kerry Hartley has been playing cornerback in some coverage packages to take advantage of his range.
“He’s playing corner in situations based on the call we have,” Aycock said. “Of course, we still have (Damion) Miles and Alan Carson on the corners and (Hartley) will be at safety. We’re looking to get Brett Love and Michael Grant (who) have some pretty good playing hours with us to mesh together.”
JCSU has major questions heading into preseason drills in August – graduation thinned the offensive and defensive lines – but Aycock believes the pieces are in place to improve on last year’s result.
“If we can score fast and count on the defense to try to help us win six ball games” JCSU can compete, he said. “A lot’s going to come down to them this year.”
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