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Questions abound for Johnson C. Smith Golden Bulls football
Spring issues: Line depth and receiver corps
Published Thursday, March 15, 2018 8:35 pm
by Herbert L. White

Johnson C. Smith football has issues to resolve in spring practice.

The Golden Bulls, who open drills March 19, must replace their top three receivers add line depth and improve the special teams after going 2-8 in 2017. Coach Kermit Blount indicated offensive and defensive line depth were priorities going into the offseason as well as shoring up the kicking game. There’s also an opening at free safety, where three-year starter Carlo Thomas was one of the nation’s top playmakers.

What to look for in the spring:

Juice the offensive line
The Golden Bulls averaged an anemic 12.6 points per game as they struggled to get to the end zone. Versatile lineman Jordan Shaw and left guard Da’Quan Brown have exhausted their eligibility. Kenstine Oxendine and Octaveious Miles, a pair of freshmen who started most of last season, got pushed around at times. If they’re progressing in the spring, it could be a good trend.

Comfortable Terrance Ervin
The quarterback flashed brilliance at times in his first season at JCSU, but pressed to make plays at others. If the line improves as run blockers, it’ll take a lot of pressure off Ervin, who can create with his arm (115-of-241 passing, 1,314 yards, 9 touchdowns) and legs (92 carries, 270 yards, 1 TD).

Develop consistency at running back
Jachin Watkins was a good inside runner when provided space. He rushed for 283 yards on 110 tries last year, but 2.6 yards an attempt isn’t going to make it as a top running threat. Dedric Robinson and Braxton Gambrell are change of pace tailbacks, but could D’Jauntay Burrell turn some heads despite limited playing time in 2017 (three carries, 27 yards)?

New crop of receivers
This group took the biggest hit in terms of personnel, with the top three targets graduating and taking 54 combined receptions with them. The most productive of the returnees is Desmond Dozier, who scored a pair of touchdowns on 12 catches and is an accomplished kick returner as well.

Denorris Johnson, who caught seven passes for an average of 18.7 yards per reception, will get a long look as well. Gambrell, who was converted to receiver after starting the season as the top tailback, managed 16 catches for 159 yards.

Go stout against the run
The Golden Bulls struggled to stop opponents on the ground, allowing 21 rushing touchdowns and an average of 191.5 yards per game. Upgrading is paramount to lowering opponents’ 26.9 points per game average from 2017. Defensive end Sa’Von Williams showed potential late in his freshman season with 33 tackles (nine for loss) and four sacks while sophomore tackle Marques Garrison added 13 tackles. Junior defensive end Zach Cannon added 33 tackles (6.5 for loss) and 2.5 sacks.

Solid linebacker corps
JCSU has a good unit, with leading tackler Marcel Toran back after a 66-tackle, five-sack junior campaign. Kyaire Bynum added 48 stops and David Francis chipped in 43 tackles.

Secondary contenders
The Golden Bulls lose two-time All-America Thomas, who set a school record with 22 interceptions. Camerron Ellis, a 6-4, 185-pound redshirt freshman was listed as Thomas’ backup in 2017.

Cornerback Basir Wright returns after 45 tackles and a pair of interceptions as a junior and sophomore Tyki Lawson-Oates racked up another 35.

Special teams
Kicking was an adventure for Brandon Howard, who had six punts blocked early in the season. He connected on 3-of-7 field goals, including a 44-yard game-winner against Shaw on the final play of homecoming. Ironically, two of Howard’s conversions were 40 yards or longer.

Dozier is an electrifying kick returner, taking a pair for touchdowns last season, including a school-record 97-yarder.


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