|JCSU’s football goal: Play up assets in coach Blount’s fourth season|
|Golden Bulls have more depth, maturity|
|Published Wednesday, August 15, 2018 11:17 am|
The first significant injury of Johnson C. Smith’s preseason football drills took place before camp.
Coach Kermit Blount opened fall practice in a cart with a walking boot and crutches for his right ankle, the result of a July bicycle crash. He originally thought the injury was a sprain, but a diagnosis revealed a break.
“I can’t do what I could when I was 20,” Blount, 60, said.
Limited mobility aside, Blount is excited about the Golden Bulls, who opened camp Friday. They have more depth and experience than at any time in his previous three seasons, and with some continuity in the coaching staff, there’s no wholesale learning on the fly.
“We wanted to cover more of our special teams, start teaching the basic stuff offensively and defensively,” Blount said. “We’re getting a little conditioning in, but actually teaching at the same time.”
Offensively, the Golden Bulls have a battle brewing at quarterback, where 2017 starter Terrance Ervin was a no-show and Jordan Lane transferred to Wingate. If Ervin doesn’t report, senior Harold Herbin is the most-experienced player at the position as part-time starter over his first two seasons. Herbin, who completed 3-of-12 passes for 16 yards last year, is a contender along with sophomores Antonio Wallace (South Mecklenburg High) and Ernest Harper as well as freshman Tyshun Surratt, a Gaffney (S.C.) High graduate and two-star recruit, according to online talent website 247 Sports.
“We’ve got some really young quarterbacks,” Blount said. “We still have Herbin, who’s been a starter here before and been in the battle. We think we have enough talent at that position where we can come up with our three rotation guys. At the end of the day, if [Ervin’s] not here, we’ve got to play and we’ve got to get one ready to go.”
Regardless of who earns the quarterback job, he’ll play behind an experienced line that returns four starters – left tackle Denzel Marshall, left guard D’Quan Brown, center Kenstin Oxendine and right tackle Octaveious Miles. Jachin Watkins, who led JCSU with 283 rushing yards, returns to the backfield.
“We’re real deep, we have a lot of talent,” said junior receiver Desmond Dozier, who paced the Golden Bulls with four touchdowns (two on kick returns) despite missing the final three games with a knee injury. “We have a lot coming back, so I think we’re going to be real great.”
Defensively, JCSU returns a solid linebacker corps in Marcel Toran, Kyaire Bynum and David Francis. Toran led the Golden Bulls in tackles (66) and sacks (five) last year, while Bynum added 48 stops and Francis 43. The biggest loss, however, was All-America free safety Carlo Thomas, the school’s all-time interceptions leader with 22. Camerron Ellis moves into that spot.
Sa’Von Williams, a 2017 CIAA all-rookie pick, and fellow sophomore Jabriel Robinson are the incumbents at defensive end, while Zach Cannon returns at defensive end.
“The number one thing for the defense is [stopping] the run – any kind of run play,” Toran said. “Any time you stop the run, 90 percent of the time you have a good chance of winning the game. The CIAA has a lot of good running backs, but we believe we’ve got a good defense.”
With the regular season opener against Wingate two weeks away, Blount believes JCSU is better than last year’s 2-8 squad that lost three games by five points or less. Stability and maturity are the keys to turning potential into wins.
“Although we were 2-8, the record doesn’t indicate how good a football team we could’ve been,” he said. “We lost [two] ball games by three points; one by [five]. We just didn’t get out of the box good last year, and then when I look back to this time last year, we were making a change at the offensive coordinator position. Coach [Steve] Shipp was coming in running and teaching the offense on the go, so we had a lot of distractions, a lot of adversity last year. I think the biggest adversity for us now is I’m not able to be on the field coaching…but at the same time, we use that 2-8 as a motivation piece for us. We don’t dwell on it a lot, but we think this is a totally different football team.”
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