|Football future is now for Johnson C. Smith’s Antonio Wallace|
|Quarterback aims for physical, mental growth|
|Published Wednesday, March 27, 2019 10:12 pm|
|PHOTO | CURTIS WILSON|
|Johnson C. Smith quarterback Antonio Wallace, a South Mecklenburg High graduate, earned CIAA all-freshman honors in 2018, but needs to improve for a successful 2019.|
College football was much bigger and faster than Antonio Wallace anticipated.
As a redshirt freshman at Johnson C. Smith, the quarterback struggled to grasp the challenges defenses posed last year. It certainly wasn’t what he was accustomed to at South Mecklenburg High, where he led the Sabres to the N.C. 4AA playoffs as a senior.
“I didn’t know how big or how fast everybody was my first year,” he said. “You know how it goes from [high school junior varsity] to varsity and then college? College speed is completely different, so I just had to adjust to the college speed, really. I’ve got it slowed down in my mind, and we’re good.”
Wallace, who started every game in JCSU’s 2-8 season, and classmate De’Andre Robinson need to grow quickly for the Golden Bulls to improve. That means adding mental and physical strength to better handle the position’s rigors.
“Certainly we want to get both of these guys better,” JCSU coach Kermit Blount said. “They’re not freshmen anymore; they’re redshirt sophomores. I think both of them are going to be OK. I’m not ultimately concerned about whether they can handle the load. It’s just how you give them the load.”
Said Wallace: “The offseason was really big for me, and it still is big for me because I’m doing a lot more with my body. I’m in the weight room a lot more. It was a big transition from high school and seeing college players. Seeing college players, they’re 235 [pounds] and 6-4, and in high school you might have somebody who’s 5-8, 175. For me, it’s getting into the weight room, getting nutrition and getting into the playbook.”
Wallace understands he has to grow quickly in order to make the Golden Bulls an offensive threat. He earned CIAA all-rookie honors last year after completing 114-of-241 passes with 10 scores last year, but JCSU was one of the league’s worst offenses, averaging 15.3 points per game.
“I have to be a field general this year, so I need to know the inside of the defense like the back of my hand,” Wallace said. “I need to know the offense like the back of my hand as well. I have to know everything that’s going on. That’s my challenge – stay committed and it should all work out.”
Establishing a legitimate ground game would also help. Without a consistent rushing threat, opponents teed off on Golden Bulls passers with 35 sacks.
“We’ve got to establish the run, and that’s something we’ve been trying to do,” said head coach Kermit Blount, who is taking over offensive coordinator duties. “We’re putting heavy emphasis on trying to figure out how to make our football team a better offensive run team.”
With Blount taking over offensive strategy, he’s placing more responsibility on quarterbacks to adjust plays when necessary. It’s a leap of faith, and Wallace is embracing the challenge.
“I love it because it actually gives me a lot of power to let me be a quarterback and let me see what’s on the field,” Wallace said. “If he gives me that trust, I’ve just got to go out and execute. That means I’ve got to stay on my books, my plays, my playbook. If he gives me that trust, I can’t make him look bad.”
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