|Coach Kermit Blount on J.C. Smith football: ‘We’re right there’|
|4 wins match total of previous two years|
|Published Wednesday, November 20, 2019 2:17 pm|
|PHOTO | CURTIS WILSON|
|Johnson C. Smith head coach Kermit Blount congratulates Braxton Gambrell after a punt return for a touchdown against Lincoln on Oct. 5.|
Kermit Blount has every intention of returning to Johnson C. Smith football for a sixth season.
The fifth-year coach is encouraged by the Golden Bulls’ 4-6 season, but more importantly, the potential for more with a roster populated primarily by freshmen and sophomores. JCSU defied preseason expectations of a last-place finish in the CIAA South by finishing fourth.
“I have all the plans in the world of being here,” said Blount, whose contract expires at year’s end. “I don’t see myself doing anything else. It’s hard to walk away from what I know is going to be an outstanding football team in the very near future here. My plans are to be here and continue to coach this football team and try to take this thing to the next level. I think we’re right there. We’ve turned the corner.”
JCSU doubled its 2018 wins total with one of the CIAA’s youngest teams. Offensive Rookie of the Year Emanuel Wilson, a North Mecklenburg High graduate, rushed for 1,040 yards and 13 touchdowns to earn second-team All-CIAA. Sophomore Damon Rice scored three touchdowns, including a pair of kickoffs and a 90-yard run.
Four seniors, including first-team punt returner Braxton Gambrell, earned all-conference accolades. They lost to league powers Virginia Union, Virginia State and Fayetteville State after taking leads into the fourth quarter.
“When I look at us having seven seniors on this team that’s going to graduate and leave this team, I’m looking at the number of juniors on this team, the number of sophomores, redshirt freshmen and freshmen, this is going to be an outstanding football team in a year’s time,” Blount said. “We have some talent that wasn’t able to play this year that’s going to come to the field this spring to cause us to be a much better football team right away. We’re starting to do things our philosophy set in. Offensively, we wanted to be able to run the football and I thought we did a decent job of doing that this year. Defensively, we wanted to keep the big plays off us. We did it in some instances, [but] we’ve got to get better there.”
There’ll be holes to fill because of graduation. Smith’s top defenders, all-league middle linebacker David Francis (58 tackles, 5 tackles for loss, interception, fumble recovery) and free safety Camerron Ellis (five interceptions) are gone. So is punter Brandon Howard, who averaged 40.2 yards per kick and offensive tackle Alvin Brown, an all-conference second team pick who graded out at 94% as a blocker.
After years of uncertainty, the Golden Bulls have offensive line depth, where four starters return next year after opening holes for Wilson, who set a JCSU single-game rushing record with 265 yards against Benedict and became the first player in school history to run for 100 yards in four straight games. The Golden Bulls averaged 22 points per game compared to 15.3 last year.
“We’re talking about a sophomore at center, a sophomore at guard. We have a senior at Omar Grant at tackle, we have a sophomore at the backside guard, and we’ll bring along a couple of these other young kids,” Blount said. “And then in the recruiting we’ll try to strengthen it a little bit with an older guy just to help anchor the line.”
Although Blount has never been .500 or better at JCSU – he’s 15-35 – the 2019 season gave him a new appreciation for what was accomplished and yet to be done.
“I felt good because I ended up getting back into coaching again, of being able to coach a segment and call plays,” said Blount, who doubled as offensive coordinator. “It just kind of rejuvenated me a little bit. It’s more work, but I’m used to doing the work. That’s how I got into the business as a diligent worker. It rejuvenated me. It made me feel good about being in this profession and continue to try to do it. It was just a good feeling.
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