By Anthony McClean, Editor In Chief Emeritus NEW HAVEN (BASN) —...
A Preview Of The 2006 Winston-Salem State University Rams
NORTH CAROLINA — If the Rams are going to compete in the MEAC, they will have to try and replace the 1-2 running punch of Martin Hicks and Jed Bines.
Hicks finished with 3,386 career rushing yards (3rd all-time in WSSU history) and 39 TD’s (2nd All Time) was a valuable part of the offensive scheme and philosophy for head coach Kermit Blount and his staff.
The 2005 CIAA Offensive Player of the Year. Hicks graduated in May of this year after averaging nearly 1,000 yards per season. With the unspecified departure/dismissal of Jed Bines from the team, WSSU will look to junior quarterback Monte Purvis.
Purvis, who took nearly every snap last season, will need to be more of a drop back quarterback to avoid being hit and possibly hurt at a time the offense is in-experienced and at a time where the athletic Purvis, could be the only prospect at making something happen positive on offense.
Purvis again will be feared as a running quarterback but look for WSSU to use him in other ways to score points. A superb athlete, Purvis has even appeared as a wide receiver for the Rams (during his freshman campaign). He’s WSSU’s leading returning rusher (419 yards, 102 carries, 2 TDs) and passer (821 yards, 116 attempts, 3 TDs).
Positives on offense
The Rams offensively are young but they are talented. Senior wideout Bradford Herring recorded a team-leading 25 catches for 383 yards and a pair of touchdowns in 2005.
He will be WSSU’s go-to receiver as he averaged nearly 15.3 yards per catch last season. Sophomore wideout Michael Scarborough will also need to become a regular target and pass catching threat for Purvis and the offense in order for the Rams to be successful.
The 5-foot-10, 180-pounder has lots of speed and athletism but not much experience. Scarborough only appearanced in four games last season. The Rams also looked to tight end Stan Wright to continue to be a solid blocker but also be their “secret weapon” in the passing offense.
Wright is hard to miss on the field though because of his imposing size. The sound blocking tight end checks in at 6-feet-6 and 250-plus pounds with good hands and good technique. Wright, WSSU’s second leading returning pass catcher, caught 10 catches for 159 yards and 1 touchdown in 2005.
Look for the Rams to feature Wright in the passing game including trying to get isolation for the big target on much smaller linebackers and defensive backs. The Rams have potential, but I wouldn’t expect the 23.1 points per game and over 200 yards rushing per game this season.
Positives on defense
On defense, the Rams look have a daunted task of stopping teams on offense in the MEAC this season.WSSU will face seven opponents who posted winning records last season as well as facing two conference champions.
Among their nine Division I-AA opponents in 2006, seven of them include AFCA All-Americans, five of which play on the offensive side of the ball. The Rams will once again employ a 3-5-3 defensive set that will enable the coaching staff to more efficiently use all of the available defensive personnel.
The strength of the defense will be centered around the talented core of linebackers returning. Thaddeus Griffin, Darrian Bynum, Corey Swinnie and Jason Hollman.Griffin led the team in tackles with 49 total tackles and 26 solo tackles.
Griffin also had five tackles for loss, two sacks and a fumble recovery. Bynum, probably the most active of the trio, recorded 43 total tackles including 29 solo tackles. Bynum led the Rams with nine tackles for a loss and had one sack, forced two fumbles and pulled down one interception.
Swinnie, probably the fastest of the three linebackers will try to improve on the 26 tackle and 17 solo tackles he accumulated last year in 2006. Jason Holman may have the most promise and ability even though he didnt have the kind of year coach Blount and defensive coordinator Mike Ketchum.
The Rams will need Holman to improve on his 39 tackles including 8 for a lost to be affective this season. Holman also had 2 sacks, 1 field goal blocked and 1 fumble recovery.
The much maligned secondary will be vastly improved this year with more speed, experience and size. Nathaniel Biggs and Maurice Reid will likely occupy the cornerback slots as both players placed in the top 10 in tackles last season.
Biggs finished second on the team with 46 tackles with 30 solo tackles. Biggs also had 3 interceptions including one he took back for a touchdown. Maurice Reid gives the Rams some experience in the defensive backfield and speed.
The senior had 36 tackles with 30 of them solo. Reid also had one interception and broke up 10 passes last year.
The defense must help themselves and the offense by causing more turnovers this year. The Rams were near the bottom of the CIAA in takeaways with only 13 interceptions and a meager 4 fumble recoveries. They did get some pressure on the opponents quarterback with 16 sacks on the season.
WSSU can win if
If Monte Purvis can continue the natural maturation as the signal caller utitalizing his arm, feet and athleticism and the young and talented players around him can make some significant strides, the Rams have an opportunity to not only score points from the air instead of the ground.
They also can be an exciting offense to watch although it may be somewhat confusing and difficult in the beginning of the season with the surprising departure and resignation of offensive coordinator Dana Walker.
The offense MUST take care of the ball as well. Defensively, the returning starters must be aggressive and get turnovers to help a young and inexperience offense get some points early and often to build confidence.
The key on both sides of the ball for the Rams is patience, execution and confidence which can become reality this season for the team if they are fundamentally sound.
The Rams are very young and inexperience on offense and still trying to master the 3-5-3 scheme on defense. Those factors and the upgrade of talent they will face in the MEAC can equal a very long season for the Rams in terms of wins and losses.
Coach Blount will have them ready to battle regardless but it may not be enough for a winning season especially with games versus perennial MEAC powers like Florida A&M, South Carolina State, Hampton, and Norfolk State.
Head Coach: Kermit Blount (77-57-3 in 13 seasons)
Overall coaching record: 77-57-3 (13 seasons)
2005 Record: 6-4 (6-1 CIAA/2nd CIAA West)
Returning starters: 13 (6 offense, 7 defense)
Departures: 7 (4 offense, 3 defense)
Key losses on offense: All-CIAA performer and CIAA Offensive Player of the Year Martin Hicks and Jerrick “Jed” Bines from the roster (unspecified reasons).
Key losses on defense: Maurice Reid (CB), Levern Bynum (LB), Patrick Clark (CB)
Players to watch: Darrian Bynum, Thaddeus Griffin, Jason Holman, Monte Purvis.
Offensive All-Star Candidates: Stan Wright (TE), Darrian Bynum (LB), Jason Holman (LB)
Defensive All-American candidates: Stan Wright (TE), Darrian Bynum (LB),Jason Holman (LB)
Notes: The Rams completed an exploratory year in 2005 and are now set to compete in the MEAC at the Division I level.
Prediction: 3-8. Let’s hope my prediction is inaccurate.