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BASN HBCU Football Previews: Scouting The CIAA
NORTH CAROLINA — With another CIAA season set to begin on Saturday, the football experts believe that the Bowie State Bulldogs, ranked seventh in BASN’s Preseason Black College Football Top 10, will once again lead the way in the Eastern Division.
Ranked eighth in the BASN Top 10, the Broncos of Fayetteville State has been slated to dethrone the defending champion Eagles of North Carolina Central in the Western Division..
Here is a look at the title contenders.
BOWIE STATE (8-4, 6-3 in 2005)
With All-Star candidates Torrain Kelly, Isaac Redman, Terrence Stafford, Robert Blocker and Devin Williams and a overall team that is filled with juniors and seniors, coach Mike Lynn Jr and his Bulldogs will be hard to de-throne in the Eastern Division and are heavy favorites to win the East and play in the conference championship game this year and got them to the Pioneer Bowl last year.
If BSU is to repeat however, they must get better play from the quarterback position beginning with Lamar Manigo and continued stellar play from All-World running back Issac Redman. The Bulldogs offense must improve but the defense must continue to be as dominant as it was in 2005. Led by BASN Preseason All-American Stafford (95 tackles, 3 interceptions, 2.5 sacks and finished 6th in NCAA in forced fumbles), the Bulldogs were 2nd in the NCAA in total defense, 3rd in rushing defense and 8th in pass effiiciency defense. A repeat performance on defense an improvement on offense and the Bulldogs should be playing for the conference championship.
Fayetteville State University (6-4, 4-3)
Like Bowie State, the Broncos have a wealth of talent, senior leadership and returning starters to win the very competitive Western Division. FSU was near the top of the conference in scoring offense and total offense. The offense outscored their opponents by over a touchdown per game and average more yards per play in 2005. The running game was led by Nick Green with a servicable 555 yards and 4 touchdowns. The senior will have to improve tremendously if FSU are to have a legitimate running game.
All-CIAA quarterback Jay Autry must play to his ability in order to open up the running game and make the position a positive on offense. The 2004 CIAA MVP. Autry, a 6-0, 230, junior from Spring Lake, NC, has thrown for 3,163 yards and 34 touchdowns over his three year career and was named All-CIAA in 2005. The group of receivers the Broncos have are talented but they lack receptions and big plays. Junior Christopher Holden, junior Amir Holding, junior Charlie Nieves, senior Brian Howard and junior Richard Watkins must get open early and often to take the pressure of the QB position and the running game.
The defense is solid and should be just as good in 2006. Led by All-American candidates Charles Roberts (142 tackles, 4 sacks, 1 fumble recovery and 1 forced fumble), Anthony Hicks(55 tackles, 10 sacks, 1 interception and 1 fumble recovery), Eric Blackwell (84 tackles, 3 interceptions, 2 fumble recoveries, 1 forced fumble and 1 blocked kick) and Lemeul Watkins (81 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 1 interception and 3 fumble recoveries), the defense should once again be near the top of the conference as it was in 2005 in many staticstical categories.
Look for sophomore Donte Wise and and junior Ryan Patterson to contribute as well. If the offense can be solid and the defense can play tough and make big plays, FSU will definitely compete atop the Western Division once again as well as they should considering they are the favorites to win that side of the CIAA world. Three Broncos, quarterback Jay Autry and offensive tackle Brandon Daughtry were named to the CIAA Preseason All-Conference Offensive Team, while linebacker Anthony Hicks was named to the CIAA Defensive Team.
Virginia State University (6-4, 5-2)
The name of the game for Virginia State University is a prolific passing game and a opportimistic defense. On offense, The Trojans offense averaged 12.6 yards per catch on offense while the defense had an impressive 39 sacks, 17 interceptions and 7 fumble recoveries. The offense averaged 25 points per game while allowing 20 points per game. The rushing attack was solid as the Trojans averaged 144 yards per game but only 3.6 yards per game.
Look for Nick Fleming (550 yards and 5 touchdowns) to lead the way hopefully improving on the mediocre rushing for the Trojans in 2006. If the Trojans are to have success thru the air, they must rely on the field general Michael Terry (11 touchdowns and 4 interceptions). Terry, must lead the team both in generating offense while trying to stay mistake free on offense. Virginina State needs to play mistake free football on offense and continue to get takeaways on defense to compete for the Eastern Division Title.
North Carolina Central (10-2, 6-1)
Just before the start of training camp, the Eagles were dealing with the departure of senior quarterback Adrian Warren, who has decided not to return for his final year of eligibility. However this past Monday, Warren had a change of heart and decided to rejoin the squad. Along with Warren (second in NCCU history in touchdown passes, third in completions and fourth in both passing yardage and total offense), the Eagles also have other weapons on offense and special teams.
Senior running back Greg Pruitt, Jr., returns for his senior campaign with sights on breaking the school’s all-time career rushing record. Pruitt, who is 566 yards away from breaking Joe Simmons’ record of 2,840 rushing yards set from 1990-93, is the only running back in Eagle history to post back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons. Last year, Pruitt led the team in total touchdowns with 10 and in rushing yards with 1,172 (97.7 per game average).
Senior center Robert Duncan, an All-CIAA First Team and First Team All-Region selection in 2005, was also recognized on the 2006 Street & Smith’s Division II All-America Team as one of only four offensive linemen. He snapped every offensive play in the final 11 games during the Eagles’ record-breaking season a year ago, while anchoring the No. 1 scoring offense (30.8 avg.) in the conference.
Junior kicker Brandon Gilbert, an All-CIAA First Team and First Team All-Region pick in 2005, led the conference in field goals (16-21), field goal percentage (76.2), PAT percentage (97.7), and scoring by a kicker with 90 points, while also ranking sixth nationally in field goals per game (1.3).
He broke three school records during his sophomore season, including single-season field goals (16), single-season extra-point kicks (42) and single-game extra-point kicks (10 vs. Edward Waters on Aug. 27). Gilbert was also voted as the 2005 CIAA Championship Game MVP after making four field goals, including a the game-winning boot with three seconds remaining.
Defensively, the Eagles look to the experience players to lead the way in 2006. Defensively the Eagles have some quality players coming back to shoulder the load in 2006. Senior defensive end Greg Peterson, junior nose guard Courtney Coard, junior lineback Derrick Ray, sophomore linebacker Xavier Joe, junior linebacker Eric Ray, junior cornerback Craig Amos and junior cornerback Tyrone Williams all will be the catalyst on a veteran and experience defense that is capable in carrying the team on it’s back all the way to the CIAA Western Division Championship.
BEST OF THE REST
All the other teams: St. Paul’s College, Shaw University, Elizabeth State University, Virginia Union University, Saint Augustine College, Livingstone College and Johnson C. Smith University, all will try and prove the so called and alleged “experts” wrong by finishing better than expected and upsetting some of the top teams in the conference. Only time will tell who is right and who is wrong.