Thursday’s CIAA Media Day has many of us foaming at the mouth. Football season is just around the corner (along with explanations to our wives and girlfriends on why you’re still unavailable Saturday afternoon midway through the season).
Some schools have championship and playoff aspirations while others are hoping to improve upon last season’s performance. Here are my thoughts on the top storylines as we roll into Media day:
1. The obvious question is whether Virginia State will repeat. The short answer is that they certainly have what it takes on paper. Both QBs return, as well as the true star of the offense in RB Kavon Bellamy. The defense is replacing some pieces, but it’s unlikely former coach Latrell Scott left the cupboard bare. One has to wonder if there will be a change in coaching philosophy and how that may affect the team’s play. VSU’s out of conference schedule isn’t as strong as last year, but they should have the muscle to push Cal PA and beat Tusculum. It’ll be really interesting to see how VSU holds up heading into conference play.
2. Who will start at QB for WSSU? After Phil Sims and Rudy Johnson both exhausted their eligibility, the Rams only have one QB with real game experience….and I use real game rather lightly. QB Justin Johnson, last year’s third string QB, is the front runner. Yet, you have to wonder how much missing spring practice to academics has impeded his development. WSSU reportedly has about eight (!) QBs coming in to compete for the starting job. Just remember one thing – when WSSU has had a QB controversy in recent history, the QB who started for WSSU on opening day did not finish the season as the starter.
3. Can we reliably pick any school to knock off either VSU or WSSU? I’m not so sure. I think both schools are at a medium risk of slipping up in divisional play. VSU cant be comfortable given that Bowie State pushed them pretty hard last year and Virginia Union was quite an injured team by the season’s end. The southern division is weaker than the north, but WSSU cant rest on that. Fayetteville State is certainly the front runner to defeat the Rams given their recent rivaly, but I dont think that even the Broncos have enough horses in the stable to keep up on offense (I couldnt help myself). Although I think the coaches have addressed some of their glaring defensive weaknesses, Livingstone is just too turnover prone. I just have a hard time thinking someone can knock off the Rams unless WSSU is really struggling or someone comes out of nowhere ala Virginia Union circa 2014.
4. Who has the best option to play spoiler? I’m high on Bowie State, as I think the Bulldogs have alot to play for. We saw what this team was capable of last year when they nearly upended SR1 Champion Concord despite being down by 21 in the third quarter. Bowie has a very capable QB-WR tandem in Senor Trevon Bennett and Gary Cropper. Expect the defense to keep them in games, as their defense finished first in the conference in sacks and was in the top three in interceptions and fumble recoveries. As far as the south, the spoiler has to be JC Smith, as I suspect that many will write them off given last year’s inept offense. The Golden Bulls brought in a veteran in former WSSU coach Kermit Blount to right the ship. Blount’s offenses are known for lots and lots and lots of running – something JCSU will probably do alot of while they are breaking in a new QB.
My preseason predictions:
1. Virginia State
2. Bowie State
3. Virginia Union
4. Elizabeth City State
6. Lincoln (PA)
2. Fayetteville State
3. St. Augustine’s
5. Johnson C Smith