Jackson State, Bethune-Cookman new head coaches face hurdles

Jackson State and Bethune-Cookman both have new head coaches, but their expectations are vastly different heading into the season.

Jackson State head coach T.C. Taylor and B-CU’s Raymond Woodie Jr., have steep tasks in front of them. The expectations are high for both schools to return to playing at a very high level.  While Taylor’s job will be to maintain the success the Tigers have reclaimed over the last two years under head coach Deion Sanders.

Woodie’s job will be to return the Wildcats to the national championship form they enjoyed in 2010 and 2013. His first order of business would be to ensure a winning season, something B-CU has not seen since the back-to-back seven-win season of 2018 and 2019. 

There was a time when a new coach had a three-year window to begin winning. Knowing that a coach had to turn over the roster to players that fit his style of play would normally take about three years to really bring the vision to light.  In today’s era of the transfer portal and no patience from athletic administrators, a coach has a maximum of two years and in many cases just one to show that they can turn a program around. 

Both coaches played at the schools they coach

Both coaches have already dealt with adversity in terms of personnel coming into this year.  With the exodus of Coach Prime, several players hit the transfer portal.  Starting quarterback Shedeur Sanders, starting running back Sy’Veon Wilkerson, starting wide receiver/defensive back Travis Hunter and defensive back Shilo Sanders are all gone from the program.  These players represented a large part of the JSU offense which dominated the SWAC over the past two seasons. Taylor was on the JSU staff with Sanders, so at least he has that familiarity with the players and staff that remain at Jackson State.  He is also a favorite son of JSU.  He was one of the best quarterbacks and wide receivers to play for the Tigers and is well-acquainted with alumni and fans.  He has been a part of the JSU staff since 2019. 

B-CU coach Raymond Woodie
B-CU coach Raymond Woodie

Woodie is also familiar with B-CU.  He is a former four-year letterman for the Wildcats, graduating in 1996.  After his playing days, he went into a successful coaching career.  He is well known as one of the best recruiters in the country.  In fact, while at Oregon with Willie Taggart, he was voted the top recruiter in the Pac-12. Woodie’s set of issues coming into this season were exaggerated by a failed attempt to hire Pro Football Hall of Famer Ed Reed upon the departure of Sims.  Players loyal to Sims left when he left.  Even more players left the program when Reed was ultimately hired because of various issues that came to light during the period Reed was involved on the university campus.  Woodie came back to Daytona Beach in February and has begun the process of rebuilding talent not only for this year, but to build the program back to a sustainable level. 

Sanders set the bar high at Jackson State over two seasons

After the tremendous success of Sanders at Jackson State, Taylor will face a barometer of high expectations, even though he hasn’t really had a full opportunity to institute his brand of ball at JSU.  Fans will expect the same results as the standard has been placed high on a mantle, having seen the team roll undefeated in conference play over the last two seasons. 

While the success has been void at B-CU since 2019, with back-to-back 2-9 seasons in the post-covid era, the expectations from the Wildcat nation is that Woodie can restore the program back to respectability.  Under most preseason predictions, the Wildcats are picked to finish near the bottom of the SWAC based on the circumstances.  Those predictions may be more of the reality that fans want to accept.  Woodie will need to at least show some improvement for B-CU for fans to temper their lofty expectations to accept the process of rebuilding. 

Jackson State’s road will start tough, as it will face South Carolina State in the MEAC/SWAC Challenge on Saturday in Atlanta and follow it up with a trip to Miami Gardens to face the Florida A&M.  The Tigers owned the Rattlers last year, but FAMU is picked to unseat JSU as eastern division frontrunners with a veteran squad returning. 

B-CU will start their journey against the Memphis Tigers on Sept. 2, host the Division-II Savannah State Tigers on Sept. 9 and travel to Miami Gardens to face the University of Miami Hurricanes on Sept. 14.  In addition, the Wildcats’ leading receiver, Marcus Riley, who had 39 receptions for 563 yards and five touchdowns hit the transfer portal and will actually face the Wildcats at the end of the season as he is now a member of the FAMU football team. 

2023 will be a defining season for Taylor and Woodie.  By all accounts, it appears to be a rebuilding year for both coaches. However, in today’s football climate, it carries with it a very short leash.

Jackson State, Bethune-Cookman new head coaches face hurdles
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