CSU vs. Johnson C. Smith Game NotesSeptember 13, 2007
By CSU Sports Information
After consecutive road losses to open the season, the Buccaneers open the home portion of their schedule with a match-up against Division II opponent Johnson C. Smith Saturday afternoon at CSU Stadium. CSU is looking to rebound from losses at The Citadel and Wofford, two Southern Conference teams, that came by a combined margin of 87-38. Saturday’s will be the lone home contest for the Bucs during a difficult opening stretch of games during which CSU plays four of its first five on the road. Johnson C. Smith, a CIAA team located in Charlotte, NC, will be playing its first-ever contest against CSU. The Bucs need six victories to secure a third consecutive winning season.
CSU vs. Johnson C. Smith Game Notes
CSU was intercepted five times leading to 31 Wofford points as the Terriers defeated the Bucs 52-24 Saturday at Gibbs Stadium in Spartanburg. 14th-ranked Wofford, which scored four touchdowns and one field goal following a CSU interception, also ran back a kickoff for a score in the victory. Still, the Bucs hung in the game and trailed by only 11 points, 35-24, entering the fourth quarter but the Terriers out-scored CSU 17-0 in the final period. Eli Byrd, who threw for 264 yards and two TDs in the contest, was picked off three times while RB Kenny Harper and backup QB Sidney Bryant were also nabbed for an INT.
Byrd Taking Flight
Redshirt sophomore quarterback Eli Byrd has started the first two contests behind center for the Bucs in 2007, making him CSU’s first starting QB other than Collin Drafts since the beginning of the 2003 season. Byrd, currently 2nd in the Big South and 37th in the nation in total offense (231 yards/gm), has completed 39-of-73 passes this season for 401 yards and three TDs (4 INTs). He also leads the Bucs with 61 rushing yards.
Byrd had played QB only one game in his career entering the season, taking over for an injured Drafts in the second half of a loss at Liberty on Nov. 11, 2006. That afternoon he completed 8-of-13 passes for 71 yards with one TD pass in addition to one rushing score late in the contest. The former football and basketball standout at Fletcher High School in Jacksonville, Florida saw time as a wide receiver in two games last season, totaling two catches for 13 yards and also a two-point conversion.
Redshirt junior Sidney Bryant serves as Byrd’s back-up. Bryant, the back-up to Drafts for each of the last two seasons, has appeared in 12 games in his career (1 this season) but totaled only 20 pass attempts. The Tampa, Florida native took snaps in four games last season and completed 6-of-10 passes for a total of 67 yards and a touchdown.
Who’s the Ross?
Redshirt senior linebacker Jada Ross, currently fifth in the nation with 27 tackles this season, needs 15 tackles to becoming the Big South’s all-time leader in that category. Ross, a preseason all-conference selection and a TSN second-team preseason all-american, now has 350 career stops following a team-high 11-tackle outing (3 solo) at Wofford. He began the season with a team-high 16-tackle performance at The Citadel (11 solo).
The Summerville, SC native passed former Liberty LB Manny Rojas for second on the Big South all-time list last week. Former Coastal Carolina Chanticleer Jamar Leath tops the list with 364 career stops.
RB by committee
Redshirt senior Kenny Harper, the leading returning ball carrier for CSU this season, has played sparingly in the first two games of the season because of a shoulder injury. Harper, who rushed 100 times for 417 yards and five TDs in 2006, has only two carries this season for a total of four yards. He has also compiled 4 receptions for 21 yards.
Redshirt junior Alexius Ferguson, who has amassed 107 career yards on 28 carries over three seasons, is part of a committee of running backs besides Harper to see action for the Bucs thus far this season. Ferguson (4 rush, -2 yds) has been joined in the backfield by transfer Michael Jefferson (6 rush, 0 yds), Dee Brown (4 rush, 4 yds) and true freshman DeMarcus Moon (1 rush, 2 yds). CSU is 106th out of 108 FCS teams in rushing yardage this season (31.0 ypg).
CSU has been hard hit by the injury bug this season, as again several Bucs at key positions are banged up entering Saturday’s contest. Hardest hit continues to be the offensive line, where projected starters Zach Mitchell and J.W. Myers, in addition to backup Wes Houston, are all likely out Saturday. In addition, O-lineman Donald Fondren and Jordan Lancaster are questionable for the conest as is Markus Murry, the team’s leading returning WR from last season.
On the defensive side of the ball, CSU continues to miss two of its top linebackers. Senior LB Josh Mitchell, fourth on the team in tackles in 2006, will miss the entire 2007 season, while redshirt senior LB Jonna Lee, second on the Bucs with 80 tackles last year, is out for at least the season’s first month. Senior cornerback Jon Carmon, who started all 11 games and led the Bucs with four interceptions last season, missed the first game of the season but returned to action at Wofford.
On the Road
Charleston Southern will open the 2007 season by playing four of its first five games away from CSU Stadium. The Bucs began the campaign with games on the road against Southern Conferences foes The Citadel and Wofford, two teams each currently receiving national recognition in the polls (The Citadel is receiving votes while Wofford is ranked #11 in TSN’s FCS Poll). After this week’s home match-up against Johnson C. Smith, CSU heads back on the road for a clash against Hawaii, a Football Bowl Subdivision foe currently ranked #24 by the AP, and then finishes the tough stretch with a date at North Greenville. The Bucs will finish the season with four of their final six games at home.
the ultimate warrior
Redshirt junior Josh Warrior, only two years removed from a serious back injury that forced him to miss the entire 2005 season, has turned himself into one of the top secondary players in the Big South. In his first game of the season against The Citadel, Warrior forced finished with 10 tackles (6 solo) in addition to one sack and a forced fumble. The Orange Park, Florida native took over the starting “Spur” defensive position at the end of the 2007 season and recorded 1.5 sacks in the penultimate game at Liberty.
Moving on up!
Redshirt sophomore running back Michael Jefferson has made an immediate impact in his first season after transferring from Carson-Newman College. Jefferson has impressed during practice and risen near the top of the depth chart in a short time since becoming eligible to participate this summer. The former Wando High School standout, who was that school’s Homecoming King in 2004, also serves as CSU’s main kickoff return man. Jefferson redshirted at Carson-Newman in 2005 but never played a down.
The Bucs placed six players on the Big South’s Preseason All-Conference Team, led by four members of Coach Darrell Perkins’ defense. Seniors Dennis Justiniani, Jada Ross and C.J. Hirschman in addition to redshirt junior Okeba Rollinson were all selected to the list that was voted on by coaches, media members and sports information directors. Senior center Rick Howell, the leader of the Bucs offensive line, was the lone member of the CSU offense selected to the team, while senior kicker Nick Ellis was voted as the place kicker for the All-Conference unit.
Drafts Day No More
Four-year starting quarterback Collin Drafts, no longer the signal caller for the Bucs, has returned to the CSU program as an assistant coach working with the QBs. Drafts, a three-time All-Conference selection and the school’s all-time leader in passing and total offense, recently finished his first professional season as a back up for the Tri-Cities (Wa.) Fever of the Arena Football 2 League. The Beaufort, SC native started the final two games of the 2007 season behind center for the Fever, including a playoff contest, because of an injury to the starting signal caller. In two impressive starts, Drafts combined to complete 40-of-71 pass attempts for 488 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Maurice Price, CSU’s all-time leading receiver and an AP and TSN All-American in 2006, decided to leave the Bucs prior to his senior season and turn professional. Though going undrafted, Price signed a free agent contract with the Kansas City Chiefs and was having a strong training camp before injuring his shoulder in mid-August. The Chiefs have placed the Orlando, Florida native on injured reserve, meaning he will miss the entire 2007 season. Price caught 202 passes in three seasons with the Bucs, totaling 2,429 yards and 19 touchdowns.
Reaching New Heights
In addition to winning a school-record nine games in 2006, the Bucs established many school firsts last season. CSU football compiled a 14-game overall winning streak dating back to the final five games of the ‘05 campaign, the longest overall winning streak in Big South history and second longest in the nation last season (the University of San Diego had an 18-game streak). With nine victories, CSU broke the school record for wins in a season for a second consecutive year, besting the seven-win total for 2005.
Run of the Mills
Head Coach Jay Mills is in his fifth season as the head coach at CSU and currently holds a career record of 22-24. Under his leadership, the Bucs program has improved every season - going from one win in 2003 to five in 2004, then to seven victories and a Big South championship in 2005. Last season, CSU opened the campaign 9-0 before losses at Liberty and at Coastal Carolina left the team with a 9-2 mark, the best in school history.
Change of Hart
The Bucs no longer have the services of punter Hart Pearson, who decided not to return to the team this fall for personal reasons. Pearson, who averaged 37.7 yards per punt in 27 attempts last season, was the team’s number one punter the past two years. Punting duties have fallen to Preseason All-Conference place kicker Nick Ellis, who is no stranger to the job. Ellis served as CSU’s top punter his freshman season in 2004, averaging 33.7 yards per punt over 43 kicks. Through two games this season, Ellis is averaging 37 yards per punt in 16 attempts.
Scouting the Golden Bulls
Johnson C. Smith, a Division II school in the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA), enters Saturday’s contest at 1-1 following a 24-10 loss at Savannah State last week. The Golden Bulls defeated Edward Waters College 24-0 to open the season on August 25.
Head Coach Darryl McNeill is in his fifth season at the helm for Johnson C. Smith over two separate stints (1995-96, and then again beginning in 2005), a program that has never beaten a Big South opponent (its only other game came in 1999 at Liberty, a 38-2 loss). Coach McNeill has also been a head man at Savannah State, in addition to an assistant at South Carolina St. and North Carolina A&T.
The Golden Bulls went 7-4 last season and earned a berth in the Pioneer Bowl, where they lost to Tuskegee 17-7. Junior quarterback Carlton Richardson leads the Johnson C. Smith attack, having thrown for 283 yards and two scores in the team’s first two games.