‘We’re ready to go’

B-CU Wildcats kick off season Sunday in Atlanta against Jackson State

Wildcats
COURTESY OF BCU ATHLETICS
The Bethune-Cookman Wildcats, led by Head Coach Terry Sims, will be showcased during the SWAC/MEAC Challenge, which will air live on ESPN2.

BY ANDREAS BUTLER
DAYTONA TIMES

The Bethune-Cookman University Wildcats open their season against the Jackson State University Tigers in the MEAC/ SWAC Challenge at Georgia State Stadium in Atlanta on Sunday. 

The game, which pits a MidEastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) team against a Southwestern Athletic Conference) team will air live on ESPN2 with a 3 p.m. kickoff. 

“I’m very excited and ready to work. We’re all pretty excited,” said Junior offensive tackle Javon Camp-Villalovos.

Junior defensive tackle Gerome Howard responded, “I normally don’t talk too much. I like to play and leave it all out on the field. We’re excited to show what we got on national TV. We’re ready to go.” 

The MEAC/SWAC Challenge brings exposure for the Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU’s) involved.

“It’s an opportunity for both our football programs and both of our schools to be on a national stage. It’s great for recruiting for our football programs and schools.  What ESPN has done for the teams, schools and conferences has no price tag,” explained B-CU Head Coach Terry Sims. 

‘A dogfight every day’

The goal is for B-CU to win the MEAC this season and play for the HBCU National Championship in the Celebration Bowl at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta in December. 

The Wildcats were picked to finish second in the conference behind defending champ North Carolina A&T.

“I don’t think second is good enough. I think we’re ready to be on the top spot,” noted CampVillalovos. 

The MEAC is a competitive conference. 

Sims stressed, “This conference doesn’t allow you any days off. You must show up ready to play each day. There are a lot of great coaches in this league and tons of great players. It’s a dogfight every day.” 

Serious players 

Still, the Wildcats like their chances.

“We’ve added depth and we have competition at every position. We will do whatever it takes to win. On offense, we can give a lot of different looks. On defense, we have the talent to play different ways and move guys around,” Sims stated.

The players also believe in this year’s squad. 

Camp-Villalovos said, “I think there is more seriousness amongst us players this year. People want to put in the extra work to get better.” 

Local talent

Bethune-Cookman is also making inroads of recruiting local talent. 

Junior running back Que’ Shaun Byrd and senior receiver Jimmie Robinson are weapons on both the offensive and the return game. They played high school ball at Flagler Palm Coast.

Nick Roos is a Mainland High grad and starter on the offensive line. 

Other locals include freshmen safeties Marquis Gilbert (Flagler Palm Coast) and Dennis Shorter (Flagler Palm Coast), junior linebacker Robert McKenzie (Atlantic) and freshman offensive lineman Travis Robinson (Mainland) along with freshman running back Jimmie Robinson III (Flagler Palm Coast).

Sims added, “In the past, kids used to have the mindset of not wanting to come here and leave Daytona. With the success that we have been having, local kids are now giving us an opportunity to recruit them and show them what we have to offer. These guys see that Bethune-Cookman has a lot more to offer than they previously thought.” 

Team at a glance

2018: 7-5 overall, 6-2 in MEAC second place

Head Coach: Terry Sims, fifth season 27-17 overall, 22-9 in MEAC

Key returners: QB Akevious Williams, RB Tupac Isme, RB Isaac Washington, WR Steffon Francois, R Jonathon Thomas, Que’shaun Byrd, WR/KR/PR Jimmy Robinson, OL Nick Roos, OL Javon Camp-Vivalosos, OL Jamal Savage, OL Cedrick Jackson, LB Marquis Hendrix, LB Devin James, DL Jerome Howard, DL Uriah Gilbert, DE Marques Ford, S Tydarius Peters, S Vernon Walker, CB Trevor Merritt, CB Jamuari Laguerre, CB Henry Miller. 

Key newcomers: WR Darryl Powell; DL Tony Bowman (Coahoma Community College); LB Untareo Johnson (East Mississippi Community College); LB Rashon McNeal (Monroe College).

Offense and Defense: Multiple 
Strengths: Offensive line, defensive front seven
Concerns: Kicking game

Key games: Sept. 1 vs. Jackson State, MEAC/SWAC Challenge, Atlanta; Sept.14 at Miami; Sept. 28 at Howard; Oct. 26 vs. South Carolina State; Nov. 16 at North Carolina A&T; Nov. 23 vs. Florida A&M, Florida Classic. 

Outlook: The Wildcats again field a talented and competitive team. They return several key players from injury and have added some depth and skill at some key positions. To win the MEAC, it’s all about beating conference opponents.  Historically, the team who wins it usually has that one conference loss or goes unbeaten. Last year, B-CU lost to Howard early and North Carolina A&T late. 

ABBREVIATION KEY:
QB=quarterback, RB=running back, WR=wide receiver, OL=offensive lineman, DE=defensive end, DL=defensive lineman, DT=defensive tackle, LB=linebacker, DB=defensive back, CB=corner back, S=safety, P=punter, K=kicker.

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