Wednesday, November 25, 2015

THE BRIGHT SIDE: Despite losing record, Savannah State football team makes strides

SAVANNAH, Georgia -- Earnest Wilson remains optimistic about building a winning football program at Savannah State. He’s in it for the long haul like a marathon runner stepping up to the starting line.

This isn’t the beginning for the Tigers’ third-year coach. Wilson now has two recruiting classes in place. He’s encouraged about his players’ improvement and strengthened by opposing coaches’ praise.

If ever there was a coach to run with the challenge of building a program at Savannah State, Wilson is the guy.

“I know I’m the right man for the job,” he said, after the season ended Saturday against South Carolina State.

The 2015 campaign had some incremental progress from the previous year — one more win, an offense producing four more points and 12 more offensive yards a game, a defense giving up 11 yards and three points less a game.


HBCU notebook: B-CU's Williams puts bow on stellar senior season

PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania -- When longtime intrastate rivals Bethune-Cookman and Florida A&M battle in the annual Florida Classic in Orlando, Florida, it’s usually expected that a player on one of these teams is going to have a big-time performance.

This season’s matchup didn’t disappoint.

Bethune-Cookman quarterback Quentin Williams put on quite a show last Saturday at the Orlando Citrus Bowl, throwing three touchdown passes and rushing for another score to lead the Wildcats to a 35-14 victory over the Rattlers.

The 5-foot-11, 209-pound senior completed 15 of 18 passes for 226 yards, helping B-CU grab a share of its fourth consecutive MEAC championship. Williams also earned HBCU Player of the Week honors. B-CU shares the conference title with North Carolina Central and North Carolina A&T. The Wildcats finished the season 9-2 overall and 7-1 in the MEAC.


Grambling's resurgence has Williams' fingerprints, Fobbs' passion

GRAMBLING, Louisiana -- There's an elephant in the room during this spectacular season at Grambling State, a campaign in which the Tigers have won eight straight heading into this weekend's Bayou Classic before a trip to the SWAC championship game the following week.

With every touchdown catch by Chad Williams and every kick return by Ka'Jandre Domino, there's been a keen observer of the Tigers residing in the nation's capital. And Doug Williams can only imagine what it would have been like coaching those players.

"You think about the success that they're having, you gotta think about the job that the coaches I brought in there did recruiting, because the guys that are making plays... every receiver we brought in there, except one," Williams said. "So we expected them to be doing what they're doing."

It was just two years ago that Williams was let go by the Tigers during a tumultuous 2013 season best remembered for players refusing to play a game against Jackson State for a myriad of issues including subpar facilities, poor allocation of travel money and long road trips. It was a complete bottoming out for a program once considered the gold standard for historically black colleges under the legendary Eddie Robinson.


Who has SWAC’s best skill players?

GRAMBLING, Louisiana — Before the season started, Southern coach Dawson Odums talked up the Jaguars’ wide receiver corps as not only one of the best in the Southwestern Athletic Conference but in the country.

“We’re very talented at wide receiver,” Odums said before Southern played Louisiana Tech in September.

Led by Willie Quinn and Randall Menard at receiver and quarterback Austin Howard throwing to them, the defending SWAC West champions had all the pieces together. Throw in 1,000-yard rusher Lenard Tillery and the Jaguars boasted one of the top offenses and top skill players in the conference.

But through 10 games of the 2015 season, Grambling has claimed a stake in the SWAC arms race.

“I think our kids are the best players in the conference,” Grambling coach Broderick Fobbs said Monday. “Everybody has a guy or two to three guys that can get things done. We feel we have the best in the conference.”


A&T's Robinson Announces Latest Recruiting Class

GREENSBORO, North Carolina -- The women’s basketball program at North Carolina A&T has earned the reputation of being one of the best teams in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference and one of the best mid-majors in America. In the MEAC, the Aggies have finished lower than second just twice in the last nine years and below third just once in the same time period.

Five of those players who have helped the Aggies further that tradition under fourth-year head coach Tarrell Robison will leave after this season, therefore Robinson and his staff wasted no time in bringing in new players to take the program to even higher levels. The Aggies singed five players during the early signing period. It is a diverse class that includes a forward, shooting guard, center, combo guard and point guard.

Le’on Hill (6-foot-2, F, Columbia, S.C., Keenan HS), Kiara Harrison (5-10, G, Greensboro, N.C., Dudley HS), Alexus “Shugg” Lessears (6-5, C, Cleveland, Ohio, Shaw HS), Cinia McCray (5-9, G, Maywood, Ill., Proviso East HS) and Shantell Bostick (5-7, G, Cleveland, Ohio, New Tech East HS) makes up N.C. A&T’s recruiting class. “I would like to congratulate my staff and current players for the excellent job they did this year with securing one of the most talented and academically-gifted classes we’ve had in my tenure as head coach at this university,” said Robinson.

Hill averaged 8.0 points, 7.0 rebounds and 5.0 blocks as a junior under head coach Reggie McLain. She was second in the state of South Carolina in blocked shots, and her AAU team is IDreams. Robinson foresees Hill as a do-it-all defender while the staff develops her into a small forward. Hill can play both forward positions and enjoys playing defense.



“What more can a coach ask for in an athlete?” asked Robinson. “She’s also an excellent student. Le’on will give us added length and athleticism on the interior and the perimeter next year. I envision her being on the top of all our single front presses and zones. She will also be someone ideally we see becoming a defensive stopper for us.”

Harrison is putting up some impressive numbers at nearby Dudley High School, where she averaged 14.0 points, 8.9 rebounds, 3.7 steals and 1.7 blocks per game under head coach Frank McNeil last season. Harrison is member of the Greensboro Galaxy AAU team. Robinson said she can play all three perimeter positions with a smooth handle and court vision to go with it.

“It’s always great to keep local talent home,” said Robinson. “In Kiara’s situation, we not only kept the local talent home, we also lured one of the best players in the state of North Carolina to Aggieland. As she continues to get stronger in terms of her strength, her ceiling is very high. She too is a scholar athlete.”

Lessears looks to follow behind some of the outstanding bigs the Aggies have had in the program lately. She averaged 13.0 points, 10.6 rebounds and 2.3 steals under head coach Dana Jeter in Ohio. TNBA is Lessears’ AAU team. Lessears has a chance to be the replacement for two-time All-MEAC center Aprill McRae. Robison wanted Lessears from Day 1.

“That makes signing Shugg so special,” said Robinson. “We knew we had to recruit someone of equal ability to impact the game as Aprill has done during her career.”

She chose the Aggies over numerous BCS level institutions. She is known for being a dominating inside presence on both ends. Like the other Aggie signees, she loves to play defense, but she has an unbelievable ability to rebound and block shots.


2015 SWAC Football Championship -- Dec. 5

Bayou Classic: Dawson Odums, Broderick Fobbs play up the Southern-Grambling rivalry

NEW ORLEANS -- The Bayou Classic rivalry is alive and well.

It’s not that the rivalry between Southern and Grambling ever faded, but both football programs did experience hard times in the recent past.

That was before Dawson Odums’ promotion to Jaguars head coach two games into the 2012 season and Broderick Fobbs’ hiring as Tigers coach in the wake of a disastrous 2013 season triggered a resurgence in both programs.

Bayou Classic
Who: Southern vs. Grambling
When: 4 p.m. Saturday
Where: Mercedes-Benz Superdome
TV: NBC Sports Network
Radio: KQXL-FM, 106.5

And for good measure, both coaches threw a little good-natured trash talking into the mix during a news conference Tuesday to promote Saturday’s 42nd edition of the Bayou Classic in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

In his remarks from the podium in the Bienville Room, Fobbs called what the Tigers have accomplished on and off the field this season “stellar.”