August 18, 2005
Howard Gears Up For Season Opener
The Howard University football team began two-a-day workouts on Monday and according to Head Coach Rayford Petty, there are mixed reviews.
“We have looked look in certain areas and there are others where we have a lot of work to do,” said Petty following a recent evening practice. “But I am confident that we will be ready by the season opener.”
Howard opens the 2005 regular season on September 3 when it hosts Winston-Salem State University at 1 p.m. in Greene Stadium.
The Bison return seven starters on defense, including four on the defensive line. Senior defensive tackle Jesse Hayes, a pre-season second team All-MEAC selection, senior defensive end Michael Brown, one of the top pass rush specialists in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference and junior defensive end Jarrett Burgess, quietly one of the most consistent players on the team, are all seasoned veterans who know what to expect.
“When you have players alongside you have been in the wars for two or three years, it makes a big difference,” explained Hayes, who at 6-3, 380 anchors the front line. “We all react instinctively as one.”
But those players have been overshadowed early by the spirited play of junior defensive tackle Edwin Piner. The 6-3, 300-pound native of Detroit, MI, showed flashes as a reserve last season, but he has stepped up his game to another level in the pre-season.
“Piner is having an unbelievable camp,” praised Petty. “He played backup to Jesse Hayes and Lawrence Joseph last year. He is now ready to become a dominant football player in this conference.”
Other standouts on defense who have shown well are junior linebacker Timothy Lockett, a pre-season All-MEAC second team pick, All-American senior safety Antoine Bethea, senior safety Jamar Butler, junior cornerback Geoffrey Pope and sophomore cornerback Joseph Claiborne.
On the offensive side, senior quarterback Ronald Venters, Jr. has been especially sharp. The 6-2, 200-pound native of Los Angeles, CA sat out last year, but had an outstanding spring and so impressed his teammates that they named him one of the team captains along with Hayes and Bethea.
“Venters has looked really sharp so far,” says Petty. “We are really pleased with the way he has taken over the offense and provided the leadership that we need at that position.”
There is strong competition in the backfield where Antoine Rutherford, Keon Coleman and Jamar Smith are battling for playing time. And for good measure, sophomore speedster Terry Perry and junior Daine Williams are also vying to get some reps.
The young receiving corp is much further along now than at this time last season. Junior Jarahn Williams, sophomore Larry Duncan and senior Loren Perkins-Johnson are showing that they are going to be playmakers in the passing game which suffered from inconsistency last year.
“There is a big difference between where they are this season and last season at this time,” says Petty, referring to the improvement. “That group along with Thyron Lewis should play a bigger role in our approach.”
The offensive line returns four of five starters from last season, led by senior tackle Richard Dorceus, a pre-season first team All-MEAC pick, junior tackle Willie Shine, one of the most underrated linemen in the MEAC and rapidly improving sophomore center Travis Harmon and sophomore guard Randall White.
One of the forgotten positions is at tight end. But that may change this season. New tight ends coach Rupert Grant, a member of the 1993 team that won the Black National championship, has one of the most talented units to work with. Senior and all-conference candidate Samuel Buck is the starter, but there is battle waging for playing time among freshman Charlie Richards and sophomore Alfred Sutton.
There was much concern over the kicking game with the loss of Justin Brantley, who opted not to return after setting a school record for field goals last year. But the team’s fortunes may have turned with the arrival of Ndapa Mendy and John Mendoza, who both are capable place kickers.
The Bison will have an intra-squad scrimmage on Saturday at 1 p.m. in Greene Stadium.