Bowie tackles respectability Wood's vision goes beyond improving on 1-10 season

September 03, 1993|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,Staff Writer

You would think a new coach would be too busy worrying about his first game to contemplate many long-range plans.

That's not the case with Bowie State football coach Sherman Wood. Sure, Wood has his eyes on tomorrow night's season opener at North Carolina Central University. But his vision goes far beyond this weekend, or even this season.

"My main goal is to have a winning program and to be respected within two years," said Wood, who assisted former coach Sanders Shiver at Bowie State from 1986-91, then returned from a one-year stint as an assistant at Virginia Union to take his first head coaching job.

"Within four years, I want a conference championship and a top 20 Division II ranking," he said. "By the year 2,000, we want to be [Division] I-AA."

For now, Wood, 32, will be content with respectability, and the Bulldogs have much work to do to achieve that goal. After three straight losing seasons, including last year's 1-10 finish, Bowie State has been picked by the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association coaches to finish last in the league for the second consecutive season.

They had good reason to vote that way. The Bulldogs lost eight starters from a team that averaged only 10.9 points, committed four turnovers a game and found various ways to lose. They dropped out of contention early, en route to several blowouts. They also lost five games by a combined 25 points.

Wood's first order of business is fixing the Bulldogs' anemic offense. Bowie State relied predominantly on the run under Shiver, whose offense managed only 2.8 yards per play last year. Then again, Bowie State quarterbacks completed only 21.6 percent of their passes.

Wood has introduced a multiple-set system that he hopes will provide a more balanced, run-pass attack. But, with an inexperienced quarterback and an offensive line that features only one returning starter, how many yards can the new system be expected to yield?

The Bulldogs are counting on sophomore QB Nate Jamison to lead the way. After Delmar Glanton, last year's starter, injured a quadriceps muscle early in summer camp, the 6-foot-2, 200-pound Jamison seized the job. He threw only 28 passes last year, and had nearly as many interceptions (six) as completions (eight). He'll be pushed by junior Darrell Foote, a 6-2, 190-pound transfer from Delaware State.

"I like his [Jamison's] poise. He shows no panic at all, and he understands the offense," Wood said. "He's a strong, smart kid. He'll take advantage of what the defense gives him."

Jamison's production will depend partly on how much time the line gives him, and therein lies the Bulldogs' second-biggest question mark. Only senior left tackle Jemal Averette started last year. Among the newcomers, Wood is especially high on 6-foot, 320-pound freshman center Lee Davis, who runs the 40-yard -- in 5.1 seconds.

The Bulldogs should be fairly strong at receiver, where senior Mike Scott and junior Marcus Nole combined for 365 yards and two of Bowie State's seven TD receptions last season. Scott averaged 19.1 yards per catch.

Wood also likes the depth he is cultivating at halfback. Although senior Deley Jacks led the team in 1992 with 556 yards rushing, expect five running backs to share the load, including juniors Craig Mitchell (4.4 yards per carry) and Monty Bennett (330 yards), who saw considerable playing time last year.

The strength of the team is defense, especially in the secondary, where the Bulldogs' top athletes are. Wood plans to draw from 18 players on defense.

"We put in 30 defenses in two weeks. We want to keep the kids on their toes," he said. "We want to make sure we can out-quick people instead of out-muscle them. Our entire defensive backfield runs the 40 in under 4.5."

The best of the group are junior cornerback Dwayne Zackery and senior safety Gary Beckford, both All-CIAA performers last year. Beckford made 81 tackles and intercepted two passes. Zackery made 105 tackles, third highest on the team. Chris Banks and his 4.3 speed should add depth.

Zackery is coming off an exceptional 1992 season. In addition to his work on defense, he is a key on special teams, where he earned his all-conference recognition. He averaged 27.6 yards on kickoff returns and 18.5 yards on punt returns.

"Dwayne is our one [potential] NFL guy in terms of his overall skills," Wood said.

The linebacking corps has a new look. Junior Tracy Ledbetter, who was a second-team All-CIAA player last year and led the Bulldogs with nine sacks as a defensive lineman, has been moved to inside linebacker.

Sophomore Kevin Moore, a transfer from Montgomery College, and junior DeBrandon Jews, the biggest surprise of summer camp, should help. So should senior Lloyd Irvin, the quickest LB of the group.

Bowie State is not that far removed from success. It was only five years ago that the Bulldogs began a two-year run under Shiver that included 16 victories and a CIAA title in 1989. Woods sees the Bulldogs returning to that form sooner than his fellow coaches think.

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