Fayetteville State University made the preverbal stop at the crossroads.
In the driver's seat of the Broncos Football program is first-time Head Coach Lawrence Kershaw. A Virginia State alumnus ('95) who spent the past five years commanding the Florida A&M Rattlers offense. During his 17 years on the sidelines in various offensive positions, Kershaw contributed to two VSU Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) Championships (1995 and 1996) and one FAMU 2010 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) Co-Championship.
Kershaw takes over the Broncos after the program finished the 2012 season with a 2-8 overall record and 1-6 finish in the conference.
Fayetteville State has an affluent gridiron history with three conference titles within the past decade and matching post-season play.
Receiving the keys to the bus, Coach Kershaw faced a task of evaluating 17 juniors, 13 sophomores and 35 freshmen; all vying for the favor of the new coaching staff.
Aggressive during the recruiting season, the new Bronco staff will bring in six defensive linemen, five linebackers, four offensive linemen, and two quarterbacks and wide receivers.
The Bronco bus has been evaluated and given a tune-up for a successful run through the CIAA.
A new offensive strategy will be implemented for the Gridiron Broncos.
"Offensively we will run a spread offense," states Head Coach Lawrence Kershaw at his introductory press conference. "Four receivers will be on the field; probably 99.9 percent of the time. We are going to be a fast-paced no-huddle team. Our tempo will probably be like Oregon, but systematically we will probably be more like Texas A&M."
The returning run-game of the Broncos will be the key staple to the fast-paced offense. Fayetteville State ranked third in the conference with 176.8 rushing yards per game.
Rising senior Colon Bailey, Jr. (Manteo, NC) will lead the offense. Closing the 2012 season, the 1,015-yard rusher received All-CIAA accolades. He accounted for ten of the Broncos 17 rushing touchdowns and averaged 101.5 yards per game. Thus far for his career, Bailey, Jr. has 1,721 rushing yards and 23 TDs.
Andre Montgomery (Goldsboro, NC) will rotate into the back-field with his 446-yard freshman year contribution. He was one of two Broncos to make the CIAA All-Rookie Team. Montgomery had a stellar performance against Chowan, last season, with 123 yards on 20 carries.
Christopher Hairston (Junior - Jacksonville, NC) grounded out 118 net yards on 31 attempts. During his freshman campaign, Chris totaled 304 yards on 62 rushes.
"The strength of our offense will be the running backs. We have three good ones back there; that we are real pleased with," coach professes.
The program will sport ten returning wide receivers and four tight-ends this up-coming season. The corp will feature three receivers who combine to average 365 reception yards.
"I think we have some real good receivers coming back and also coming in," declares Kershaw.
Rising junior Ricardo White (Monroe, NC) racked up the most yards last season through the air. With 369 yards on 30 receptions, White averaged 12.3 yards per catch and 41 yards per nine games played.
Kasunn Williams (Junior - Rocky Mount, NC) ranked second on the team with 368 receiving yards and 13.1 yards per catch. Williams had 28 receptions in ten games. He is seven yards away from 500 receiving yards in his collegiate career.
Antonio Allen (Senior - Raleigh, NC) pulled in 21 receptions for 357 yards with an average of 17 yards per catch. Allen had a total of 372 yards during his sophomore campaign.
Three returning quarterbacks have been learning the new system through spring practices. Coach Kershaw has brought in a transfer quarterback and local standout Phillip Bell to strengthen the group.
Bell was a factor last season for Fayetteville's E.E. Smith High School; both throwing and running the football. He finished second in the county in passing and rushing en route to being named the Mid-South Conference 4A Player of the Year and The Fayetteville Observer's All-Cape Fear Region Team. As a senior, Bell passed for 1,915 yards and 18 touchdowns on 203 attempts. He averaged 147.3 yards passing per game. On the ground, he rushed 1,415 yards on 147 carries and 20 touchdowns. He averaged 108.8 yards rushing per game. His athletic ability will be utilized behind center and in one of the split positions.
Transfer Jemeryn Jenkins (6-1, 200lbs, San Bernardino, CA) of Victor Valley Community College will challenge for the starting quarterback role. Jenkins threw for 1,358 yards in ten games for the Rams in the California Community College Athletic Association. He carried the ball 109 times for 620 yards. Through the air, Jenkins accounts for ten touchdowns while three where made on his running ability.
"The quarterback position is kind of the same thing as the receivers. I also think we have a good one that we brought in to compete with the guys that are already here. There will be some improvement there," pledges coach.
The offensive line will return eight linemen for the 2013 season. The line will up its weight and mobility with the addition of two transfers and two rookies with an average weight of 294 pounds. Edward Dorsey (6-5, 325lbs, Los Angeles, CA) will depart L.A. Harbor College to join the Broncos along with Reginald Lewis (6-3, 280lbs, Detroit, MI) who was a teammate of the relocating quarterback Jenkins. Incoming freshmen Darrius Wirt and Dondre Whitmire will rotate into the lineup to keep the chains moving. Wirt, who has a 6-3, 275lb frame, will graduate from Hoke County High School in Raeford, NC while Whitemire will travel south from Friendship Collegiate Academy High School in Washington, DC. Whitemire is 6-2 in height and weighs 295 pounds.
"Offensively, I think we are going to be real good as long as our new guys come in and do well for us," says Coach Kershaw. "I thought we had a real good spring. The offensive line, I think, should be a strength for us."
"Defensively, we are going to go back-and-forth between a 3-4 and even front. We will play man and zone coverage. So we will be multiple in that aspect," declares Head Coach Kershaw. "We answered some needs in our recruiting with the defensive line and linebackers."
Five new linemen are on slate to report to official team activities. Off the scales with an average weight of 285 pounds, four of the linemen are JUCO transfers. Justin Barlow (6-1, 295lbs, Carson City, NV), Keith Sampson (6-2, 285lbs, Fresno, CA) and Javon Hampton (6-2, 285lbs, Perris, CA) hail from the west coast. Jamar Ferguson (6-1, 260, Far Rockaway, NY) completes the transfer list.
Four linebackers return from last season and they will receive five new additions. Rising sophomore Marquel Gathers (Smithfield, NC) received CIAA All-Rookie Team honors with 22 registered tackles, three and a half tackles for a loss, and an unassisted sack. He played most of last season as a back-up to departing senior Bryce Williams. Williams had 70 stops in nine games with 16 tackles adding up for a loss of 94 yards.
Joseph McLean ranks fifth on the Broncos defense in total tackles. At the outside-linebacker position, his 39 tackles include five and a half stops for a loss of 19 yards and one sack. He also finished with four passes defended and one blocked kick.
Benjamin Brown (6-2, 225lbs, Los Angeles CA) and Rueben Ortega (6-1, 230lbs, Stanton, CA) will transfer from Santa Monica Junior College and Golden West Community College; respectfully.
"The best unit on the defense is the secondary," states Kershaw. "We have some real good guys back there."
The secondary of Fayetteville State's defense will return a total fifteen student-athletes.
Michael Johnson (Jr., Free Safety - Raleigh, NC), who was recently named to the 2013 Lindy's All-Division II First Team, will highlight the returning Bronco defenders. Johnson led FSU in tackles with 93 (48 solo and 45 assisted) and four interceptions. He ranked fifth amongst the CIAA in tackles and interceptions.
Simeon Marshall (Sr., Defensive Back - Jacksonville, NC) finished fourth on the team in total tackles. He recorded 31 solo stops and 14 assisted tackles. Marshall has a career count of 70 unassisted and 34 assisted tackles.
"We should be much improved over last year's defense; especially with the newcomers coming in. I think we should be real good," declares Kershaw.
Fayetteville State will open the season on September 7th; hosting Kershaw's alma mater Virginia State. His first test as a head coach will kick off at 6:00 pm in L.N. Jeralds Stadium. The contest will highlight the university's athletic hall of fame and the ten-year anniversary of the 2003 championship team. The game will also be a reunion for several coaches on Kershaw's staff. Defensive Coordinator Errick Hargrove (Winston-Salem State, '02) began his coaching career at VSU and matriculated on the sidelines for the past decade. Outside Linebackers Coach Theron Jones (Fayetteville State, '05) spent his previous four seasons with the Trojans before returning to his alma mater. Since the 2000 season, the Broncos lead the series 6-3 with a two game win streak.
The fifth annual Two Rivers Classic will have a change in weekends when the Broncos and the Braves of UNC Pembroke meet-up in Jeralds Stadium. The event, which developed into an instant rivalry, will now be the weekend following the Labor Day holiday. Fayetteville State will look to achieve its first win in the four-year history on September 14 at 6:00 pm. The classic will feature a golf tournament, business after-hours social, and a dance for students. FSU lost the inaugural game 34-41 in triple-overtime and last season 21-31.
Fayetteville State will hit the road the following two weekends with a trip to Richmond, VA for a 7:00 pm matchup with Virginia Union on September 21. Offensive Coordinator Calvin Randall (Winston-Salem State, '02) held several roles on both sides of the ball with the Panthers (his former employer) from 2004 till last season. FSU holds an 8-4 series lead since 2000.
The Broncos will meet-up with Elizabeth City State in Rocky Mount, NC for the 16th Annual Down East Vikings Football Classic. Fayetteville State has a 4-1 record against ECSU in the classic. The September 28 matchup is scheduled for 4:00 pm. The rivalry has FSU ahead by one game (6-5) since 2000.
Fayetteville State University became a four-year college in 1939 and carried the name Fayetteville State Teachers College. The history of the institution is known for the development of teachers and educators. On October 5th, "Educator Appreciation Day" will feature the Broncos-Chowan football clash at 4:00 pm in Jeralds Stadium. Chowan became a member of the CIAA in 2008 and trails FSU in the series history 3-1.
Shaw University will visit the not-so friendly confines of Jeralds Stadium on Oct. 12. The Bears struggle when playing in Fayetteville with a 1-3 record since 2003. Its only victory was a 35-29 overtime advantage in 2011. Shaw re-activated football in 2003 and holds a 5-4 series lead. Fayetteville State will recognize its seniors and honor the military prior to the 4:00 pm kickoff.
The Broncos will travel to Charlotte on October 19 for a 2:00 pm game against Johnson C. Smith in Irwin Belk Complex. Fayetteville State dominates the series 11-2 during the past 12 seasons.
Homecoming festivities will don the Murchison road campus the week of October 26. The highlight of all events is the battle between St. Augustine's University and the Broncos at 2:00 pm. FSU leads the series 8-3 since the Falcons revived the program in 2002.
The final two games of the regular season will be on the road. The Broncos will meet the homecoming challenge of Livingstone College in Salisbury, NC on the second of November. FSU has won all but one game against the Blue Bears in the past 12 years.
The gridiron Broncos end the regular season with a face-off against the NCAA DII National Runner-up Winston-Salem State on November 9 in Bowman Gray Stadium. The Rams lead the series 6-3 since 2000.
Fayetteville State, under new Head Coach Lawrence Kershaw, has developed a plan of action to revisit Bowman Gray Stadium `Home of the 2013 CIAA Championship Game' on November 16 as a contender for its fourth CIAA crown.
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