|PHOTO | TROY HULL|
|New Johnson C. Smith head coach Maurice Flowers is looking forward to the start of spring drills, which starts on March 22.|
Spring cleaning is underway for Johnson C. Smith football.
With new head coach Maurice Flowers taking a more aggressive approach to recruiting players and overhauling the coaching staff, the Golden Bulls are trying to build a competitive program from the ground up. The first game is five months away, but Flowers is eager to get on the field March 22 for the first practice session.
“I’m really looking forward to it, just extremely excited because I feel the excitement from the young men,” he said. “They’re excited to put their best foot forward and building a topflight program. I’m just excited because I like watching how they come to work each morning at 6 am and how they come committed to getting better and it’s just going to keep going as we go through spring practices.”
There’s a decent foundation for Flowers to work with, with nearly 70 players from last year’s 1-7 squad expected to suit up for drills. They’ll get acclimated to new schemes and coaches as well as expectations.
“We’ve got 68 going through spring ball right now,” Flowers said. “That includes a few guys that came in mid-year, but we’ve got over 65 that are out there going through drills, which is a great number because we’re developing our culture and how we’re [setting] the direction.
“We’ve been very pleased with our progress and the attention to detail of the young men.”
The incumbents will need to be attentive to compete with a flood of recruits expected on campus in August, which will transform the program’s size and depth. Every position group will likely get an overhaul, especially at quarterback where there’ll be a new starter, and special teams, a major problem last year. There’s some talent though, such as 2021 CIAA all-rookie pick Davion Nelson, Waderek Hemingway and Tyreik Leach at running back as well as second-team all-CIAA receiver Reggie Bryant.
“We’re bringing in a big class – [we’ve] got 38 right now – but our number will probably end up being closer to 50 once we’re done recruiting,” Flowers said. “So, with those young men that we are recruiting, they’re going to have to come into the right type of culture. That’s what we’re doing right now – developing our culture and how we’re going about our businesses as we carry ourselves on the field and off the field.”
Flowers’ goal is to build depth that can withstand injuries or inconsistent play during the season as well as replace players who leave due to graduation or transfer. A larger roster also means more bodies at practice sessions to replicate opponent tendencies.
“The plan is to have between 110 and 120 [players]and that’s pretty much the last couple of schools that I’ve been,” he said. “At Fort Valley State this past season, we brought in 120 for training camp, and then we have what we call a school start roster, which was another 25 that we brought out … after training camp.
“What those numbers do is that it not only just helps school enrollment, but it also helps the program and the fact that you can practice the right way. You have a first team you have a second team; you have scout teams that provide a look for the [starters].”