Johnson C. Smith football coach Steven Aycock watched with interest on his computer as the Charlotte 49ers struggled in the first half of their season-opening game against Campbell last week.
The 49ers led the nonscholarship Camels 6-3 at halftime before scoring 21 points in the third quarter on the way to a 33-9 victory.
“They made a few mistakes early in that game,” said Aycock, whose Golden Bulls open their season Saturday against the 49ers at Charlotte’s Richardson Stadium. “I’m sure they’ll limit those mistakes and won’t make as many against us. But if they do, we’re going to need to capitalize on them.”
The Division II Golden Bulls might need some help from the Football Championship Subdivision’s 49ers, who are in their second season of playing football. But playing lower-division teams didn’t guarantee success for Charlotte in 2013, when it was beaten by Division II’s UNC Pembroke and Division III power Wesley (Del.).
“I said it last week against Campbell and it’s the same this week,” said 49ers coach Brad Lambert. “Everybody has good players.”
For J.C. Smith, that means quarterback Keahn Wallace and running back Leander Barney on offense, as well as defensive ends Chris Randolph and Jovontay Williams.
Wallace, a 6-foot-2, 210-pounder, had several big games last season, including a 425-yard, four-touchdown performance against Bowie State. He ended the season with 1,950 yards and 15 touchdowns.
“He’s a playmaker,” said Aycock. “He’s deceptive for us, because he also runs the ball well for us, although we don’t want him to run as much this season. But he makes plays for us.”
Barney, who started his college career at Georgia Southern, gained 585 yards and scored seven touchdowns last season. As a freshman at Georgia Southern, Barney scored a touchdown against Georgia on a 34-yard pass reception.
“He’s played against schools like Charlotte from his time at Georgia Southern,” said Aycock. “So he understands the pace at which we’re going to have to play. We want to get the ball in his hands.”
Randolph and Williams form one of the top defensive end combinations in the CIAA. Williams (6-2, 245 and a preseason all-conference pick) had 12.5 sacks last season. Randolph (6-1, 260) had 6.5 sacks and 7.5 tackles for loss.
“We feel like we have as good a set of defensive ends as there are,” said Aycock.
Charlotte rolled up 453 yards in total offense against Campbell, much of that coming from quarterback Matt Johnson, receiver Austin Duke and running back Kalif Phillips.
“But I think their secret weapons are their H-backs,” said Aycock. “I think maybe we’re going to focus there defensively.”
49ers H-back Justin Bolus caught just one pass against the Camels, but it was a school-record 62-yarder.
The 49ers aren’t the first Division I team J.C. Smith has played. The Golden Bulls have long histories against N.C. A&T and S.C. State and played Davidson last season.
“We’ve been preparing ourselves for a great atmosphere on Saturday,” said Aycock. “Once we cross those lines, we’re going to be ready for the noise.”