DAYTONA BEACH Fla.
For much of last season, Bethune-Cookman had the most prolific passing numbers in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference.
And that made Wildcats coach Alvin Wyatt miserable.
“That’s not what we are,” Wyatt said. “That’s not who we are.”
No, what Wyatt wants to see is a powerful rushing team, one that crisply runs the offense he created and named after himself the ‘Wyattbone,’ which has befuddled opponents for much of the last decade.
So this year, Wyatt says Bethune-Cookman is going back to basics, recommitting itself to the triple-option offense that he prefers.
“We have to run it,” quarterback Jimmie Russell said. “Running the ball controls the game. It speeds the clock. Running the ball gets us back to doing what were really good at doing because we were recruited to run the ball.”
Russell saw his production slip last season by nearly 300 yards and seven rushing touchdowns from his 701 yards and 10 rushing scores his sophomore season. Instead, Bethune-Cookman relied mostly on wide receiver Eric Weems, who enjoyed a breakout year and wound up among the top-rated players in the MEAC.
Which was good sort of, anyway.
“We don’t recruit that,” Wyatt said. “Our game is not passing. If we lead the conference like we did last year in throwing the football like we did with Eric Weems being tops in the conference, then you are almost always going to see a losing record from us.”
That’s what happened in 2006: Wyatt’s team finished 5-6 overall and in seventh place in the MEAC, losing five of eight conference games. Bethune-Cookman dropped five of its last six MEAC contests, including a 35-21 defeat to rival Florida A&M to close Wyatt’s first losing season since 1997.
So how did the veteran coach react to the difficult season?
Wyatt dismissed nine players with eligibility remaining. Then he shuffled some coaching assignments and hired former Georgia Southern assistant coach C. Ray Gregory to work with offensive coordinator Brad Bernard.
And Wyatt didn’t stop on the offensive side of the ball. He plans to wear a headset on the sideline for the first time in many seasons so he can change defensive calls if he sees fit.
“Sometimes you have to shake things up like that,” Wyatt said.
– Associated Press
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