By BRIAN WOODSON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
No film, no scouting report, nothing but directions on how to get to school that resides in Georgia, but plays its football games in Alabama.
Bluefield College will begin its second season of football since 1941 by traveling to face Point University, another second year program, that is located in West Point, Ga., but plays its games in Valley, Ala.
Ordell Walker, Bluefield’s first year head coach, said the Rams are ready to see a different uniform.
“We are tired of hitting each other. Going down to play a school we haven’t played before and being in another part of the country is always fun,” Walker said. “At the same time I wish I had another two weeks to prepare...
“We are going to be excited, I am sure, we will be nervous, guys getting out there for the first time. We just have to get out there and initiate and make that first hit and then just get back to just playing football.”
Walker was hired in June to replace Mike Gravier, and had to hire a staff, fill out a roster and then had 23 days since practice began on Aug. 8 prepare for the Skyhawks, who were 2-8 in their first year with football last season. The Rams were 0-11.
Both teams have had a change at head coach, with defensive assistant David Rocker, a former All-American at Auburn, replacing Kevin Porter at Point.
“One season of football and a similar situation,” said Walker, whose Rams did not have a film exchange with the Skyhawks. “They have a new football coach, although he was on staff last year. They are a young program like us and we have their two-deep, but that is about all we know at this point.”
“It was one of those things with both staffs being new, typically you don’t trade film. We have seen some of their talent by looking at YouTube videos and things like that, highlight film stuff.”
Bluefield, whose closest game in 2012 was a nine-point loss in the season finale against Campbellsville, should feel confident for at least a chance at the school’s first win on the gridiron since 1941.
“You would think in paper we would be somewhat similar, they are not that established and there is some transition with them just like there is with us,” Walker said. “We like our chances, but like with any game, it is just going to come down to us doing the process and taking care of what we have to take care of and not get too concerned about the opponent...
“It will definitely be a game of adjustments and who can see patterns right away. It is probably who is going to make the least amount of mistakes, and who just does what they do well.”
Bluefield will be led on offense by freshman quarterback Josh Erby, who won a five-way battle for the spot. While the Rams will run the ball with Marion Harris and Adrian Pope, Bluefield has the options to be balanced with weapons on the outside in Richard Johnson and Rodrell Smith.
“Those guys can make plays so we want to get them the ball in a variety of different ways...,” Walker said. (”Johnson) is a big target, has really good hands, runs good routes, we have a couple of receivers like that.
“We have stressed to them a lot you have got to make plays for the QB because all of our quarterbacks are young. They can be talented, but they are still young so we have to be able to turn a 4-yard catch into a nine-yard gain, and that is what we expect from our receivers.”
The offensive line, much like the defensive line, is banged up, but will be led by former Graham and Concord product Darius Carper.
Walker admits there is work to do in that area, but the Rams will have a full playbook ready to use against the Skyhawks.
“Some of it just comes down to what our quarterback can do, I think that is a big part of offensive football,” Walker said. “With Erby being the guy right now, his strength has been being able to pass the ball, but our style is we want to establish the run and be a physical running team.
“We will try to have some balance, try to use multiple formations and get the ball in the guys hands you can make plays one on one.”
Defensively, Walker preaches a ‘fanatical’ approach to the game, coaxing such starters as Bluefield High School standout R.J. Buford, defensive back Frank Brooks and Anthony Rivers, and linebackers Eli Overstreet and Ernest Moore to aggressively pursue whoever has the ball.
“Be aggressive, run to the ball, there are going to be mistakes, the other team is going to make plays,” Walker said. “We have to respond and we have to just continue to play hard and run to the ball like crazy and that will overshadow maybe some mistakes that we have. That is a big, big key.”
Caleb Frye will serve as the kicker for Bluefield, while the punter will be Daniel Griffin.
In a game where there are so many unknowns, Walker — who was ultra-successful during his three-year stint at Greenville College in Illinois — knows what he wants from his Rams.
“It really comes down to this, which offensive has the most explosive plays and who wins the takeaway turnover battle,” Walker said. “If we get the ball back more than we give away is going to be huge and then can we find a way to make plays, runs over 12 yards, passes over 20 yards.
“When you are talking about two young teams, their ability to be consistent and make 10 or 12 play drives, that is usually unusual. It can happen, but you certainly don’t want to have to rely on that, you want somebody to break a tackle and make a play for you.”
Bluefield won’t have much time to adjust their new surroundings, not with being eight hours from home, and kicking off the season at noon.
“I hope it is not that tough, I have always loved away games, I love the challenge of playing in front of somebody else’s crowd and everybody is against you, I like the underdog kind of feel,” Walker said. “For us, it is about can we not be distracted because you have got the bus, you have got hotels, you have got eating out. This is a great time to build team and have fun experiencing new things, but at the same time it is a business trip.
“Our young guys, and we are very young team, how quick will they get ahold of that, the first time doing it I just don’t have a pulse of whether that is going to be a problem.”
—Contact Brian Woodson