By BRIAN WOODSON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
BLUEFIELD, Va. —
Tonight will tell the tale for Aaron Mingo.
Mingo, the new offensive coordinator for the Bluefield College football team, expects to name a starter at quarterback after an intrasquad scrimmage tonight at Mitchell Stadium.
The scrimmage will begin at 6 p.m., and is free and open to the public. Bluefield had originally been slated to scrimmage Emory & Henry College tonight, but those plans were changed.
“Our quarterback position right now, there is no clear cut favorite so we are still evaluating that like crazy,” Mingo said. “We are trying to figure out which guy gives us the best chance to win on Saturday.”
However, quarterback isn’t the only position up for grabs for the Rams, who will open their season on Aug. 31 at Point University in Valley, Ala.
“It has been a great start to camp this year,” said Mingo, during a media gathering last weekend. “We have been very competitive going back and forth offense and defense. Our guys are doing a good job of learning the new schemes, techniques and assignments and learning the offense.
“We have a lot of position battles going on right now at pretty much every position.”
Even though Bluefield lost much of its limited offensive production from last year’s 0-11 season — the Rams’ first year of football since 1941 — Mingo understands that football has become a game that is driven by the quarterback.
“I anticipate naming a starter after that scrimmage,” Mingo said. “We have got another week of practice, every day is an evaluation day, the guys understand that so every day they are getting an opportunity to show what they can do to continue to move the offense.
“We are on an equal rep rotation right now, we will continue to do so next week leading up to (the scrimmage) and at that point we will have to name a starter and go from there.”
Among the five candidates are three incoming freshmen, including pocket passer Josh Erby (6’1, Rock Hill, S.C.), the more mobile Armani Ford (5’11, Clairton, Pa.) and talented Ashten Dixon (5’10, Spotsylvania, Va.), along with sophomore holdover Cory Mabry, a Fort Chiswell product, who started late in the season last season.
“The guy that can manage the offense the best is the guy who is going to win the job,” Mingo said. “The guy who can ultimately give us the best chance to win, a guy, that when he is in there, the offense moves the best, that is going to be the deciding factor.”
Just about every position is up for grabs, although Bluefield does return tailback Marion Harris, big-play receiver Rodrell Smith and offensive lineman Hayne Darby. Mingo is excited about several newcomers, including freshman running back Torrie Battle, JUCO wide receiver Richard Johnson and former Graham and Concord offensive lineman Darrius Carper.
No wonder tonight’s scrimmage will play a large role in establishing a depth chart with the season opener just over a week away.
“We are still in the process of doing that,” Mingo said. “Until we get to the point where we truly know who our starting quarterback is and who all 11 guys are that are going to be competing, we still are trying to work that out and figure that out heading into the season.”
Mingo has been in Bluefield since July 1, having arrived a month after Ordell Walker left Greenville College in Illinois to replace Mike Gravier as head coach of the Rams.
“It has been great so far, it is a great community, both the school community and the Bluefield community,” Mingo said. “It seems like they are big about football here, very supportive, very excited about it so it is great to be a part of that.”
There hasn’t been much down time for Mingo or any of the new staff members at Bluefield, not with having to complete a late recruiting class with fall practice kicking off on Aug. 8.
“This month has been a little crazy, just trying to get everything done and not getting here until July 1st late in the year,” Mingo said. “It has been a lot of work, getting the playbook finished, getting installs done, Coach Walker has been having to work to get the staff finalized.
“It has been great, I am real excited for the season to start.”
Walker was able to lure Mingo to Bluefield, and later brought in Jeremy Burrows to serve as offensive line coach.
Mingo was an offensive lineman at Greenville when Walker was an assistant there, and served under Walker as a coach for four seasons.
When the offer came to be the offensive coordinator at Bluefield, it didn’t take long to accept.
“I thought that would be something I would be real excited about being able to take a bigger leadership position,” Mingo said. “I have grown to love other positions, not just offensive line so the whole schematics behind offensive football is something I really enjoy.”
Mingo has found similarities between Bluefield and Greenville, which is also a small NAIA and National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA) college that posted a 22-9 record in three seasons with Walker as head coach.
“I think they are very similar, a small Christian college, a small community in size,” Mingo said. “I think both schools, their mission is much more than just the sport itself, they are about integrating faith in the sport.
“That is why we are here, that is what we are excited about as well.”
There is also a difference in the two schools. Mitchell Stadium holds 10,000 fans. Filling that up will be a challenge.
“Our stadium at Greenville held about a thousand so it is a pleasant treat playing at Mitchell Stadium, we are excited about that,” Mingo said. “I think this conference and this level of football is a little bit higher than what we were used to at Greenville so it is a little bit of a step up in competition, but at the end of the day it is still football.”
That is one of many reasons why Mingo wanted to be part of the Rams.
“It is getting the right type of guys and doing a good job of recruiting and getting them to understand your schemes,” Mingo said, “being great teachers, being great leaders and developing a culture of guys who know how to get it done.”
—Contact Brian Woodson