By BOB REDD
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
The 2012 football season for the Bluefield College Rams was a difficult season. The first-year program experienced massive growing pains as it went through an 0-11 campaign in which the defense gave up an average of 47 points per game and during which opponents scored 50 or more points four times. Such was the fate of a first-year program playing in the NAIA’s toughest conference against five ranked teams.
Stacy Hairston, former NFL player and the initial defensive coordinator at BC has moved on, replaced by Will King. Rams’ head coach Mike Gravier believes that as the program grows, so will the defense under the leadership of King.
“Will has seen our team play and practice when he was here last year,” Gravier noted. “He wasn’t coaching last fall, so he spent a lot of time with us. I think he’s got a good feel for what we can do and what we can’t do.”
Most of the personnel from last year returns, but two significant losses are at the inside linebacker position.
“Tarrell Starckey and Anthony Herring both left,” Gravier said. “Tarrell is trying to walk on at WVU and Anthony just went back home to Florida like some of those guys do, so we’re obviously thin there. That’s why Austin (Van Es) is moving over there. And we have Kyle Sheets from Tazewell will be playing inside linebacker. That’s an area we need to recruit.”
One outside linebacker who has caught the eye of Gravier and the coaching staff hails from Bluefield High School.
“R.J. Buford has had a great off-season,” Gravier noted. “We’re hoping that his strength will finally catch up with that body of his. He’s a high motor kid and a guy that doesn’t make a lot of mistakes out there and plays hard every play. We really like him at one of the outside linebacker spots.”
In the secondary the Rams will be looking for Frank Brooks and Michael Hall to lead the way in a deep area for the Rams.
“We feel we’ve got some decent depth back thee and so we will be able to rotate some guys in and get a feel for where the pieces fit,” Gravier said.
Turning to the defensive line, the Rams have quite few returning and Gravier feels it is one of the strongest units on the team.
“That’s probably our deepest position right now,” Gravier commented. “Jonathan Toe is one of our returning starters, but he’s taking this semester off. He’s doing an internship at Virginia Tech in strength training. We’ve got Cam Carter back, who played a lot, Zach Hudler, who played a lot, Tanner Gilliland, who played a lot. Jaron Delaney is another returner who payed a great deal in those front three guys.”
Gravier said there are differences between former defensive coordinator Hairston and King.
“Coach King’s philosophy is a little bit different from Stacy’s i that Stacy just threw a lot of stuff at our guys, defensively as far as fronts and converages and schemes, blitzes and those kind of things,” Graver pointed out. “Will wants our guys to earn that right to blitz, so this spring we are earning that right to blitz.
“We want to make sure that we’re doing the fundamentals part of it first, slowing it down, making sure they can do the base stuff and then eventually we will add those things.”
On special teams the Rams will have Caleb Fry as kicker, Daniel Griffin as punter and Mason Maples as the long snapper. Fry was one of two kickers on the BC roster last year and Griffin and Maples are also returning in those positions.
While there are still recruits to be signed, Gravier talked about some of the new players who have already committed to Bluefield.
“Darius Carper is coming in, he’s transferring in from Concord, a local Graham player and we’re excited to have him,” Gravier said. “He’s obviously going to add some experience to our offensive line.
“We’ve got commitments from two quarterbacks, Ashton Dixon from Spottsylvania (Va.) and Josh Erby from Rock Hill, S.C. Both are dynamic, athletic quarterbacks. Both throw the ball very well and I’m excited to get a feel for them.
“WE’re bringing in some experienced guys. We’ve got some transfers and some junior college guys that we’re talking to, just to bring some experience into some areas.”
The Rams’ schedule this year features only four home games, but Gravier is not concerned about that.
“We are picking up Southern Virginia, who is a Division III school that has struggled over the years,” Gravier said. “As a coach I am trying to look for that game that maybe we can have a chance to win. Then Point University is another new team on the schedule. It will be their second year, just like us, so again, we’re matching like players.”
Summing up the 2012 season Gravier said, “Our kids played hard. Even though we were getting beat, our kids were battling to the last second and I think fans around here are smart enough they can recognize that.”
— Contact Bob Redd at email@example.com