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Wildcats Moving Forward in Work Phase; Johnson Returns as Staff Member

Courtesy:           Release: 08/18/2012

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - The Bethune-Cookman Wildcats rounded out their camp experience with a spirited and hard-hitting practice, Saturday on their home turf at Municipal Stadium.

To program outsiders, it marks a big milestone. With the intensity and demands of camp at B-CU, it's always a big accomplishment to move forward into the regular season routine, but from Head Coach Brian Jenkins' perspective, it's just moving forward to business as usual.

"Right now we're just in a work phase, that's the only thing I'm concerned about," Jenkins said. "I'm not looking at where we're at or where we need to be. We're just working to stay sound on the football fundamentals and basics, to be detailed at what we do."

Details matter. In a B-CU practice, in the film room, and on the competition field on Saturdays and Sundays, this always rings true for the Wildcats. B-CU's focus on that concept has built up and advanced the program over the past two seasons to an 18-5 record. It's also one reason that Jenkins' selection to fill the open quarterbacks coach position was not shocking to many.

The latest to join Jenkins' staff is former Wildcats quarterback Matt Johnson, returning to oversee the development of his playing position. After operating most of his collegiate career in an option-based offense, Johnson used his attention to detail and quickly took to Jenkins' high-flying spread offense. Now, he returns to campus as one of B-CU's favorite sons.

"To come back to this campus is like coming back to a big family reunion," Johnson said. "I'm just trying to contribute in any capacity that I can, and I'm coaching now."

His execution of the new offense led him to selection as the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) Offensive Player of the Year and the Alonzo S. "Jake" Gaither Award, the Black College counterpart to the Heisman Trophy. After leaving Daytona Beach, Johnson spent time on the rosters of two Canadian Football League teams.

"That's a lot of knowledge that's not too far removed from playing the game," Jenkins said. "Matt's done it at every level. You're talking about the [A.S.] Jake Gaither Award winner. How many guys have a chance to get coached by a guy like that? I think they're benefitting from it, along with the addition of the knowledge from [Offensive Coordinator Jim] Pry."

Johnson capped off his career with a record-setting senior season in 2010, leading the Wildcats to a 10-2 record, collecting the most consecutive wins in program history (10) and setting single season program records for points (457), yards (5,107), and points on the road (69). Along the way, he led B-CU to three of the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision's top ten scoring performances that year, en route to a passing mark of 2,053 yards with 14 TDs, rushing for 700 more with seven TDs, making him the first B-CU passer to have over 2,000 yards since 1995.

So far, his transition from playing to coaching has been a smooth one.

"I'm loving it," Johnson said, "and I'm just trying to get the quarterbacks to the highest level they can perform at and get them ready for the season."

Working with former teammates, Jackie Wilson and Quentin Williams, and a new batch of Wildcat quarterbacks, his reputation for coaching fellow players during his playing career could prove to be a notable asset. If he can further instill the principles that he utilized in seeing the field and operating the offense, Wildcat fans should buckle up for an even more exciting season.

"They respect what I bring as far as experience and knowledge of the game, and they've been very receptive," Johnson said of the quarterbacks. "I see improvement and we're just going to continue to improve every day."

The Wildcats resume regular practices next week, but first will take time to get out with the fans and members of the community at B-CU's annual Fan Day event, starting at 6:30 p.m. Sunday (August 19) in historic Richard V. Moore Gymnasium.

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