In 2013, the Clark Atlanta Panthers football team will feature a redefined look built on the pillars old school gridiron principals. The latter statement is the objective of first year Panthers head coach Kevin Weston as he looks rebuild the program into a contender in the SIAC and eventually in Division II.
Starting from scratch, one of the new field general’s primary objective was recruiting. With Atlanta being one of the top pipelines in the nation for talent, Weston hit the ground running by signing an influx of metro Atlanta high school football players, while adding a few key transfers to set the foundation for the Panthers future.
With the mesh of untapped talent and solid core of returning players, Weston’s goal is to replenish the mindset, while instilling discipline and fundamentals to a team that will transition into new schemes on both sides of the ball.
Trust, believe, and succeed is the adopted motto of the team that scrapped its struggling spread offense for the ball controlling, ground attack of the Wing-T offense, which is proven to be successful on the Division II level. After a dismal showing in 2013, its certain that the Panthers will be a well run machine offensively, as the team finished last in total offense (209.1 yards per game) and scoring (9.8 points per game).
Like all option sets, the foundation starts up front on the offensive line. Coincidentally, for Clark Atlanta, all five offensive starts–Evans Joseph, Donald McIver, Rick Hart, Josh Sterling, and Kyle Sarjeant return. Running back Antonio Ford is the other returning starter on offense, who will expect to receive more carries this season from the A-back position.
“Offensively, a lot of emphasis will be placed on running the football with our three backs in the backfield and quarterback sharing the load of our new ground attack,” Weston said. “We will be relying heavily on our experienced offensive lineman to lead us on offense in effort to run effectively with our new system.”
Over the years, Clark Atlanta has earned a reputation as one of the league’s top defenses, especially when the team plays at its home field of Panther’s Stadium. Case-in-point, 2012 SIAC Champions Tuskegee barely escaped with a 14-0 victory after the Panthers were able to force five turnovers and shut down Tuskegee’s rushing attack. A move to the high risk, high reward 3-3-5 formation, should make the Panthers more formidable. The Panther’s D return six starters, including the hard-hitting linebacker Brenard Williams, who was an All-SIAC selection last season. Rashad Bryant and Terrance Pryor, who were part-time starters last season also return for the Panthers to boost the group of linebackers that will be depended on heavily this season. Donald McElver, a converted linebacker, will be a force on the defensive line, while returnees Steven McGil and Antonio Ford will bring solid leadership to a young secondary.
“The combination of speed an athletic ability on defense will be the nucleus of our defense,” said Weston. “The goal is to come up with stops and create turnovers, which will lead to more scoring opportunities for our offense.”
Weston’s philosophy is to win the special team’s battle each week by having the top players on each special teams unit.
2012 Panthers by the Numbers
Scoring Offense: 9.8 (10th)
Scoring Defense: 26.8 (7th)
Total Offense: 209.1 (10th)
Total Defense: 311.1 (4th)
Rushing Offense: 59.2 (9th)
Rushing Defense: 130.2 (3rd)
Passing Offense: 149.9 (8th)
Passing Defense: 180.9 (6th)
2013 Panthers at Glance
Head Coach: Kevin Weston, 1st season (Tusculum)
Last SIAC Championship: 1991
Last Playoff Appearance: None
Returning Starters: 12 (6 offense, 6 defense)
Players to Watch: LB Brenard Williams, RB Antonio Ford, DB Stephon McGil
Schedule: Good and Bad news can explain Clark Atlanta’s 2013 schedule. The bad is the Panthers have a tough opening stretch in September with two of their first three games against Division II playoff opponents, West Alabama and Fort Valley State. Furthermore, the Panthers will host Stillman College, another team set to have a big season. The bright side is that Clark Atlanta will play six games at home, which could be a plus for the young team.
Primary Strengths: Clark Atlanta returns its entire offensive line, which will be a great benefit for the team’s Wing-T offense. On defense, Brenard Williams leads a solid group of linebackers that will be looking to plug holes all season against the run.
@ West Alabama (9/7)
Stillman College (9/14)
Fort Valley State (9/21)
College of Faith (10/12)
@Benedict College (10/19)
Albany State University (10/26)
Shorter University (11/2)
Edward Waters (11/9)
@ Southern University (11/16)