CIAA Media Day: Livingstone’s preseason ranking will be motivation
WINSTON-SALEM — Livingstone football players reporting to camp on August 12 will find an unwelcome surprise in their locker.
It’ll be a sheet of paper with the CIAA predicted final standings and it’ll show Livingstone picked to finish 11th in the 12-team league and last in the Southern Division.
New coach Daryl Williams is a realist, but he was a little surprised at the ranking during CIAA Media Day at Winston-Salem State on Thursday.
The favorite word in his vocabulary is “standard.” You find out quickly the requirements at Livingstone are different now. Williams’ business card states at the bottom ‘The standard is the standard.’
“We’ve created a standard throughout our whole building,” Williams said. “We always say ‘Did you meet the standard?’ ”
It’s not an enviable position, taking over a program that hasn’t had a winning season in 16 years, but Williams has transported a winning pedigree and attitude to Monroe Street. The former college quarterback at Tennessee State was offensive coordinator last year and fulfilled the head coaching position when Elvin James was let go. There was a 2-8 season but the Blue Bears averaged 24.1 points a game, a stark increase from 9.3 a game in 2011. Even the attire is new, as the Blue Bears will sport different uniforms and white helmets with numbers on the helmets. It all ties in to what Williams is selling.
“It’s the vision that I have for the whole program,” Williams said.
Livingstone quarterback and last year’s CIAA Rookie of the Year Drew Powell threw for 2,322 yards and scored 23 touchdowns. He’s left-handed like Williams, who was the quarterbacks coach at Texas Southern from 2007 to 2010.
“His knowledge of the game is overwhelming,” Williams said of his protege. “We’re looking for him to be a complete quarterback and more so to manage the game this year. His completion rate can go up and his decision making can get better.”
Williams is one of four new coaches in the CIAA and likens himself as a players’ coach. He runs sprints with his guys during practice, despite the fact they don’t go as smoothly at 40 as they did at 21.
Williams got a call from James last year while working on his a doctoral degree at Memphis. James was looking for an offensive coordinator and a friend referred him to Williams, who came to Salisbury without any prior knowledge of the area. “It’s important that I’m right there with them every step of the way,” Williams said. “They’ve got to know that I care about them and their well-being. I’m very hands-on and detail-orientated. When you’re trying to build a program, it’s important I’m there with them.”
The defensive coaching staff is revamped after the Bears allowed 40 or more points eight times last year. The defense had a solid spring and held the offense out of the end zone in the spring game. Junior linebacker Kenneth White Jr. is a preseason all-conference choice after leading the CIAA in tackles with 10.3 per game. Another leader at linebacker is Tyheim Pitt, a senior returnee after finishing second in the CIAA in solo tackles with 59. Winston-Salem State, winners of back-to-back conference championships and 35-4 in the last three seasons, was picked to win the league again. Elizabeth City State, St. Augustine’s, Chowan and Shaw rounded out the top five.
Johnson C. Smith, which drubbed the Blue Bears 50-7 in last year’s finale, is the opener on Sept. 7 in the Commemorative Classic at Memorial Stadium in Charlotte. The home opener is a week later against Catawba for the Mayor’s Cup. Williams has gotten acquainted with fellow first-year coach Curtis Walker at Catawba. “We don’t expect instant success overnight,” said Williams. “It’s a real challenge, but it’s a good ride. It’s been real rewarding.”