Catawba Notebook: Carpenter leads DBs
By Mike London
The Catawba notebook …
Not long ago, Catawba assistant coach Bob Lancaster had his hands full getting through to a young DB named Brandon McIntyre.
They almost got physical in the hallway one tense day, but that’s also the day the walls came down, lines of communication were installed, and the two men started to trust each other.
Now they’re friends, and with Lancaster’s duties expanding to defensive coordinator, McIntyre has been a huge help on the sidelines communicating with DBs on the field.
“If someone had told me, “B-Mac would become a coach someday, I’d have said, ‘H— no!’ ” Lancaster said with a laugh.
McIntyre matured and realized the “Catawba way” of doing things is the right way.
Catawba’s current leader in the defensive backfield is Jasmon Carpenter, a senior from Black Mountain C.D. Owen who picked off the seventh pass of his career in Saturday’s 49-7 victory at Livingstone and returned it 42 yards for a touchdown.
“We practice reading the ball and reading the quarterback and he threw it my way,” Carpenter said. “I just reacted. Then I got great blocking. Chris Noel got the first guy ó the receiver ó that’s the key guy. Then the D-line guys were looking for some guys to hit.”
Lancaster and Carpenter haven’t clashed as often as Lancaster and McIntyre once did, but there still was drama before the maturing process set in for Carpenter. It took time, but a cocky kid has blossomed into a solid, dependable leader. He was second team All-SAC as a junior and will be a candidate for first team this year.
“No near throw-downs in the halls with Jasmon, but we did have some spirited private meetings,” Lancaster said. “He was the best athlete in his high school and about a one-man or maybe a two-man show on the football field. Then he comes here where there are a lot of good athletes. That takes adjusting.”
Playing football for 2A Owen, Carpenter wasn’t just a DB. He also was a running back and piled up 1,780 yards and 22 touchdowns his senior year.
He rushed for 221 yards against North Buncombe in a breakout and he had 235 yards and five touchdowns in a playoff game against Bunker Hill.
Carpenter was on the radar of SAC schools such as Lenoir-Rhyne and nearby Mars Hill, but former offensive line coach Mike Bloomgren established Catawba’s first contact with Carpenter.
Lancaster saw Carpenter play for the first time when Owen had a playoff game against Shelby, one of the schools in Lancaster’s recruiting territory.
“Right in front of me, Jasmon makes an interception over his shoulder on a high ball, and then he returns it 40 yards,” Lancaster said.
“I turned to Bloomgren and said, “OK, Mike, who’s this Carpenter kid?’ ”
Lancaster, Bloomgren and Catawba head coach Chip Hester traveled to watch Carpenter play basketball. They saw him play defense one-on-one and knew he was an athlete they wanted.
“But football is definitely Jasmon’s game,” Lancaster said with a grin. “Not a scorer with a basketball in his hands.”
Carpenter agreed to make a visit to Catawba. Physically, he made a great impression. Tall, sturdy and strong.
Attitude-wise, coaches weren’t sure. Confidence is fine, but this guy was overconfident. Catawba liked him more as a defensive back than a running back, but was that a role he’d embrace?
“He was extremely cocky, full of confidence like a lot of young guys,” Lancaster said. “On his recruiting visit, Jasmon walks in and announces, ‘I can lock down anyone.’ ”
Joe Mitchell, one of Catawba’s more athletic receivers, was standing by. Lancaster figured it was time to humble Carpenter a bit, but he surprised him by holding his own in one-on-one drills with Mitchell.
The rest is history. Carpenter was a true freshman when an injury to Trey Glover forced Catawba coaches to toss him into the fire in 2005, and he’s so talented it’s been hard to get him off the field since then.
He made 16 tackles against Lenoir-Rhyne the last game of his freshman year, had a 40-yard fumble return TD against Presbyterian as a sophomore and a 93-yard interception return against Newberry as a junior.
“Jasmon’s made a bunch of big plays,” Hester said. “Some guys have a knack for that and some don’t. He has the knack. He’s got good size, strength and speed. He’s physical enough to play the run, yet agile enough to cover people. We have all the confidence in the world in his ability.”
It was fun running the ball in high school, but Carpenter doesn’t miss it.
“Making the conversion to a college DB was what was best for the team and best for me,” he said.
Catawba has already survived a visit from Elizabeth City State’s Dexter Manley, one of the best receivers they face this season.
Carpenter believes the DB corps, which includes redshirt freshman safety Mike Benton and true freshman corner Bryant Vennable, will be up to the challenge of facing the SAC’s long list of veteran quarterbacks.
“As a young guy I learned things from Brandon McIntyre, Thomas Presley and Trey Glover,” Carpenter said. “Now I try to hang out with the younger guys and pass things on to them. I’m not sure the DBs are as talented as last year’s, but we can work to get to that point.”
Carpenter talks like a coach now, and, he may end up being one. After all, McIntyre did.
Like McIntyre, Carpenter come realize the “Catawba way” is a good way.
There’s still plenty of trash talk ó mostly between McIntyre and receiver roommate Brandon Bunn ó but he knows now where the words stop and the deeds start.
“Jasmon arrived with rough edges, but he’s always been a really good guy and he’s grown up a lot here,” Lancaster said. “It’s great to see him now taking those young guys under his wing.”
Hester’s has also enjoyed watching Carpenter smooth out the rough spots.
“It really is a good feeling,” he said. “It’s always nice to see that knuckleheaded freshman being called upon to lead as a senior.”
BACK TO BASICS: Catawba has no game scheduled Saturday. Then it travels to Mars Hill to open SAC play on Sept. 27.
That makes this an unusual week. It’s a weak to heal, a week to tweak a few things and a weak to reinforce fundamentals.
“It’s like going back to the spring for a week,” Hester said. “We made a lot of big players and we’re glad we won Saturday, but we’ve got to get more sound at a lot of things.”
SURGERY: Running back George Bell had surgery to remove his thyroid last Wednesday.
Hester said Bell seems to be responding well, but there’s no timetable for a possible return to the field.
HONORS: Carpenter is Catawba’s Defensive Player of the Week. Left tackle Terence Crosby is the Offensive Player of the Week, and Chris Noel, who’s been creaming people, is Special Teams Player of the Week.
Special teams coordinator John Fitz has produced T-shirts that proclaim: “Some people need hittin’. Noel has taken that advice to heart.
QBs: Offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Matt Barrett has a smile on his face.
Starter Howard Williamson played well against Elizabeth City State, backup Patrick Dennis threw five TD passes against Livingstone, and redshirt freshman Daniel Griffith completed his first college pass Saturday.
“I’m feeling good about all those guys,” Barrett said. “It’s great to see all that working and all that waiting finally paying off with gameday results.
“Daniel’s working and learning and he’s finding some new area of success every day.”