Tigerville, SC – The North Greenville University football team isn’t shy about taking on one of the nation’s most rigorous NCAA Division II schedules in 2008. The Crusaders, led by ninth year head Coach Mike Taylor, will launch their ambitious campaign against Division I-FCS program Liberty University Saturday, Aug. 30 at 7:00 p.m. in Lynchburg, Virginia.
“There is an air of excitement around our team heading into the season, “ Taylor said. “We know Liberty will be bigger and stronger than us (the Flames were 2008 Big South Conference champions), but I expect our guys to step their game up. It will be a tough game and we’re not going to surprise them with anything. We just have to be prepared for a sound, basic game and really go in and compete hard. One area I’m extremely pleased with is that our older guys are really leading our new players. That hasn’t happened for awhile, and it will be a major key to the success of our season.”
LIBERTY ON NATIONAL TV: The Liberty game will be broadcast nationwide on Family Net television. The cable channel is not available in the Greenville/Spartanburg area, but is on 12 cable affiliates in South Carolina, including Columbia, Myrtle Beach, Aiken and Hilton Head. FamilyNet programming is available across the United States on broadcast, cable and telephone company channels including select Verizon FiOS TV Service and AT&T U-verse TV markets. It is on Sky Angel IPTV Channel 107 and Sirius Satellite Radio on channel 161. “Playing on television always gets your players excited because a lot of people will see you and value what you do. They know they can excel in front of a large audience, so they’ll be ready. Of course, it’s hard to get into a rhythm on TV because you have to play the hurry up and wait game for timeouts. It will still be an awesome experience for us,” Taylor stated.
NGU was 5-6 last season and competes as an NCAA Division II Independent. “We are taking on the toughest schedule in school history” Taylor noted. “We want to play a representative schedule, but as an independent, it’s tough to find games against schools our size; but, we are comfortable playing above our heads.
Taylor’s goal for his squad has been to get ready for the first three games of the season all through summer and fall practice. “Our team has worked very hard to get ready without a lot of prodding from the coaching staff, “he said. “When that happens, and you stay injury free, you could expect a very competitive season.” NGU will play
NGU OFFENSE: The Crusaders will ramp up their high octane offense again this season. NGU amassed over 5,000 total yards last season, and put 442 points on the scoreboard. Taylor’s Pro-Style offensive scheme features mixing in multiple formations utilizing the rush 58% of the time last season. “We work for balance, but we are going to do whatever it takes to move the ball down the field and score points,” Taylor said. “That’s the whole idea, so we’ll be very flexible.”
One strength of the NGU offense will be a star pair of senior running backs, both of whom have rushed for over 1,000 yards in a season. Rashad Cumming s (Sr – Mt. Dora FL) rushed for 1,573 yards last season and scored 15 touchdowns. He has the strength to power through the line, yet possesses breakaway speed. Paired alongside Cummings is Matt Moore (SR – Washington, NC). Cummings started the 2007 season at running back, rushing for 720 yards and eight touchdowns. He moved to cornerback in the middle of the season to strength a struggling defensive secondary. Both Moore and Cummings are potential professional draft choices as they have been ranked 7th and 8th nationally among all small college players respectively by nfldraftscout.com., a highly respected draft service.
The departure of star quarterback Eric Moeller opened up a battle for the signal caller’s position. The top two contenders were Greg Woerner (JR – Lexington, SC) and Richard Harb
(JR – Knoxville, TN). Woerner sat out last season with a back injury and saw limited action in 2006. Harb is a transfer from Division I Western Carolina. Taylor indicated that Harb, at the end of last week’s drills, may receive the initial nod at quarterback against Liberty. “The strength of our offense is our running backs and wide receivers,” Taylor observed. “Brandon Dobbins (SR Goose Creek, SC) is a very talented wide receiver and will be featured prominently in our offense.
DEFENSE IMPROVED: A primary off season and fall practice concern was making needed improvement to the defense. Taylor has focused heavily on that area by shifting more coaches to that side of the ball, which has helped the Crusaders improve as much as anything else. NGU’s defense is experienced, with 10 starters returning from last season. Defensive coordinator Mitch Hall has the defense primed to improve from last season. “Our defensive line is a major strength of our team” Taylor said. “We have great depth there, but we are going to need to improve our secondary if we are going to be successful. Andre Bernardi (SR – Marietta, GA), is the leader of our defensive line at the defensive end position. Bernardi played well last season but was slowed by nagging injuries. We anticipate him to be geared up for a great senior season. Bernardi is another highly regarded player with professional potential. At 6-3, 265, He is projected as the 7th best defensive end among all Division II, III and NAIA defensive ends. Another player to watch on the defensive side of the ball is linebacker Doug Wilson (JR – Matthews, NC).
Our secondary will be led by veterans Xavier Boykin (JR - Camden, SC) and Chandler Bailey (JR – Irmo, SC). “We will be much better on defense this season with improved team speed, “Taylor said.
Following the Liberty game, NGU will open its home schedule Saturday, Sept. 6 against Wingate (NC) University. Kick off is at 7:00 p.m. A highlight of the Wingate opener will be Coach Joe’s Low Country Boil seafood jamboree, which will precede the game at 5:00 p.m. The Crusaders third game will be Thursday, Sept. 11 at Newberry College. Newberry has been ranked in NCAA Division II top 20 in pre-season.