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Braves football looking to lead by example
By Curtis Brooks Sports Editor
August 30, 2012
The Braves football team is entering the 2012 campaign, ready to build off last season's successes and poised to make improvements on last year's frustrations.
All-American leadersJunior quarterback Luke Charles and senior linebacker Fred Williams, both All-Americans, offer the Braves' squad an exceptional amount of leadership on both sides of the ball.
In his first full season as the Braves' starter, Charles threw for nearly 3,000 yards, while also registering 25 touchdown tosses compared to just seven interceptions en route to breaking 13 single-season school records.
Charles's durability proved to be essential to the Braves last season, as he started in all 11 games.
The young signal caller has earned the respect of all his teammates as he has become a leader on and off the field, through his work ethic and talent.
After losing four starting offensive linemen from last year's squad to graduation, having a knowledgeable quarterback like Charles in the pocket can prove to be a blessing in disguise.
With Charles's presence in the pocket and a talented receiving core, the Black and Gold are poised to have a dominant air attack.
"Luke just gets it; he is a great leader and knows how to get the most out of his teammates," Shinnick said.
Williams had a breakout junior season when he amassed 113 total tackles, including a trio of sacks en route to a multitude of post-season awards and recognitions.
Last season the Fayetteville native established himself as a tackling machine in an overtime loss to rival Wingate when Williams tallied a career-high 18 tackles, including 13 solo stops.
The memorable performance finished a tackle short of tying the school record for most tackles in a game.
The senior has already earned a series of pre-season awards prior to the 2012 season, but has not lost sight of the team goals.
"I want to continue to focus on the little things and do my job," Williams said. "I have to be a vocal leader and bring other guys along with me."
Britt, who will also be looked at for leadership this season, has hauled in double digit catches each season since arriving on campus in 2009. The four-year starter recorded a pair of 100 yard games last season against Fayetteville State and the University of Charleston.
Returning receivers, Jason Perry, T.J. Johnson, Ben Decelle and Rakeem Overby, have also proven to be vital members of the Black and Gold and will continue to make an impact in the Braves' spread offense.
Cornerback L.J. Stroman and defensive end DeVante Bush are expected to provide a spark on the defensive side of the ball, where the Braves are traditionally strong.
"Defensively we are a solid team, but last year we fell off a little bit due to inconsistent play at times," Shinnick said. "I want to get back to how we played defensive in the later portion of the season."
In his first collegiate season, Stroman stepped up and essentially became a starter at the cornerback position in 2011. The sophomore was fourth on the team with 57 tackles, while also collecting an interception and knocking down six passes.
Stroman is expected to lead a veteran-laden secondary with his great coverage abilities and skills.
Bush, a junior, has led the Braves in sacks the last two seasons, with four sacks in 2011 and six sacks in 2010.
"It's very difficult to replace an All-American running back like [Daniels] who rushed for over 1,600 yards and who scored 15 rushing touchdowns," Shinnick admitted. "But Damonte and Elliot have had very productive off seasons and are prepared to take over."
A local product from nearby Scotland High School in Laurinburg, Terry was second on the team in both rushing yards and touchdowns last fall.
Terry spent his first two seasons at East Carolina University before transferring to UNCP. His experience in Division I football and size will prove to be a major asset.
Powell, a more diminutive running back than Terry, has also proven to be a productive runner for the Black and Gold.
The junior averaged more yards per carry than any other running back on the team last season.
The Braves are looking to continue to have a balanced offensive attack with both a potent passing and running game and expect to attack opposing team's defensive weaknesses.
"Our goal is to always be a balanced offensive football team," Shinnick said. "A lot of what we do offensively is based off what the defense gives."
Season previewBoasting another tough schedule, UNCP will begin the season on the road against Winston-Salem State on Sept. 1.
Winston-Salem State is the ninth-ranked team in the preseason polls and advanced to the Division II National Semifinals last season.
The Rams have defeated the Braves in each of the last two seasons, including a 34-7 victory at Grace P. Johnson Stadium.
The Black and Gold are looking to avenge last year's loss in their 2012 season debut.
"We got our work cut out for us game one," Shinnick said. "If we play well, we will have the opportunity to win."
The two subsequent weeks following the Winston-Salem State matchup, includes the Braves hosting Fayetteville State in the fourth annual Two Rivers Classic on Sept. 8 and traveling to regional foe Wingate on Sept. 15.
With a tough schedule on the horizon, Shinnick maintains that the Braves' focus will remain on week one.
"Winston is enough to think about," Shinnick said. "We will continue to take it one game at a time."
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