Philadelphia, PA – The identity that Bethune-Cookman University football coach Brian Jenkins wants his team to take on this season is developing as you read this.
The Wildcats are getting ready.
Jenkins is all about hard work. He wants B-CU opponents and anybody watching his team to know the Wildcats will have themselves prepared in every phase of the game. And we're not just talking offense, defense and special teams, it's being ready emotionally, physically, even spiritually as a group.
The results of Jenkins' philosophy reflect how the outspoken coach has transformed the Wildcats program in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference.
Before he became a Christmas present for B-CU after the 2009 season, the Wildcats were coming off a 5-6 record for the third time in four years. In his first three seasons in Daytona Beach, Fla., they have gone a combined 27-8 overall, including 21-3 in the MEAC, and reached the FCS playoffs twice with the conference's automatic bid.
B-CU was undefeated in the MEAC last season and will be the title favorite again with a standout lineup that includes 1,000-yard rusher Isidore Jackson, two quarterbacks, Quentin Williams and Brodrick Waters, who combined for more than 1,000 rushing yards last season, MEAC offensive lineman of the year Terrance Hackney and a defense led by linebacker Jarkevis Fields, safety Nick Addison and end LeBrandon Richardson
In Five-a-Side - In the FCS Huddle's monthly feature of "five questions, five answers" with an influential person in the FCS - Jenkins discusses his coaching style and the success at Bethune-Cookman.
He's readier than his players.
Let's kick off:
TSN: Can you talk about the offseason. What did you learn about your team during spring practice?
BJ: Well, the No. 1 thing is that right now this offseason is just like every other offseason, our team is trying to focus on just working out and improving themselves as an individual. One thing that I preach to our team during this time is improving yourself as an individual is what you need to be working on. And then when it's time for us to come together and link all those individuals together and improve ourself as a team, that happens in August.
Like I said, we're just concentrating on a part of our program of each young man improving himself as an individual so it will help us upgrade as a team. This spring, our guys showed me that they are willing, they are willing to do the necessary things that need to be done in order to, hopefully, continue to be a championship-caliber football team.
Our guys did not cut any corners in the classroom. We finished with pretty much overall a GPA of a 2.8, which is tremendous. And they didn't cut any corners on the practice field or in the weight room. They did all the necessary things that was required of them there. I can just truly say that convinced me that they are willing to go through whatever process and whatever procedure is necessary in order to continue this championship effort and this championship result that we've reached so far.
TSN: You have become the team to beat in the MEAC in your time at Bethune. How have you taught your players to handle those extra expectations?
BJ: Well, the No. 1 thing I always tell them (is) expect the unexpected and always work to achieve what people feel that you can't. And if you take that approach in life, then you'll be OK. I continue to preach to them that it's a process that we have to go through. And some of the process is going to be good and some of it is going to be bad and some of the process is going to be painful. But we've got to be willing to go through the process.
Don't look too far ahead at the end result, look at handling the process. And if we handle the process like we're supposed to, then the end result will be what we want it to be. We never talk about the end result, we never worry about the end result. The thing that I preach here is the end result is gonna be what the end result is gonna be. But if you don't do what you are supposed to do, then that's where the end result changes. So therefore we put all our effort into what we need to do in order to go through the process successfully.
TSN: (Quarterback) Quentin Williams, he said the following about you: 'Even when you're doing right, he's still on you.' Can you talk about that demanding style as a coach?
BJ: Well, I'm very demanding and never demeaning as a coach. I just believe when you feel like you've reached your best, you can still get better. And there's a thing that we say around here: Either you want to be OK, you want to be good or working to be great or in your heart you strive to be legendary. And legendary is the ultimate goal. So no matter what you do, if you strive to be legendary, then you're always going to surpass whatever you have achieved as being your best. And I just believe that.
We drive our guys every day in life, and we get that message through by staying on them hard and being demanding on the football field as well as in the classroom. And thus far, our guys have taken to the philosophy that we're preaching and have really done a good job at striving to be legendary.
And like I told Quentin, 'Quentin, this is what legendary is: If you play all four years here and you win the championship every year, the next guy has to come behind you and try to do the same.' That's hard to do. And I say, if you look at Michael Jordan, he's legendary. How many guys have done what Michael Jordan has done? But if you strive to do that, then you're going to always surpass your best, regardless of if you beat the legendary status or not.
TSN: Well then, what's the funny side to Brian Jenkins?
BJ: (he laughs) I don't know if there is one. Well, I'll tell you what, the funny side to me is when the guys use the same philosophies against me with certain things. And I kind of smile, but it's a happy side because it lets you know that they're actually listening and taking in to the philosophies that you're teaching.
And that's enjoyable, the fun side of seeing these guys succeed, seeing them achieve, seeing the enjoyment and the excitement on their face when they have done what people consider to be the inevitable. That's tremendous. And who would have thought that our program in the short period of time would be the winningest program in the state of Florida. Better than Florida State, Miami, South Florida. Who would have thought we would have one of the highest winning percentages in college football ever in the first three years of a program? Who would have thought we'd have one of the best conference records to ever be established? We're 21-3 in conference in three years with two championships. It's just good to see those young men accomplish things that people don't think they can accomplish.
TSN: The MEAC has struggled in the playoffs, including the two (first-round) losses you've had in the last three seasons. Why can't the MEAC break through with some wins?
BJ: You know, I can't explain that. It's been crazy. Both times, we've played teams that we think we were evenly matched against.
We played New Hampshire (in 2010). We were beat up, but it was 14-14 at halftime. And they were able to pull away and take care of some of our miscues. This (past) year, Coastal Carolina, we felt like we were the better team, but they played better that day and they beat us.
The MEAC hasn't had some success. And I'll tell you, I fault myself as a coach because I truly do believe that the two times that we went to the playoffs, we had more than a grand chance at winning, and I didn't get it done as a coach. And that's something that weighs heavy on me. And that's what continues to push me and burns at my belly to get accomplished.
But I think we're very close, not only our team, but other teams in the conference are very close to turning that thing around and winning a playoff game. I guarantee you, when people see that they have to play a team from the MEAC, I don't think they come into this thing feeling like, 'Oh, we are going to skate through.' They're coming into this thing saying, 'You know what, we don't want to be the team that they turn it around on and get that win because they are very close.' I actually see it happening very soon.