Experience at key positions feeds optimism for 2016 Birmingham-Southern football

Experience at key positions feeds optimism for 2016 Birmingham-Southern football
Wide receiver Jamal Watkins is one of the reasons Birmingham-Southern College Coach Eddie Garfinkle is optimistic about the upcoming football season. (Birmingham-Southern College Athletics)

Eddie Garfinkle enters his ninth season as head football coach at Birmingham-Southern College. His Panthers were 5-5 overall in 2015 to push his career mark to 40-38.

Alabama NewsCenter is posing five questions to state college coaches as the 2016 football season draws near. Next up are Garfinkle and his Panthers, who open their season at 6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 3, hosting LaGrange.

NC: What is the outlook for this season?

EG: Optimistic. I think that’s everybody at this time of year. We’ve got some guys returning in key positions that have made improvement since January. If we can be more consistent and play well every game, we should have a shot in every game to win.

NC: What is your team’s strength?

EG: I’d say our overall speed and quickness. We probably have the fastest and quickest team we’ve had since I’ve been here. In saying that, we don’t have a lot of size and strength. But hopefully we can make up for that with our speed and quickness.

NC: Who are your team’s standouts?

EG: Samir Usman is our returning tailback and he’ll be a senior. Kyler Jackson is a guy that came in last year as a freshman; he’ll be a sophomore. Those are our two tailbacks we hope we have a 1-2 punch with. We’ve got three good wide receivers – Jonathan Scaringe, Jamal Watkins and Damian Mitchell. Defensively, Matt Franks is our starting safety; he’s kind of the leader of the defense. And Matthew Byers is our starting corner; he started as a freshman last year and is a good football player. And we have two guys who played nickel back last year – Sy Butler and Christian Burlock.

NC: What game do your fans have circled on your schedule?

EG: Even though it’s not a conference game, it’s Huntingdon. They’re an in-state rivalry down in Montgomery and we’ve had games that have gone down to the wire. We play for the Wesley Cup since both of our schools are (supported) by the United Methodist Church.

NC: What is your lingering question?

EG: I guess our starting quarterback. Austin Martin is going to be a senior and he has played for a couple of years now, as a sophomore and junior. He’s been in and out of the lineup. We took Kerrigan Pennington, who was a freshman quarterback and last year starter at corner, and moved him back to quarterback. We’re looking for him to compete for a starting job, and also Kevin Dzwonkowski, who injured his hip as a freshman last year and was redshirted. We have three guys that shared reps in the spring. That’s going to be key for us, which guy can emerge as the leader.

Also in this series: Read Alabama NewsCenter’s interviews with head coaches Reginald Ruffin of Miles College, Bobby Wallace of the University of North Alabama and Brett Gilliland of the University of West Alabama.

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