Alabama NewsCenter 2019 football preview: Birmingham-Southern College

Alabama NewsCenter 2019 football preview: Birmingham-Southern College
Birmingham-Southern quarterback Trever Oakes hands the ball off to running back Zack Seay. Both players will be part of a highly experienced BSC Panthers squad this season. (Birmingham-Southern College Athletics)

Success came a bit ahead of schedule for Birmingham-Southern football coach Tony Joe White. But success that came early may have been even more appreciated.

“BSC hadn’t had a winning season since 2012,” White said of his second year on The Hilltop. “We finished at 6-4 and probably didn’t anticipate a winning season until Year 3. I didn’t think we would turn that corner, so to get it in Year 2 was a little bit ahead of schedule and a pleasant surprise, to say the least.”

White’s third year as coach of the Panthers begins with a 5 p.m. Central kickoff on Saturday, Sept. 7, at LaGrange College.

Alabama NewsCenter: What is the outlook for this season?

Tony Joe White: Our conference is really tough. Our nonconference schedule is really tough. We will be a better football team. Whether that translates to wins and losses is to be seen, but we’ll be better. I think the team has a lot of confidence from the success that they had last year. We have a ton of guys returning and I think that kind of gave them the belief that they can accomplish some of the things that they (envisioned) when they signed on to come here. This is what we wanted to play for. Now they can kind of see that light at the end of the tunnel and they’re raring to go and put the ball down and see where the chips fall. I think they feel pretty good about where they can end up.

ANC: What is the strength of this year’s team?

White: I think the biggest thing we have going for us is just the culture, the love and the camaraderie that they have for each other. They’re a really close bunch and they understood now what it means to play for each other, to be selfless, to serve each other. We’ve got nine guys back that played on offense that played meaningful downs. So there’s some retention going to be in place that will bode well for us. Defensively, we lost probably one of the best defensive players in the conference. So he’ll have to be replaced. But I feel really good about the personnel we have coming back.

ANC: Who are your team’s standouts?

White: Our running backs are strong. Zack Seay, (Robert) Shufford … either one of those guys could be in the game and I wouldn’t care. We’ve got a sophomore coming up named Justin Robertson. ‘Shuf’ is kind of a slasher, make-you-miss-in-a-phone-booth type kid. Seay’s a big back that will run over you. Justin is kind of a hybrid of both of those guys. I’m saying our quarterback (Trevor Oakes) has been a two-year starter; he’ll be back. And we’ve had a very capable backup quarterback (Burk Williams) that will actually push him for the starting job. We’ve got good depth and good experience at quarterback, which in any offense is kind of the key to making it go. You hit that trigger guy. And we’ve got four of the five starters on the offensive line, including our all-conference left tackle (Austin Lewter). We’ve got two all- conference inside linebackers (Myles Myers and Garrett Stevens).

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

White: The fans will have the Huntingdon game circled. We play them each year for the Wesley Cup and right now it is on our campus. That’s always an interstate rivalry. It’s nonconference, though. Once you get into conference, Berry College won three straight conference championships. We’ve definitely got that one circled. And Centre College tied Berry for the conference championship last year, so we’ve got that one circled.

ANC: What is your lingering question?

White: We’ve got to figure out who’s going to play what we call our field-backer. That’s the position that Sy (Butler) played and Sy was such a dynamic player. Who steps into that role? We’ve got to find the answer to that.

Download or print a complete schedule of all 15 Alabama college football programs, including Birmingham-Southern, here.

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