Heading into the Oct. 14 homecoming game on Saturday against Moorpark, Bakersfield College football is a last-minute holding call away from possibly being undefeated and ranked in the state's Top-2.
Despite the 28-26 home loss to No. 2 Riverside, BC (4-1) put together a first-half to the 2017 season that was full of a lot of highs and just enough lows to keep head coach Jeff Chudy and his staff eager to get even more over out of the players in the next five weeks.
The Renegades are ranked No. 7 in the state and No. 10 nationally by JCFootball.com and seem to have a head of steam heading into National Northern Conference play.
With the Renegades currently on their bye week, it’s a good time to go back and grade the team out through their first five games of 2017.
Quarterbacks (B-minus): The dual-quarterback system can be a feast or famine situation for football programs. However, BC may fall into the rare middle ground here. At times Brandon Jones and Cesar De Leon have looked great and near equals, with Jones getting most of the reps in the first half of games and De Leon finding his rhythm with some late-game heroics. But neither have really been able to utilize the deep ball with frequency and too many times Jones have been subject to getting sacked in third down situations.
Running backs (B): The explosiveness hasn’t been there as expected, with former Stockdale standout Elisha Ortiz coming in with top-end speed. With that said, what the running backs have been able to do for BC has been solid. Ortiz leads the Gades with 61.6 rushing yards per game, on 4.6 yards per carry, and six touchdowns. Add Malik Bakley and Lameshio Hill into the rotation, and the trio averages 5 yards a carry. Getting more opportunities to push the line of scrimmage on first and second down would likely eliminate the amount of long third downs.
Wide receivers (B-minus) - The addition of Cameron Roberson and his top-end track and field speed has turned the Garces graduate from a speciality player to top target for the quarterbacks. Obviously this is a position that needed to have a playmaker come right in after Derrick Vickers signed with Utah. But, much like the concern with the quarterbacks lack of a deep ball threat, the same can be said here. Jakell Tomlin has been great at times, but with just 11 catches, there is going to be a need for more production throughout the season.
Offensive line (C-plus) - This was a very inexperienced group, and therefore a question mark, heading into the season. At times the group has given quarterbacks time to throw and created holes for running backs. With that said, the amount of sacks the Renegades have given up on third downs has been an issue. If the line can continue improving, likely, so will the offense's performances in conference play.
Defensive line (B) - First and foremost, Tyrell Eddington has been the disruptive force that the sophomore defensive end was expected to be. His two sacks against Riverside were very impressive in terms of both get-off and in his pursuit of the quarterback. But, too many yards on the ground for opponents and not having Justin Holmes (suspension) has hurt the line play early. Nigel Brooks (Bakersfield High) had his best game of the season against El Camino last week.
Linebackers (A) - The group, led by former Marine and sophomore linebacker Desmond Ramseur, has been fantastic. Ramseur leads the team with 45 tackles and Frontier graduate Sale Atuatasi has been solid against the run and in pass protection with 29 tackles and two sacks. Add in freshman James Thomas (Independence), along with Orlando-native Malik Chatman, and this has been a high point for the Renegades.
Secondary (A-plus) - It’s really hard to find much that this group has done wrong this season. Ernest Harris has five takeaways with three interceptions and two fumble recoveries. He's also third on the team with 29 tackles. Add in Louis Early (26 tackles, an interception and two forced fumbles), Zion Williams and Criston Brown, and this has been the best group on the field for BC. While opposing offenses have been able to churn up yards on the ground, the defense has been as opportunistic as any in the state with 17 takeaways in five games, including a school-record 100-yard interception return for Bobby Robinson (South).
Special teams (A) - If the secondary has been the best group, special teams takes a close second. Carson Olivas has been a model of consistency punting the ball. The freshman from BHS is averaging 41.3 yards per punt and 14 of his 26 punts have been downed inside the 20-yard line. Cameron Roberson and Jakell Tomlin have both scored on punt returns. Roberson went 92 yards for the score on his only punt return this season at L.A. Harbor and Tomlin’s 87-yard return started the incredible comeback against El Camino last week. Aldo Gonzalez and Nathan De Jager have converted 18 of 21 PATs, but have converted three of five field goals.
Overall (A-minus) - When you are a team that is a 2-point loss from likely the No. 2 spot in the state and the nation, sometimes it feels like nit-picking on some grades here. But, the offense needs to clean up the third-down sacks and improve on the deep ball, and the defensive line needs to plug holes in the run game. If those few things happen, this is a team that is a legitimate state title contender.