In just two short years, the South Carolina Bulls have gone from being just another developmental football team to being ranked among the nation’s best. Developmental Football USA caught up with team owners Jovan Hyman and Derick Stevens to learn more about their recipe for success.
“The biggest thing is structure,” Hyman told Developmental Football USA. “We have coaches that were in the service and some that are in the ministry. We have a good core group of coaches and not just people you find on the street that have that street mentality of doing things the wrong way.”
The structure installed at the very top of the organization trickles down through each arm and leg of the program and is a big part of the reason the Bulls are among the best teams in the entire country.
“One thing we focus on at the Bulls, we focus on team ball,” Hyman said. “We don’t focus on superstar ball. We get all the guys to buy into the team concept, playing together to achieve their goals. Some guys have joined our team from teams where they were the star player on one side of the ball, but something they were lacking was the winning culture. If you take yourself out of the equation and focus on the team aspect, then you’re going to do better. If you can’t do that, then we don’t need you.”
Every year, the Bulls are forced to let some very talented players go, who do not meet these standards, Hyman said. However, with as much interest as the team generates, there’s plenty of other players willing to meet those standards, eager for a chance to step on the field.
“When I started with the Bulls, the previous owner was accustomed to about 30 guys,” Hyman said. “I’m really big on recruiting. We recruited very heavily, some of the best athletes all across the state. That’s something with our team that’s a little bit different than other teams.
“We have guys that come from all over. We have players that live three hours away. Last year we had a guy that was almost four hours away, but they want to play with us and I personally think that’s because of the way we do things. It’s very business oriented so we try to instill things like no drug use, no cursing, no profanity at games. If you don’t make certain things, then you won’t be able to play in the game the following week. We’re pretty strict compared to other teams.”
Last year, the Bulls’ approach earned them the Deep South Football League Championship and an 11-1 record. With even more playmakers seeking to join the team, the Bulls don’t appear to be slowing down at all.
“We’re bringing back a lot of guys on the offensive side of the ball that won the championship last year,” Hyman said. “From the offensive stand point, we’re going to incorporate a lot of things that we didn’t have the chance to do last year.”
Hyman, who is also the head coach and offensive coordinator runs a system that spreads to ball around so they can utilize their many weapons all over the field.
“We don’t really base the offense off of one particular person, but if I had to name some stand out people that are real important to what we do, Marlon Pryor, he was the leading receiver last year,” Hyman said. “He led the league in receiving and he was the Offensive MVP of the championship game.
Pryor finished last season with 39 receptions for more than 1,300 yards and 11 touchdowns, in just 11 games.
“Mario Ford, who was the start running back, he joined us this year,” Hyman said. “He’s going to be a real key role to what we do as well as Jarred Watkins. From the offensive line, I’d have to say Zachariah Keller and Josh Brown. Those are the key stalwarts to what we do. John Reeder is another guard, he’s returning back to the team from last year as well.”
Defensively, the Bulls are stacked and look to cause headaches for every offense they face in 2017.
“We were No. 1 in defense in the league we were in and I’m pretty sure we’ll be No. 1 this year,” Stevens said. “This team is really loaded again this year. I think it’s even better than last year. We’re three or four deep at every position. Any time you take a corner out and put another corner in, the corner that came in is as good as the one I just took out and that’s not trying to be funny.”
Leading the way in the Bulls star-studded secondary are cornerbacks Terrence Dorsey and Cedric Mathews, as well as safety Stephen Shine.
“Dorsey is one of the bigger sized corners at 6-1 and 210 pounds,” Stevens said. “He’s mean off the edge and he can fly. He’s a beast. Mathews can cover a ghost, he’s that good and Stephen Shine 14 picks in 11 games.”
The defensive line is also extremely formidable and will keep many plays from ever reaching the second or third level of the defense.
“Defensive tackle, “Big Sherman,” Demetrius Sherman, he’s probably about 6-4 and 320 pounds,” Stevens said. “You can double or triple him, he’s still going to beat you. Monte Adams at defensive end, another big cat, 6-3 probably about 275 pounds. He’s got a crazy motor that never stops.”
Ultimately, the team’s success will come down to how far the coaches can take them and the coaching staff the Bulls have put together should easily be one of the best at this level.
“A lot of the coaches we have come from different environments that played on Division I teams or NFL teams,” Hyman said. “These guys are really coaches and not just guys you know from around the block. They know what they are talking about and they’re fundamentally sound across the ball. We’re big on teaching, you’re not going to come here, get some crazy playbook and then show up.”
Once Bulls players learn their roles and responsibilities, they’re expected to take a professional approach to the game and master them.
“You’re going to show us you know what you’re doing and if you don’t know what you’re doing, then you’re going to be on the sideline chillin,” Stevens said. “We don’t care how superstar you are, that doesn’t reflect anything on this team.”
At the Bulls’ first practice in October, the coaches were evaluating roughly 115 players, but some will weed themselves out and others will have to be cut as the United Independent Football League kickoff gets closer.
“We pretty much over-recruit,” Stevens said. “People wonder why we recruit so many guys when we can only dress so many. We know in developmental football, there are people that can’t show up to practice, can’t show up to meetings, and don’t know what to do. Every year we end up letting go 20-30 guys. They’re used to what they see on other teams. We like to call it ‘Bootleg Football.’”
“We coach from an actual playbook and play chart from the offensive side and defensive side. We put in 15 or so defensive sets and offensively, they put in 100 to 120 plays. Some of them we never touch, but we have them in the playbook to touch on if need be.”
It’s basically championship or bust this year in the UIFL for the Bulls, who are sponsored by Dick’s Sporting Goods.
“Ee’ve been preaching championship or bust,” Hyman said. “That’s pretty much what we’re aiming towards. We feel if we don’t win the championship, it will not be a successful year, because we push these guys to that point. Our goal is to win the championship, then take the team and play against some national competition.
The Bulls will face one of their toughest test of the regular season Week 6 when they play the Rutherford County Raiders, a team who was ranked top five nationally just two weeks ago.
“It has national implications,” Hyman said. “That’s something we’re looking forward to. The goal is to win the championship in the UIFL then compete in some national tournaments.
“We have a lot of guys on the team that have aspirations to go further. We try to give them the opportunity to do so. The time they’re with the Bulls, they buy into the concept that this is the opportunity we have now to win a championship at this level. Then, if an opportunity comes, so be it.”