Damon Wilson can identify what a successful football team is supposed to look like.
For 13 seasons, he built Bowie State — a small school in Maryland — into a Division II power from nearly the ground up, winning three CIAA titles and two Black College National Championships.
Through the first two games of his tenure at Morgan State, Wilson already sees the potential in the Bears. He came to that conclusion after watching the ballclub engage in a back-and-forth 29-21 loss against crosstown foe Towson in The Battle for Greater Baltimore on Saturday.
That game, Wilson said, showed just how much the team had developed in a short time and what it could become with continued progression.
“Our team is this close,” said Wilson. “I don’t know if they understand how close we really are right now as a program.”
Before Wilson arrived it seemed Morgan State (0-2) was anything but, not having posted a winning season in the last seven years and were 5-18 overall record and 3-10 in the MEAC over the last three seasons under then-head coach Tyrone Wheatley.
“We want to you know, we want to be right on the edge of the cliff,” he said. “And we want to continue to go until we get over the top of that hill.”
The foundation of the turnaround starts with Western Kentucky transfer quarterback Baker Carson, who threw for 152 yards and two touchdowns in the loss to Towson. Then there is senior running back Alfonzo Graham. The MEAC’s fifth-leading rusher from a year ago is averaging 89 yards per game on 5.4 yards per attempt.
“Graham is a playmaker. He’s going to be ready when the ball is kicked off,” said Wilson. “He can hurt you on the ground. And Carson is getting comfortable with the offense. He started off a little slow but I look for his play to improve as we continue to move forward.”
On defense, the Bears have been led by junior Lawrence Richardson. The 6-foot-1, 215-pound linebacker has flown all over the field in the first two outings. He’s already recorded 13 total tackles and forced a fumble. Wilson was blown away learning that his best defensive player didn’t begin playing organized football until he enrolled in Bishop McDevitt High School in his hometown of Philadephia.
“He (Richardson) doesn’t look like a young football player. He’s a very cerebral football player,” said Wilson. He watches a lot of film and asks good questions in meetings. He’s a guy that loves Morgan State University.”
For Morgan State as a whole to complete a transformation, it will take complete buy-in and commitment from the players — something Wilson explained has already happened.
“These guys want to win and they believe in the message that we’re putting out there,” said Wilson. “People always use the word culture but it’s the mindset of what it takes to win. And once we learn how to win, we have to sustain success and learn how to handle success.”
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