Gerard Wilcher is a proud Morehouse man, so don’t expect any excuses or pleas for sympathy as he takes over the football program he once played for.
The Maroon Tigers, picked last by preseason voters, will look to get off to a good start with a demanding schedule, and Wilcher, who played on the last Morehouse team to win the conference in 1991, is ready for battle.
“To call our early schedule a gauntlet is an understatement,” Wilcher said of the Morehouse slate, which begins with D-II playoff team Virginia Union Sunday, September 3, at the HBCU Hall of Fame Classic in Canton, Ohio. “The preseason rankings are a blip on the radar, but I told our guys they’re not giving you much credit because they don’t know much about you.”
Morehouse went 1-9 in 2022, though the one win was a season-finale victory over AUC neighbor Clark Atlanta.
After the HBCU Hall of Fame Classic, Morehouse visits Howard, battles Albany State at the HBCUNY Classic, then visits Edward Waters, SIAC champion Benedict and Tuskegee before their first home game, October 14 vs. Miles.
Wilcher, who’s coached at college and NFL levels (including an FCS title at UMass in 1998), hopes the tough scheduling will bring his team closer together.
“There will be times when we have to get up at 3 a.m. to get to the airport and stay an extra day so we can catch a flight back, so that makes it tough,” he explains. “We’re going to have to do things differently, but at the end of the day, as my head coach Craig Cason used to say, ‘Don’t show me the pain, show me the baby.’”
And Wilcher is entrusted with helping the baby grow up, something he’s very excited about, considering his alumni status.
“It’s awesome. I’ve been gone close to 30 years,” he says. “The last time I coached here was 1994, so it’s been exciting to be back around the kids. My second Thursday back, I remembered the ‘why’.”
The Maroon Tigers return multiple players on both sides of the ball to help their cause.
Morehouse has bigger goals than SIAC title
Defensively, linemen Didier Attipou and Dejuan Wright and defensive backs Joel Girtman, Taylor Harris, and Daylon Land will lead that side of the ball while senior quarterbacks Darrach West and Jaylen West (no relation) will see time guiding the Maroon Tiger offense. The QBs will be well protected by a huge o-line that returns four starters – Kelvin Dennis, Kamden Dobbs, Kyle Warmack, and Eryan Thompson.
In a league as competitive as the SIAC, it doesn’t hurt to have that many returning players, and Wilcher is focused on goals beyond the league championship.
“What we have to do is put a product on the field consistently top to bottom that can play with anybody in the country,” he said. “My desire is not to win the SIAC; it’s to win a national championship.”
Wilcher did note that the SIAC is a conference that more people should pay attention to as a D-II power.
“People don’t give us credit because we play ourselves most of the time,” he explains. “We make more money playing other HBCUs. More people come to watch Morehouse vs. Tuskegee than Morehouse vs. West Alabama or West Georgia. Every dollar counts in Division II.”
And with so much at stake for Black College Football, Wilcher understands the Maroon Tigers will need to do their share. And he believes they will.
“You want to be able to autograph your performance at the end of the year,” he said. “You don’t want anybody trying to hide it in the record books. We want to say we came, we overachieved, and we made things happen. That’s what we’re about.”