Sept. 1 - BETHANY, W.Va. – Even though the Bethany College football team doesn’t start their season until Sept. 8, Bison head coach Tim Weaver has announced who will be under center when the 2007 campaign kicks off at Hiram (Ohio) College.
Senior Milton Joyner (Pittsburgh, Pa./Westinghouse), who was a three-year starter at receiver, has earned the position after beating out five other candidates. He saw his first legitimate game action as the starter Saturday, Sept. 1, when the Bison scrimmaged at Otterbein (Ohio) College but according to Weaver and offensive coordinator Bill Garvey, Joyner is more than ready after a very good camp.
“Milton was much better than we expected and we expected a lot,” said Weaver, who guided BC to a 4-6 record in 2006, their most victories since 2001. “He seems like a natural because he’s very poised, football-smart and doesn’t turn the ball over. It’s almost scary to think what he could have done if he started playing quarterback from the day he came here.”
“Milton progressed very well through camp,” said Garvey. “He’s very bright, understands our whole system after being in it last year as a receiver and doesn’t panic at all under pressure.”
The Hiram game will be Joyner’s first collegiate start under center, but he’s had some experience throwing the football in his Bethany career. As a freshman wide receiver in 2004, he tossed a 54-yard touchdown pass to Zack Merz to help the Bison record a 35-28 victory over Defiance (Ohio) College in the season finale. Then in the 2005 opener, he fired a 72-yard scoring strike to T.J. Parker on the team’s first offensive play from scrimmage in a 34-21 triumph over Franklin & Marshall (Pa.) College.
As a junior last season, the 6-0, 200-pound senior threw two passes, completing one for 18 yards, through the first nine games. However, in the team’s next-to-last contest at Carnegie Mellon (Pa.) University, starting QB Brent Owens went down with a season ending injury. The following week, Joyner, who had taken snaps as the back-up through the week, was forced to come in during the second quarter against nationally-ranked Washington & Jefferson (Pa.) College. Although he was unable to lead BC into the end zone, he finished the afternoon with 18 completions in 26 attempts for 111 yards, setting the stage for his move to quarterback this fall.
What Weaver and his coaching staff saw that day, and watched through camp, was Joyner’s unique skill set that he’ll bring to the position.
“Obviously, Milton runs far better than the other guys we have because of his experience at receiver,” said Weaver. “One of the things that surprised us was that no one ever gets a clean hit on him. It’s like he has eyes in the back of his head because he can feel where the pressure is coming from and escape.
“The other thing we really like about Milton is that when he is forced out of the pocket, he looks to make a play with his arm rather than just take off running,” said Weaver.
Moving from wide receiver to quarterback may seem like a simple decision for a player to make if the coaches present that option, but it wasn’t quite that easy for Joyner. He had established himself as one of the top wideouts in Bethany history, as he had 112 career receptions, which place him fifth all-time at the school, for 1,262 yards to rank ninth on the career list. Although Joyner didn’t seem very receptive at first to the idea of switching positions prior to his final year in Green and White, he has grown into his new role, with the watershed moment coming in the team’s inter-squad scrimmage Aug. 25.
“After our inter-squad scrimmage, Milton talked about how much fun he was having,” said Garvey. “He likes having the ball in his hands every play, so I think he’s warmed up to playing the position. And I think it really shows, because every day, he plays and acts more and more comfortable.”
Joyner and the Bison will begin the new season in a 1 p.m. kickoff next Saturday at Hiram, a team they defeated last year 42-7 for Weaver’s first win on the Bethany sidelines. BC’s home opener will come Sept. 15 when they host first-year program Saint Vincent (Pa.) College at 1:30 p.m. at Bethany Field.