DSU football 2017: Hornets hoping for turnaround season

DOVER — The Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference coaches are expecting more of the same from Delaware State this season.

But the Hornets hope to change that.

Coming off a winless 2016 season, the Hornets were picked to finish last in the MEAC again in 2017. Things are supposed to be different this year, though, according to Delaware State.

“It’s night and day from last year,” said coach Kenny Carter. “We’ve had two good years of recruiting and got some players in here who can play in our league and do things on a consistent basis. Everything we wanted to do as we’ve built this thing, now we’ve gotten to that point. Now we have to go play and execute every day.”

The Hornets begin their season with a trip to instate rival Delaware on Thursday at 7 p.m. The rest of the nonconference schedule is highlighted by trips to FBS powers West Virginia (Sept. 16) and Florida State (Nov. 18).

The MEAC portion of the schedule kicks off in Week Two at Hampton on a Friday night at 7 p.m. (Sept. 8). The home opener is Saturday, Sept 23 against Norfolk State at 2 p.m.

Hornet quarterback Keenan Black. (Special to the Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

Carter is entering his third season at the helm and is looking to stabilize a reeling program which has not had a winning season since 2012. The Hornets have only won one game the past two years.

Like last year, the team will be made up of primarily underclassmen as Carter has tried to rebuild through recruiting. The Hornets have just eight seniors on the roster.

With so much inexperience, it’s been quite the process. But there’s optimism this could be the year it comes together.

“I’m pleased with where we are,” Carter said. “Are we there yet? No, there’s plenty of work to be done. But we’re on track, I feel like we’re sticking with the plan.”

Delaware State University football head coach Kenny Carter .

There’s still plenty of unknowns this year. The starting quarterback won’t be announced until the days prior to the season opener. The competition, which originally had four players battling for the starting spot, is now down to sophomore Keenan Black and true freshman Jack McDaniels.

The Hornets also only return just one starting wide receiver and have no one older than a sophomore starting on the offensive line.

One place where DSU will be strong though is at running back. Junior Brycen Alleyne and sophomore Mike Waters were both top-five rushers in the conference last season.

They also added freshman Nyfease West to an already deep backfield. West was one of the Hornets primary recruits for the 2016 season but suffered a knee injury in preseason camp that made him miss the entire year.

With so many weapons in the backfield and the youth at quarterback, expect the Hornets to be a run-oriented team to begin the year.

“It’s going to be a lot of ground and pound, stuff it up the gut,” said sophomore lineman Joshua Fala.

Carter thinks the defense will be improved from a year ago when he bemoaned too many missed tackles.

The defensive line got stronger with the addition of Towson transfer Caleb Hebron and when former offensive lineman Jacob Jones joined the unit. The Hornets also return their top two tacklers from last season at linebacker in Malik Harris and Brian Cavicante.

“The defense front continues to get so much better,” Carter said. “Then our linebackers are really starting add on to the things we’ve done in the past. Our physicality at the point of attack is markedly better than what it was last year.”

Delaware State football

OFFENSE

QUARTERBACK: The Hornets’ starting quarterback will be named in the days before the opener on Thursday at Delaware. The competition is down to two, sophomore Keenan Black and true freshman Jack McDaniels. Black was recruited as a quarterback but did not throw a pass last season and mostly played wide receiver. McDaniels threw for 2,956 yards and 36 touchdowns as a senior in high school a year ago.

RUNNING BACK: This is DelState’s deepest position. The Hornets return two of the MEAC top rushers in junior Brycen Alleyne and sophomore Mike Waters. Both were in the top-five in the MEAC in yards per game last year and Waters set a DelState freshman record for rushing yards. They also will get a boost with the addition of Nyfease West who sat out the 2016 season after suffering a knee injury during preseason workouts.

WIDE RECEIVER: There a lot of question marks at wide receiver this year. Sophomore Fatu Sua-Godinet will start the season as DelState’s top returning wideout. After him there’s a ton of inexperienced players with junior Taronn Selby and sophomore Jordan Hannah who each only caught one pass all last year. Newcomers Angelo Gonzalez, Michael Credle and Michael Ojeh are all expected to be able to contibute right away.

TIGHT END: The Hornets figure to be more active with using tight ends in the passing game this season. Isiah Williams is the lone returner at tight end, he caught one touchdown last season. He is joined by Tyreek Booker and Tim Smith as true freshman who should see time.

OFFENSIVE LINE: The Hornets have a lot of size up front. Expected to lead the way up front are sophomores Joshua Fala (6-7, 355) and Cade Pedro (6-5, 305). Pedro is moving to center while Fala will play tackle. Trey Wallace (6-3, 300) will be at guard joined freshman Matthew Derks (6-4, 325). Freshman Kaiden Crawford (6-4, 290) is a likely starter at the final tackle spot after missing the 2016 season due to injury.

DEFENSE

DEFENSIVE LINE: A transfer from Towson, Caleb Hebron, will lead the defensive line flanked by sophomores Ulises De Los Santos and Damon Atwater-Stephens while junior Jacob Jones switched over from offensive line to join the defense. The Hornets could also rotate sophomore Adbul Ajelero, sophomore Eljon Williams, junior Robert Jernigan and junior Christian Johnson.

LINEBACKER: There’s little question marks about the linebacking spot. DSU is led by senior Malik Harris who recorded 82 tackles last season, tops on the squad. Sophomore Brian Cavicante had a breakout year as a true freshmen and was second on the Hornets with 70 tackles. Kameron Rogers and Garfield Heslop will also feature on the top unit to start the year.

SECONDARY: Brock Nichols and Xavier Wilcher will start at the two safety positions. Nichols lead the team in interceptions with two a year ago. Keyjuan Selby is one of the returning cornerbacks, last season he was among the MEAC leaders in passes defended. The other cornerback is likely Jahad Niebauer who was a roational player as a freshman last year.

SPECIAL TEAMS

KICKER: Wisdom Nzidee is in his third season as the Hornets’ placekicker. He went 4-for-7 on field goal attempts and 16-of-18 on extra point attempts in 2016.

PUNTER: Fidel Romo Martinez is back for another year as the punter, he was fifth in the MEAC in 2016 in average punting yards.

RETURNER: Alleyne is the top returning kickoff man while Sua-Godinet and the two Selby twins could return kicks.

 

Delaware State football

2017 schedule

AUGUST

31-At Delaware 7 p.m.

SEPTEMBER

8-At Hampton* 7 p.m.

16-At West Virginia noon

23-NORFOLK STATE* 2 p.m.

OCTOBER

7-At North Carolina A&T* 1 p.m.

14-HOWARD* 2 p.m.

21-SOUTH CAROLINA STATE* 2 p.m.

28-At North Carolina Central* 2 p.m.

NOVEMBER

4-At Savannah State* 5 p.m.

11-MORGAN STATE* 2 p.m.

18-At Florida State* TBA

* MEAC game.

2016 results

0-8 MEAC, 0-11 overall

L-Delaware 14-56

L-Monmouth 20-34

L-Missouri 0-79

L-Morgan State 17-20

L-Hampton 17-27

L-Florida A&M 27-41

L-South Carolina State 3-30

L-Bethune-Cookman 10-41

L-North Carolina Central 19-38

L-North Carolina A&T 14-45

L-Howard 21-26

Reach staff writer Tim Mastro at tmastro@newszap.com

You are encouraged to leave relevant comments but engaging in personal attacks, threats, online bullying or commercial spam will not be allowed. All comments should remain within the bounds of fair play and civility. (You can disagree with others courteously, without being disagreeable.) Feel free to express yourself but keep an open mind toward finding value in what others say. To report abuse or spam, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box.