DSU Football 2019: Hornets eye improvement with 7 home games

Shayne Smith is one of the quarterbacks coach Rod Milstead is considering to open the season next Thursday at Delaware. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

DOVER — The Delaware State University football team took some steps forward in 2018.

The Hornets are hoping more steps will come this year thanks to a favorable schedule.

Delaware State has seven home games on its slate as the 2019 season will kick off Thursday. The Hornets open at the University of Delaware before back-to-back home contests.

The Hornets only had four home games a year ago and didn’t play in Dover until the first week of October in Rod Milstead’s first year as head coach.

This is the first season Milstead was able to make his own schedule.

“We wanted to work on our schedule,” Milstead said. “We wanted more home games. We’re going to build our program right here in Dover so our fans can see it.”

And Milstead said season ticket deposits are already up compared to last year.

Delaware State University football coach Rod Milstead. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

Delaware State went 3-9 in Milstead’s debut season. All three wins came during the last four games of the year and all were at home.
That win total was the highest since 2013 and equaled the combined amount of victories the Hornets earned from 2015-2017.

Another difference in this year’s schedule is the Hornets do not have a cash game against an FBS opponent.

Last year Delaware State played at both Buffalo and Western Michigan. In recent years it has made road trips to Florida State, West Virginia, Missouri, Temple and Toledo. All of those games were blowout defeats, including a 79-0 loss at Missouri.

But Milstead said he’s not interested in playing those types of games.

“We don’t want those money games,” Milstead said. “We want to fill up our stands. I’ve never been a fan of those money games. They put our kids in a situation where they’re overpowered, they’re overmatched.

“Our program is not at that level right now where we can go out and compete with a Florida State or a Missouri. We’re not ready for that right now. If that day comes when we’re ready and we can compete, then I may entertain that. But in the next five years, none of those games are on the schedule.”

The Hornets have one of their most experienced rosters in a while.

The defense is led by senior linebacker Brian Cavicante, who was named preseason Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year. The Hornets also have All-MEAC performers safeties Devin Smith and Jahad Neibauer along with defensive lineman Christians Johnson.

The defensive line was also given a boost when another All-MEAC player Brandon Carswell transferred to DSU from Savannah State as a grad transfer.

The offense will be paced by a deep stable of running backs, which include Dallas Bryant, Richard Harris and Mike Waters. All-MEAC wide receiver Trey Gross returns and Kwannah Kollie is another starter who is back. The offensive line is led by All-MEAC player Kaiden Crawford.

The one question mark is who will quarterback the Hornets on Thursday. Milstead will choose a starter on either Monday or Tuesday between junior Shayne Smith or freshman Tylik Bethea.

The Hornets officially wrapped up their preseason camp with a practice under the lights Wednesday to prep for Thursday’s 7 p.m. game in Newark.

“It’s officially Delaware week,” Milstead said. “That’s all we’re focused on. It’s a great challenge for us. I really believe we have a team that can go up to Newark and compete at the highest level. I’m expecting big things from our team and our program.”

Delaware State was again picked last in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference’s preseason poll, but Milstead said that’s more of a reflection of what the Hornets have done over the last five years. He thinks this year’s squad can change DSU’s reputation in the conference.

“Winning will change all of that,” Milstead said. “I really believe we have a great nucleus of guys who believe in our vision and we will be pretty darn good this year.”

Delaware State Football 2019

A look at Delaware State’s 2019 roster:

OFFENSE

QUARTERBACK: The job is still up for grabs entering the weekend. The competition for the starting spot is between junior Shayne Smith and freshman Tylik Bethea. Smith played in four games last season and started the season finale. Coach Rod Milstead said he will likely make a decision on Monday or Tuesday. Jabari Blake, Jared Lewis and Vincent Tascione (Polytech) round out the QBs on the roster.

RUNNING BACK: This is probably DSU’s deepest position. Senior Bryant Dallas who ended last season as the No. 1 back will resume duties. Behind him are Richard Harris and Thomas Bertrand-Hudon. Senior Mike Waters is healthy after two injury-plagued seasons. Waters, who holds the freshman DSU rushing record, will be a part of the running back rotation right away and could play within the first two series according to Milstead.

WIDE RECEIVER: The Hornets top-two wide receivers were both starters a year ago in junior Trey Gross and junior Kwannah Kollie. The competition for the third spot is still ongoing. Senior Charles Peeler and freshman Barry Hargraves are the two front-runners, Milstead said. Senior Jordan Hannah will also find his way on the field and will be a key part of the Hornets’ kick and punt returning game.

TIGHT END: Junior Isiah Williams is firmly entrenched as the No. 1 tight end and is one of the top tight ends in the MEAC. But the Hornets will likely use two tight ends more often this season than they did a year ago. Myles Beverly, a 6-foot-4 junior, will be a part of the passing game.

OFFENSIVE LINE: Four of the five positions are set in stone entering the weekend. Junior Kaiden Crawford, an All-MEAC selection, will line up at right tackle. Eric Kareem, a graduate transfer from Tennessee Tech, will be the right guard. Senior Dwight Chavis, a local product from Hodgson Vo-Tech, is the starting center. Junior Matthew Derks is slotted to play left guard. The final spot is at left tackle and will be one of Savion Hopes, a junior, or James King, a senior.

DEFENSE

DEFENSIVE LINE: Milstead already knows his four starting defensive lineman. The group is led by Christian Johnson, a graduate student who elected stay another year at Delaware State to use his final season of eligibility. Another graduate student, Brandon Carswell, a grad transfer from Savannah State, will also start. Senior Moses Dupre is expected to start while junior Liki Seu has moved over from offensive line to the defensive side of the ball. Freshman walk-on Will Burke out of Caesar Rodney High will also feature on the defensive line. Temple transfer Carrington Jones gives the unit even more depth.

LINEBACKER: Senior Brian Cavicante will anchor the defense after being selected the Preseason MEAC Defensive Player of the Year. Junior Alexander Lozano will once again start at outside linebacker. Delmar High grad Brooks Parker, a sophomore, has earned a scholarship after walking on a year ago and has won the other starting position.

DEFENSIVE BACKS: The Hornets have one of the best safety duos in the conference with senior Devin Smith and junior Jahad Neibauer. Isaiah Small and Nigel Bynum will begin the season as the two starting cornerbacks. Milstead also said freshman Esaias Guthrie from Middletown High could work his way into the lineup.

SPECIAL TEAMS

KICKER: Jose Romo-Martinez, a sophomore, is back for another season as the primary kicker. He connected on eight of 11 field goal attempts (72.7 percent) and was perfect on 20 extra-point kicks in 2018.

PUNTER: His brother, Fidel Romo-Martinez, will again resume punting duties. He missed the final six games of the 2018 season with an injury but was one of the best punters in the nation a year prior. He was tops in the MEAC and fourth among all FCS punters with a 44.8 yard average.

DSU Football 2019 Schedule

AUGUST

29-At Delaware 7 p.m.

SEPTEMBER

14-LINCOLN (PA.) 4 p.m.

21-HOWARD* 2 p.m.

26-At North Carolina A&T* 7:30 p.m.

OCTOBER

5-SOUTH CAROLINA STATE* 1 p.m.

12-At Morgan State* TBA

19-MERRIMACK 2 p.m.

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

NOVEMBER

2-At Florida A&M* TBA

9-BETHUNE-COOKMAN* 2 p.m.

16-NORFOLK STATE* 2 p.m.

23-ST FRANCIS (PA.) 2 p.m.

2018 Results

2-5 MEAC, 3-9 overall

L-Buffalo 10-48

L-St. Francis (Pa.) 14-45

L-Western Michigan 0-68

L-Norfolk State* 28-54

L-North Carolina A&T* 6-34

L-Howard* 13-55

L-South Carolina State* 19-30

W-North Carolina Central* 28-13

W-Savannah State* 25-6

L-Morgan State* 0-9

W-Virginia Lynchburg 41-7

  • MEAC game.

Reach staff writer Tim Mastro at tmastro@newszap.com

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