DOVER — Brian Cavicante sits on the couch in Rod Milstead’s office waiting for his head coach.
To pass the time, Cavicante slips an iPad out of his backpack and stares at it.
The Delaware State junior linebacker isn’t playing games or checking his fantasy teams on that iPad. He’s watching film on next week’s opponent.
“That’s what he does,” Milstead observes. “That’s a student of the game right there.”
All that preparation has paid off for Cavicante two games into the season.
He is currently the leading tackler in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference with 22 total as the Hornets (0-2) head into Saturday’s matchup against FBS opponent Western Michigan (7 p.m. kickoff).
Cavicante is the reigning MEAC Player of the Week after his performance in a loss at St. Francis (Pa.) last Saturday.
He recorded 12 tackles, five for a loss, a fumble recovery and scored his first career touchdown when he returned that fumble 14 yards for a score. Eight of his 12 tackles were solo stops.
Cavicante credited the strong performance to many hours of film study during the week.
“Their tendencies were obvious to me,” Cavicante said. “I was able to pick up on a lot of things they were doing. I was able to react instantaneously. The game was moving real slow to me, I was just in the zone.”
“You really see it in slow motion if you remember it from film,” he added. “You just got to see it and take advantage of the opportunity.”
Cavicante finished second on the Hornets in total tackles two years ago as a freshman and again was the team’s runner-up in tackles last season. Not bad for a player who did not play linebacker full-time in high school.
Cavicante was a running back at Norcom High in Portsmouth, Va. He only played defense sparingly his senior year.
It wasn’t until he did a prep school year that Cavicante made this switch. The coaching staff at Milford Academy Prep in New York told him if he wanted to play at the next level, linebacker would be his best shot.
Despite standing at just 6-foot, Cavicante was able to turn some heads and he’s been penciled into the Hornet starting lineup ever since. He has played in every game since he arrived on Delaware State’s campus in 2016.
“People look at him and say he’s undersized or not very fast, O.K., but you can’t judge that man’s heart,” Milstead said. “He has the heart and the athleticism. He’s a student of the game and he can predict what’s going to happen before it happens based on the offense’s formation.”
With nearly 40 new players on this year’s roster in Milstead’s first year as head coach, Cavicante’s role has transformed into what Milstead calls a coach on the field.
Milstead said he issued a challenge for Cavicante to take his game to another level before the St. Francis contest.
“Not only did he step up, he showed out,” Milstead said. “What he did last week is what I expect of Brian Cavicante every week. He’s a heck of a player. I told him that when I first got here. He stood out on film. He was everywhere. I want him to show our younger guys what it takes to be a Division I linebacker.”
Cavicante said he’s trying to follow in the footsteps of Malik Harris.
Harris was the veteran leader of the linebacking core when Cavicante was a freshman and took the youngster under his wing. When Harris suffered a season-ending injury in September in 2017 as a senior, it was Cavicante who had to take over Harris’ role.
“I knew I had to grow up fast,” Cavicante said. “I wasn’t the young guy anymore. I try to be like that (what Harris was) for the young guys,”
Which means reminding the newcomers to keep their iPads close, for watching film whenever possible.
“I’ve stressed that to the young guys,” Cavicante said. “You can practice all you want, but if you’re not watching enough film, there’s no way you’re going to be as good as you want to be.”