Hornets aim to improve as Carter enters 2nd year

Second-year DSU coach Kenny Carter, shown above, center, during a game last year, brought in 46 new players this offseason following a 1-10 campaign in 2015. “Last year was more of a transition and get a chance to get our hands around what we have,” Carter said. “We understand that expectation is only met with work and victory is a job. In order to achieve victory we’ve got to go to work and you can see that at practice.” (Delaware State News file photo)

Second-year DSU coach Kenny Carter, shown above, center, during a game last year, brought in 46 new players this offseason following a 1-10 campaign in 2015. “Last year was more of a transition and get a chance to get our hands around what we have,” Carter said. “We understand that expectation is only met with work and victory is a job. In order to achieve victory we’ve got to go to work and you can see that at practice.” (Delaware State News file photo)

DOVER — Once the curtain came down on the 2015 season, the Delaware State football team had already put it in the rearview mirror.

It was coach Kenny Carter’s first season and the Hornets slumped to a 1-10 record.

But Carter has called it a transition year. It took him some time to establish his system, his outlook for the program and, perhaps most importantly, bring in the players he wanted.

So the 1-10 year doesn’t have any effect on how the Hornets are setting their goals for this season. They’ve seen improvement in the spring, summer and fall. They want to keept up that trend of getting better.

“Hopefully we can keep progressing so we can be in Atlanta in December,” said sophomore quarterback Kobie Lain. “Because at the end of the day, that is the ultimate goal.”

A December trip to Atlanta means a MEAC Championship and a berth in the second-annual Heritage Bowl against the champion of the SWAC.

Based on preseason polls, though, the Hornets have their work cut out for them. They were selected to finish ninth in the MEAC, although they did receive one first place vote.

Delaware State opens the season with a trip to instate rival Delaware next Thursday night at 7 p.m.

The nonconference schedule includes a visit from Monmouth Saturday, Sept. 10, and a game at Missouri Saturday, Sept. 24. The MEAC slate begins on Saturday, Oct. 1, with the Hornets visiting Morgan State.

There aren’t many similarities between this year’s version of Delaware State and the team Carter fielded in his first season taking over from Kermit Blount. Most of Blount’s recruits are gone.

There are only six seniors on the 2016 roster. In fact, only 12 players are left on the team that played under Blount.

Carter brought in 46 new players this offseason.

“Last year was more of a transition and get a chance to get our hands around what we have,” Carter said. “We understand that expectation is only met with work and victory is a job. In order to achieve victory we’ve got to go to work and you can see that at practice.”

A lot of eyes will be on the quarterback situation to begin the season.

Carter has said he will play both Lain and junior college transfer Dan Epperson. Lain started the final two games of 2015 and recorded the only win of the season in the final contest, while Epperson comes to Delaware State after leading San Bernandino Junior College to a conference championship last year.

“I’m comfortable with either guy on the field,” Carter said. “We’re going to play both of them.”

DelState’s leading returning scorer is Brycen Alleyne, a 5-foot-6 sophomore, who will move full-time to running back after splitting time in the backfield and as a slot wide receiver in 2015.

Perhaps the Hornets’ biggest strength is their linebacking core, led by junior Malik Harris, a preseason All-American selection, according to the College Scouting News. He’s joined by senior Rashawn Barrett, the No. 2 returning tackler, and a handful of true freshman and junior college transfers who are ready to contribute right away.

“Each day we are closer to where we need to be,” Carter said.

Delaware State Football

2016 Depth Chart

OFFENSE

QUARTERBACK: The Hornets will use a two-quarterback system to start the season. Sophomore Kobie Lain and junior Dan Epperson will split time under center. Lain started the final two games of his freshman season, leading DSU to its only win of the year in the season finale. Epperson has spent the past two years at San Bernadino Junior College before transferring to DelState. While in junior college, Epperson passed for 2,767 yards and 27 touchdowns and led his team to a conference championship.

Also on the roster is senior Gilbert Rivera who brings the most Division I experience. Rivera was the DSU starter at various points during his sophomore and junior years after transferring from junior college. In his Hornet career he has eight passing touchdowns but 15 interceptions. True freshman Keenan Black from Concord, North Carolina rounds out the QBs.

RUNNING BACK: The Hornets’ leading returning scorer is Brycen Alleyne who had five touchdowns as a true freshman in 2015. He played at running back and as a slot receiver a year ago, but he will start 2016 as DSU’s No. 1 running back. The Concord High product averaged 78.4 yards per game last year, good enough for second on the team.

Joining Alleyne in the backfield is freshman Mike Waters, who coach Kenny Carter is very high on. Waters comes to DSU after a standout career at Imhotep Charter in Philadelphia where he helped lead his team to its first ever state championship. He was awarded the 3A Player of the Year in Pennsylvania and rushed for 20 touchdowns as a senior.

Kesselly Tyler, who was in the running back rotation last year as a freshman, will begin the year as the No. 3 option. Twins Sika Bendolph and Tecumseh Bendolph from Caesar Rodney High also have the opportunity to feature in the backfield.

WIDE RECEIVER: There’s no question who the No. 1 wide receiver is for the Hornets. Senior Aris Scott will be the primary target for whoever is at QB. Scott is a preseason All-MEAC selection and led DSU last year with 46 receptions for 683 yards and was fourth in the MEAC in receiving yards per game (62.1).

Jeremiah Williams has the second most experience. He played in 10 games as a backup last year and caught seven passes for 97 yards. Taronn Selby was also a reserve wide receiver a year ago who figures to see more playing time in 2016.

Some new faces are expected to help out like Mason Rutherford, who transferred with Epperson from San Bernadino Junior College. Rutherford played in nine games with FCS Morehead State before he went to junior college. True freshman Fatu Sua-Godinet from Hawaii has been practicing with the first unit in fall camp and should be a factor in the passing game. Dominic Floyd is slated to begin the year as the starting tight end after switching over from linebacker.

OFFENSIVE LINE: Like he has for the past 23 games, senior Ernest Mengoni will be the starting center. Flanking him will be Chuka Ezeuzoh at guard, who started as a true freshman last season and was selected to the All-MEAC Preseason team.

Junior Lamont Bradford has seen spot duty along the offensive front the past two seasons, while Jacob Jones has switched over from defense. A transfer from Lackawana, Peter Borum, gives the line some size with his 6-6, 350-pound frame.

Joshua Fala, Cade Pedro, Kaden Crawford, Kensky Celestin and Ernest Sellars are also newcomers to the offensive line who have the chance to play.

DEFENSE

DEFENSIVE LINE: Coach Carter has been impressed with the play of some younger linemen in fall camp such as sophomore Javon Barnes and freshman Ulises De Los Santos. Nick Nelson, a senior, gives DSU some experience in the trenches.

Trey Wallace who has sophomore eligibility joins the team this year after sitting out last season following his transfer from FCS Stetson. He was originally an offensive lineman but moved to the defensive side of the ball in the spring.

Abdul Kamal-Abdelero and Christian Johnson could get on the field as defensive ends.

LINEBACKER: This is where the Hornets have the most talent led by middle linebacker Malik Harris, one of the leading tacklers in FCS last season. The junior is a 2016 College Football Scouting News Preseason FCS First Team All-America Selection.

Senior Rashawn Barrett be one of the starting outside linebackers. He was the second-leading tackler on DSU last season and is a preseason All-MEAC pick.

Garfield Heslop, a transfer from Monroe College, and Brian Cavicante, a Concord product who played last year at a prep school, should see a lot of time in their first season at DSU. Kyle Taylor, of Hodgson, has moved from fullback to linebacker. Ted Noble is another junior college transfer the staff is excited about.

SECONDARY: There’s a fair amount of experience among the defensive backs as well. Senior Gary Melton Jr. and senior Bill Burton each have started plenty of games in their careers. Xavier Wilcher, a junior returns after missing basically all of last year with an injury.

Woodbridge High grad Logan Wescott won the starting safety job early in the 2015 season as a freshman and returns to the secondary. Keyjuan Selby, another sophomore, figures to see more playing time.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Junior Wisdom Nzidee is in his second season as the Hornets’ kicker after transferring from Paine College. Fidel Romo Martinez, a freshman, should be the No. 1 punter. Sophomore Jonathan Scandrett will continue has the long snapper.

For kick and punt returns, the Hornets can choose from Aris Scott, Brycen Alleyne, Logan Wescott, Keyjuan Selby, Taronn Selby and Mason Rutherford.

Reach staff writer Tim Mastro at tmastro@newszap.com

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