Hornets prepare for football season with new coach, positive outlook

Brycen Alleyne

DOVER — The seniors on the Delaware State University football team have only three wins to show for their college football careers.
So they know, under a new coach, it’s now or never.

The Hornets opened preseason camp this week under first-year coach Rod Milstead. There’s a sense of determined optimism among the seniors for their final season.

“It’s been too long,” said senior running back Brycen Alleyne. “We’ve got a lot of seniors that are proud of where we’re from. We got to rep our state proud. I’m proud to be a Delaware State Hornet so everything has got to be different this year.”

The Hornets are coming off a 2-10 2017 campaign that saw Kenny Carter’s contract not be renewed after the year. Milstead, a DSU alum and former NFL player, was named the new head coach back in February.

As one of the most famous and successful players in DelState history, turning the program around is quite personal to Milstead and his players have noticed it.

Rod Milstead

“With coach Milstead coming in, he’s setting a great tone,” said senior cornerback Keyjuan Selby. “Everyone is following the process and we’ll be good this year I feel like.”

“I think right now we’re believing in the program,” Alleyne said. “I think everyone is buying in to coach Milstead’s plan, not to be the bottom but to be the head of the conference. We’re trying to make sure we change the culture.”

One thing Milstead’s roster has that most of Carter’s did not is experience.

Carter’s teams were mostly underclassmen. Those underclassmen have now stayed in the program and are juniors and seniors who have suffered through a one-win season in 2015, a winless 2016 and just the two wins a year ago.

The Hornets return two quarterbacks who threw for 1,000 yards last year. Jack McDaniels started the first six games as a true freshman before Keenan Black was named the starter for the final six contests.

Both Black and McDaniels are competing for the starting job again this season. Sophomore Shayne Smith is also in the mix and Milstead said he hopes to name a starter by the end of next week.

With Alleyne and former All-MEAC running back Mike Waters, the Hornets are experienced in the backfield. Last year’s team-leading receiver Taronn Selby is also back for his senior year and is joined by sophomores Trey Gross and Kwannah Kollie, who both earned starting positions by the end of the 2017 regular season.

And Alleyne said the offense has a new mindset this year.

“I think in the years before our problem was we were thinking what’s the other team’s weakness instead of what’s our strength,” Alleyne said. “We want to do whatever works for us.”

There’s more experience on the defensive side of the ball.

Keyjuan Selby and junior linebacker Brian Cavicante were both named to the Preseason All-MEAC team. Selby was second in the MEAC in passes defended a year ago while Cavicante was second on the Hornets in tackles.

Jahad Niebauer led the team in tackles and also returns for his junior season at safety. Linemen Caleb Hebron and Jacob Jones are also returning starters for the defensive unit.

Selby said the defense will bring a new attitude this season.

“There’s a lot more energy,” he said. “Everybody has bought into the system. There’s going to be a lot more energy, more physical, playing fast and running to the ball. Things we that we didn’t do in past years.”

Reach staff writer Tim Mastro at tmastro@newszap.com

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