Picked to finish last, Hornets aim to prove doubters wrong

DOVER — Rod Milstead was driving down to the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Media Day in Norfolk last week and was chuckling to himself.
He was preparing for the release of the preseason poll and he knew what was about to happen.

Milstead was right — yet again the Hornets were picked to finish last in the MEAC. This despite taking important steps forward a season ago by winning three games.

For what it’s worth, the Hornets were last in 2018’s preseason poll and ended up beating that projection.

“I prepared myself for it,” Milstead said of this year’s poll. “They did it the year before and we proved them wrong. We took steps forward last year. It wasn’t the season we wanted, but it was a step in the right direction and we’ll take another step this season.”

The three wins in 2018 equaled Delaware State’s combined win totals from 2015-2017.

Milstead, now entering his second season as DSU’s head coach, said there’s only one solution for Delaware State to earn more respect from the rest of the conference — continuing improving.

“Winning will change all of that,” he 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.”

The reason for optimism is because of how the Hornets ended the season. They won three of their last four games — all at home.

Delaware State has seven of its 11 games at home this season and the Hornets want to continue defending their home turf.

“If we play well at home, that’s seven wins right there,” said senior linebacker Brian Cavicante. “If we can protect our home field, we’ll have seven wins. If we’re all clicking together, we can do a lot of big things.”

“Our motto is to win at home and steal some on the road,” Milstead said.

Delaware State opens the season Aug. 29 at the University of Delaware. Its first home game is Saturday, Sept. 14 against Lincoln (Pa.).
The Hornets’ final three games are at home this year.

They welcome 23 newcomers to the squad in preseason camp. They have 102 players participating through training in August — the largest roster at DSU in recent memory.

The defense returns four preseason All-MEAC selections. Cavicante was named the preseason Defensive Player of the Year while defensive back Jahad Neibauer was named to the first team. Defensive end Christian Johnson earned second team honors and defensive back Devin Smith was on the third team.

The Hornets had one other player named to the first team — offensive lineman Kaiden Crawford.

The quarterback position is still up for grabs with five players competing for the job.

Jack McDaniels, the starter in last year’s season opener, transferred. Shayne Smith, a sophomore, started the season finale a year ago and is first in line for the majority of snaps.

The Hornets have two true freshman on the roster vying for time at QB in Tylik Bethea and Jabari Blake,

“I want to see us pick up from where we left off last November,” Milstead said. “We finished the season off strong. That’s what I’ve been telling our guys all summer, remember what that felt like to walk off the field as a winner. We got to bottle that up and bring it out again for training camp.”

Reach staff writer Tim Mastro at tmastro@newszap.com

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