Choctaws Look to Solidify Special Teams in 2011
CLINTON, MS - In the coming weeks, we will take a chance to preview each position on the field for the Choctaws as we head toward the season opening "Backyard Brawl" on September 3rd against Millsaps. We invite MC fans to take a look and get more acclimated with the 2011 group of Choctaws.
The schedule will be as follows:
Quarterbacks – August 15th
Running Backs – August 16th
Wide Receivers / Tight Ends – August 17th
Offensive Line – August 18th
Defensive Line – August 19th
Linebackers – August 20th
Secondary – August 22nd
Special Teams – TODAY
Offense – TOMORROW
Defense – August 25th
Overall – August 26th
Legendary Alabama head football coach Paul "Bear" Bryant coined the phrase, "Offense sells tickets; Defense wins championships." That may be true, but the kicking game tends to make the difference between a victory and a defeat.
In 2009, on the strength of a Brannon Walls 31-yard field goal against Mary Hardin-Baylor, the Choctaws advanced to the NCAA Division III playoffs for the first time in school history and won their first ASC championship since 1997.
Due to injury, the 2010 special teams lacked consistency as seven different Choctaws recorded at least two punts and head coach Norman Joseph used an MC soccer player to kick long field goals as the season progressed.
Heading into 2011, the Choctaws seemed to have solidified some concerns in that area. Junior Chris Campbell(Hattiesburg, MS, Presbyterian Christian School) will open the season as the team's top placekicker after trading in his shin guards for shoulder pads in the middle of last season. Campbell connected on 3-4 field goals with a long of 47 yards. Chris was also the team's leading kickoff specialist last season as he averaged 63.8 yards per kick and recorded two touchbacks.
Last season, the Choctaws finished the year ranked eighth out of nine teams in the American Southwest Conference in net punt average (28.1 ypp). MC spent the season continually searching for someone to step in and take the job after freshman Brandt Moore (Central, LA, Central Private School) was lost for the season in the "Backyard Brawl" after just two kicks. The Choctaws used seven different players at the position, including long snapper Jared Cummins, offensive lineman David Hardy, and quarterback Tommy Reyer (Athens, AL, West Limestone High School).
Coming into 2011, Moore is healthy and has looked good in the preseason. He averaged 33.0 yards per punt last season before being lost to injury. There will be a competition for the position, however, as senior transfer Jacob Chancellor(Quitman, MS, Belhaven University) joined the Choctaws after one season at Belhaven. Chancellor averaged 43.1 yards per punt last season and was rated as the #1 punter in NAIA prior to this season by the Super 72 group.
One luxury the Choctaws will not have is the services of Jared Cummins as the team's long snapper. The Madison, MS native started all but one game of his four years at the position and leaves a hole that must be filled. Enter sophomore Chad Phillips (Madison, MS, University of Mississippi) of Madison Central. Phillips went to Ole Miss in his first season and was named the SEC Honor Roll.
Head coach Norman Joseph discussed the special teams, "Our kickers have done a great job in camp. Chris (Campbell) has been impressive and has improved with a year under his belt. Being with us for the whole year can do nothing but help him. Brandt (Moore) and Jacob (Chancellor) have been battling back and forth all preseason. It may come down to the last week to decide who the starter will be."
Tomorrow we will preview the offensive unit.