Choctaw Offense Looks to Take Step Forward 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 – August 23rd
Offense – TODAY
Defense – TOMORROW
Schedule – August 26th
In 2010, despite losing All-American running back Steven Knight (Pearl, MS, Hinds Community College) for the season due to injury, the Choctaw offense ranked 5th in the American Southwest Conference scoring offense (27.1 ppg) and total offense (396.4 ypg). With the return of Knight and several key skill players having a year under their belt, there is no reason to think that the 2011 offense will take a step forward.
When a team has to replace the school's leading passer of all-time, it is a tough task for anyone to take over. The Choctaws had the luxury of starting junior Tommy Reyer (Athens, AL, West Limestone High School) who was named ASC Offensive Freshman of the Year in his rookie season. The Athens, AL native put his own name in the MC record books, finishing third in school history for single-season pass completions (211) and attempts (356). Reyer also threw for 2,224 yards, which ranks sixth for a single season. For his career, Tommy has the opportunity to finish in the top three in all major career passing categories.
The senior is a dual-threat quarterback that was leaned upon to throw more than run last season after the season-ending injury to Knight. With a full complement of weapons heading into 2011, Tommy and the offense could be one of the more prolific units in the conference.
While Reyer stands to be the starter at the beginning of the season, the Choctaws have some talented depth that will back him up. Sophomore Austin Gray (Hoover, AL, Bessemer Academy) saw significant playing time in 2010 as he went 6-14 for 89 yards and a touchdown in the season finale against McMurry. Gray put on 15 pounds in the offseason and will provide depth at the position.
Freshman quarterback Beaux Gipson (Shreveport, LA, Glenbrook High School) has been impressive in preseason camp and will push Gray for the backup job as the season progresses. The shifty signal-caller passed for over 3,200 yards and rushed for over 1,150 yards while scoring 55 touchdowns in high school.
For the Choctaws at running back, it is almost as though they picked up a prized recruit with the return of preseason All-American Steven Knight to the backfield after missing the final eight games of 2010. In 2009, Knight rushed for 1,333 yards and 11 touchdowns on 263 carries. The speedster earned First Team All-ASC honors and was a D3 Senior Classic Preseason All-American selection in 2010 and 2011.
Last season, Knight rushed for 132 yards and two touchdowns in the season-opening victory over Millsaps in the "Backyard Brawl". The game was highlighted by two touchdown runs of over 50 yards. In the Division III era, Knight ranks third in MC history in rushing yards (1,489), rushing attempts (290), touchdowns (13), and rushing yards per game (106.4). If Steven can return to his 2009 form, the Choctaws will have the top running back in the ASC to go along with a senior quarterback.
The Choctaws will have to replace 2010 leading rusher Austin Divinity after the Utica native tallied 596 yards and four touchdowns on 122 carries. MC will have depth in the backfield as senior Qin Mobley (Moss Point, MS, Hinds Community College)returns after rushing for 173 yards and a score in 2010.
Sophomore Josh Johnson (Plaquemine, LA, St. John High School) impressed in his rookie season on the junior varsity team, and will push Mobley for the backup tailback position. Johnson has great speed and gives the Choctaws another home run threat in the backfield. Sophomore Keith Villafranco (Kenner, LA, University of New Orleans) is another option at the position with his ability to come out of the backfield and catch passes.
The biggest offensive surprise in 2010 was the emergence of wide receiver Randal Pharr (Memphis, TN, Middle Tennessee State Univ.), who led the Choctaws with 47 catches for 660 yards and seven touchdowns. The speedy pass-catcher recorded three consecutive 100-yard receiving games, topped off by a win over Howard Payne in which Pharr caught seven passes for 119 yards and three scores.
Senior Brian Richardson (Fairhope, AL, Fairhope High School) also returns to the field after starting at the position for three years. The receiver everyone calls "rookie" is in the top 10 in MC history in the Division III era with 91 catches for 1,250 yards, and nine touchdown receptions.
The Choctaws will also have senior Matt Burke (Hernando, MS, Hernando High School) coming back after missing the final five games of 2009 and the entire 2010 season due to injury. Burke caught 25 passes for 285 yards and two scores before going down two years ago. Junior Fred Williams (Miami, FL, Miami Jackson Senior HS) gives the Choctaws another experienced option at receiver after catching 19 passes for 112 yards last season.
Seniors Bobby Martin (Greenville, AL, Ft. Dale Academy) and Tyler McClung (Athens, AL, West Limestone High School) give MC experience at tight end heading into the year. Martin and McClung will try to fill the hole left by senior Cody Goss last season, who caught the game-winning touchdown against Millsaps in the season opener.
While the skill players will score the points, the offensive line will be the key as they open the holes and protect the quarterback. The Choctaws will have to replace three All-ASC linemen from a season ago in Jonathan Shaw (Baton Rouge, LA, The Dunham School), Terrence Taylor (Jackson, MS, Hinds Community College), and Chris Williams (Meridian, MS, Lamar High School). MC will have three players returning with starting experience and several talented newcomers that are on the cusp of contributing.
Senior Cory York returns as the anchor of the offensive line and will move to the center position after playing guard his first three seasons. York earned a starting spot as a freshman and rebounded from an injury-plagued sophomore season to stabilize the line over the past two years.
Senior Justin Cardwell will return at the left tackle position after starting for two years. Justin is one of the more talented linemen and has the size and footwork to be one of the top linemen in the ASC. Sophomore Sylvain Alarcon (LaPlace, LA, St. Charles Catholic) earned the final four starts in 2010 and has made a huge jump athletically from his freshman to sophomore seasons.
Junior Brennan Herrmann (Baton Rouge, LA, Catholic High School) missed the entire 2010 season after being injured in the preseason. The sizeable lineman was set to start last season and will be looked upon to lead the 2011 line. The Choctaws will bring back several young linemen and will rely on the talented group of newcomers to provide depth as the season progresses.
Tomorrow, we will preview the entire defense.