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 – August 24th
Defense – TODAY
Overall – TOMORROW
As the 2011 season opens, the Choctaws welcome their third defensive coordinator in three years as Chad Walker steps into the position. The New Orleans native brings a wealth of experience from the NFL with the Miami Dolphins and working with high-profile college coaches in Dom Capers, Will Muschamp, Kirby Smart and Bo Pelini. The Choctaws finished middle of the pack in the ASC last season in most defensive categories, but they bring back seven defensive starters. With the experience coming back to go along with a strong recruiting class, MC has a chance to be one of the top defenses in the league.
It all starts up front for the Choctaws as they have a lot of competition for the starting spots with the departure of Nolan Willisson and Jarryn Bingham and Sam Maze making the move to linebacker. Senior Jeremy Horton will lead the line from the tackle position as he will be charged with holding up the defensive line and allowing the linebackers to make plays. Freshman John Bertucci will add depth in the middle as his work ethic will give the Choctaws two options at the position.
On the outside, the Choctaws have a big position battle as five players have pushed for the two spots. Seniors Dekores Branch and Justin McClinton have been impressive in preseason camp and could join Horton to form one of the more experienced lines in the conference.
Junior Paul Turner has come on strong in the preseason, as well. His work ethic and non-stop motor make it difficult for the coaching staff to keep him out of lineup. Two freshmen have stepped in and pushed for immediate playing time in Josh Williams and Mike Mitchell. Both rookies have outstanding athletic ability and will keep the upperclassmen working to hold on to their position.
At linebacker, the Choctaws bring back a lot of experience with six players returning that have starting experience at MC. Senior Jeremy Bertrand leads the group from the middle after pacing the team with 71 tackles, including 37 solo stops. The Abbeville, LA native also pulled down three interceptions, while recording double-digits in tackles twice.
Senior Sam Maze made the transition from the defensive line to the linebacker position and will join Bertrand in the middle . Maze made 19 tackles in 2010 and will team with Bertrand to make the calls for the defense.
On the outside, senior Jarryn Bingham joins Maze as a defensive lineman turned linebacker. Bingham led the Choctaws with 9.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks in 2010. The Ridgeland native will have a chance to make plays from his position while continuing to put pressure on the quarterback.
Sophomores Baylor Blanchard, Landen Moore, and Dallas Bogle also return to the position after seeing starts during the 2010 season. Each presents a bright future for the Choctaws over the next three years. Junior transfer Doc Ward also steps in and will give the Choctaws another dynamic option.
The Choctaws also brought in some promising freshman in the 2011 class with the addition of Dillon Causey and Melvin Dunn. Both are players that could make an immediate and long-term impact on the MC program.
The defensive backfield also brings back a load of experience as seniors Luke Petitto and Dustin Retherford return for a final season. Petitto was a Second Team All-South Region selection after leading the Choctaws with five interceptions and finishing second on the team with 64 tackles and 9.0 tackles for loss. Retherford is the only returning All-ASC player for the Choctaws after finishing third on the team with 48 tackles, while picking off three passes in a win over Howard Payne.
Junior Horace Allen and sophomore Dylan Klibert give the Choctaws viable options in the secondary. Allen started seven games last season and finished fourth on the team with 39 tackles. Klibert saw a significant increase in his playing time as the season progressed in 2010 and will provide toughness. The Choctaws will also use freshman Garrett Horst who provides MC with some size.
The cornerback position is one that brings back a proven player in senior Jarrad Craine. The Brandon native finished sixth on the team with 37 tackles and hauled in one interception while most teams were forced to throw in the other direction because of his cover skills.
Sophomore Darren Watts is the favorite to man the other cornerback position with his athleticism. Watts was safety last season, but has the cover skills to play on the outside. Freshman Raeon Jones has stepped in and picked up the defense quickly. The rookie has a chance to push Craine and Watts for playing time.
Tomorrow we will preview the Choctaw schedule.