Southeastern Oklahoma at Henderson State
The Reddies look to improve on last year's 3-7 record. Sixteen returning starters, including nine on defense, should help. Last year, the HSU offense averaged 31.2 points per game, rushing for 165 yards and passing for 217 yards per game. Nick Hardesty returns at QB, after throwing for 1,247 yards and 11 TDs in 7 games. The defense allowed 31.3 points and 402.4 yards per game, 139.8 rushing and 262.6 passing. Linebackers Mike Wightman and Steve Butrick lead an experienced group back.
The Savage Storm will be starting the 2010 with one of the best backfields in the LSC. Baylen Laury and Josh Johnson both rushed for over 600 yards and were 2nd team LSC-North selections and will be joined by Georgia Tech transfer Jamaal Evans. Three starters return on the line, led by Sean Taglialatela. Logan Turner looks to be the starting quarterback and will have no returning starters at wide receiver. Defensively, the line and secondary look to be strengths coming into the season. Alex Moore (1st), Dexter Elliott(2nd) and Lionel Gillespie (2nd) for the line and Steven Harris (2nd) and Johnny Seals (2nd) at safety all were named All-LSC North.
With both teams returning more experience on the defensive side of the ball, we don't expect to see a repeat of last year's game (848 combined yards and 92 points). The Storm should be able to use their deep backfield to give the passing game a chance to get its rhythm. Southeastern wins this future Arklahoma conference matchup, 31-17.
Emporia State at Southwestern Oklahoma
ESU rushed for 399 yards in last season's 48-17 win over the Bulldogs, with two players picking topping the century mark. For the season, the Hornets rushed for 183 yards per game, while passing for 173. The defense allowed 171 yards rushing and 223 passing. They were outscored by an average of 21-35 (take out the SWO game and it is 18.5-36.2). An experienced line and the Hornets' leading rusher are back to lead the offense, while the strength of the defense will be in the front seven, with starters back across the board.
Look for redshirt freshman Dustin Stenta and JC transfer Mike VanDeripe to both see time under center for SWO. Angelo State transfer Dwight Pete is expected to start at running and improve on last year's 42 yard per game average for the team. At wideout, Esau Bauknight is the deep threat and should be joined by Bruce Hatton and Eric Charles in the starting lineup. Up front, John Niutei, David Prieto, Stephen Speer and Kane Bryen all started last year, and will be joined by San Bernardino transfer Tennence Hume at left tackle. Defensively, rover Shane Scott and LB Fred Leak are the only returning starters, and we could see six starters from California junior colleges (defensive end Sean Gordon, tackle Ozzie Donato, linebacker Preston Nichols-Margain, cornerback Marion Long and safeties Clarence Lastar and Jonathan Darby. TCU transfer Henry Niutei and freshman Cash Johnson should fill out the line, and Marvin Tribble is expected to start at the second cornerback slot.
The Bulldogs have a lot of new faces, and while they do have experience at the junior college level, it might take a few games to get everyone on the same page. Emporia State wins, but it should be closer than last year. ESU 28-14.
Pitt State at Central Oklahoma
Bronchos look very young this year. The expected two-deep for the season opener plays out like this: 1 freshman, 5 sophs, 3 juniors and 2 seniors starting on offense, while the second string has 6 freshmen, 2 sophs, 2 juniors and 1 senior. The defense has 2 freshmen, 6 sophs, 2 juniors and one senior listed as starters, and 5 freshmen, 3 sophs, 2 juniors and 1 senior on the second squad. Add it up, and of the 44 players listed on the two deep chart is 5 seniors, 9 juniors, 16 sophs, and 14 freshmen. The offensive line returns sophomore Cody Hughes, a 2nd team LSC-North selection last year, and three others who saw at least part time duty last year. They will need to perform well, to allow QB Ethan Sharp to get up to game speed. Daniel Morrell (46-640, 2nd LSC North), Matt Jackson (33-262), Tucker Holland and Dolphin Davis will be Sharp's main targets. Josh Birmingham and Tim Branch look to continue their high school success (combined over 9,000 rushing yards). Only three returnees on defense started games last year. LB Tucker Cason (90 tackles, 7 for loss), DE Isaiah Blackshear (17 tackles) and DT Herbert Byrd (15 tackles) will need to provide leadership to a new and young group.
Tim Beck is the new coach for one of D2's premier football programs. He replaces long time head coach, Chuck Broyles, who retired after last season with a record of 198-47 over 20 seasons. Last season, the Gorillas finished 5-6 - their first losing record since 1977. The Gorillas were very balanced on offense, rushing for 216 yards and passing for 218 per contest. Junior Jeff Smith has the most experience at QB, throwing for 937 yards with 7 TDs primarily in a backup roll last year. He is being challenged by Zac Dickey and Kansas transfer Tyler Lawrence. The top four running backs return, led by Terrance Isaac, who tallied 893 yards and 9 TDs last season. Last year's leading receiver is gone, but 5 of the top 6 in receptions do return. Up front, starters Dustin Wiley and Josiah Cody are back, and will likely be joined by Oklahoma State transfer Mark Chestnut, while the other two spots are up for grabs. The defense gave up 28 points per contest, with opponents rushing for 133 yards and passing for 247 per game. Just two starters return on that side of the ball.
The Gorillas will be looking to set the tone early on this season, and should be able to use an experienced offense to dictate field position and control the clock. PSU comfortably, 38-17.
Langston at Incarnate Word
The Cardinals allowed 17 fourth quarter points in last year's contest, falling to the NAIA Lions 17-14. Langston was led by QB Darrion Lews (Soph), who only threw for 93 yards, but also picked up 64 yards rushing and had the go ahead TD with 1:52 left in the game. Running back Carlos Ross (Soph) added 164 yards rushing and 53 receiving. The Lions outgained UIW by a 351-191 margin and forced 6 turnovers. Langston finished their season with an 8-4 record, losing to NAIA runner up Lindenwood in the first round of the playoffs.
In their inaugural season, UIW finished with a 5-5 record, scoring 29 points per game, while allowing 31, gaining 332 yards per game (138 rushing, 194 passing), while allowing 411 yards (166 rushing, 245 passing). The competition was not as strong (2 NAIA, 1 D3, 1 Mexico, and Oklahoma Panhandle State), the Cardinals played several LSC and GSC teams well (winning one game, and dropping two by a combined 7 points). Just about everyone returns from last year, and the team media guide lists just 9 seniors, 12 juniors, 34 sophomores, and 30 freshmen.
Incarnate Word needs to come out strong and show the LSC (and themselves) that they can compete. We'll go with UIW 31-24.
Southern Nazarene at Eastern New Mexico
The Crimson Storm went 6-5 last season against mostly NAIA schools, with a couple of lower level D2 schools and a top-notch D3 team thrown in. QB Bradly Wardlaw is back to lead the offense, after throwing for 2,846 yards and 26 TDs last season. Josh Woods, who caught 35 passes for 682 yards and 3 TDs is the top returning receiver. The defense allowed 436 yards and 33 points per game.
Wesley Wood takes over as QB for ENMU. Wood threw for 492 yards and 5 TDs in a backup role last season. He will have plenty of experienced targets retruring - Jessie Poku, Darian Dale, Chase Kyser, and Arvin Jackson combined to catch 237 passes for 2,632 yards and 22 TDs. When the Hounds do run the ball, Troy Harris has shown he is capable, averaging 5.5 yards per carry and scoring 6 TDs. Up front ENMU should be stout with all five starters returning, four of them seniors. Defensively, All-American Rodney Mitchell leads the way. Mitchell had 7 interceptions, 16 passes broken up and 72 tackles in 2009. He is joined in the secondary by Tillman Stevens and Tavius Bigelow, who started a combined 11 games last year, and Alex Valdez a transfer from Fullerton College. Another Fullerton transfer, Perron Sellers, joins holdovers Nathan Uland (132 tackles, with 18.5 for loss in 2009) and Devin Sweet at linebacker. Up front Matt Kalisch, Bracy McCoy and Ian Ogando return and are joined by freshman Joseph Henry in the starting lineup.
This could be a long game, with both teams putting the ball in the air a lot. SNU should be able to score some on the Greyhounds, but their defense will be hard pressed to stop them. ENMU 45-24.