East Central enjoyed an even bigger turnaround than Northeastern State in 2011. The Tigers ended a 16 game losing streak in week four and won 5 of their final 8 games, tying Northeastern State for the LSC North title.
Offense - The Tigers improved from a dismal average of 13 points and 208 yards in 2009, to 22.5 points and 308 yards per game in 210. They return most of the top skill players - QB Tyler Vanderzee, who threw for 2,461 yards and 15 TDs, RBs Charles Opeseyitan (427 yds rushing) and Dominique Massengill (238 yds rushing), WRs Zack Patteson (809 yds receiving), Tyra Waits (253 yds rec), Chris Espinoza (team high 5 TD receptions) and Cleotha Euwins (249 yds, 4 TDs receiving). Up front, four of the five starters return, led by Carlos Savala, Chad Roark, and Desmund Farris. Opeseyitan and Massengill were 2nd team LSC North selections, while Nall, Farris and Savala were honorable mentions. In a voting quirk, despite only garnering HM honors, Savala was named the LSC North offensive lineman of the year. ECU will miss OG Jon Ramos who received HM honors last year.
Defense - The defense allowed 19 more yards per game last season than in 2009, but in true "bend but don't break" style, gave up 5 points fewer per game. Up front, Armonty Bryant (LSC North Defensive Lineman of the Year and a 1st LSC North selection) and Lonnell Rice (HM LSC North) return. Bryant led the LSC with 13.5 sacks and was second with 19 tackles for loss. LBs Tyler McGrew, Jameel Whitney, Kerel James, and Aireus Ervin are all back. McGrew and Whitney were 2nd Team LSC North selections, while Jame and Ervin received honorable mention nods. They combined for 156 tackles, 19 for losses and 6 sacks. Dontae Smith (1st LSC North), Norris Wrenn (2nd LSC North), Austin Daniels (HM LSC North) and Markell Walker (HM LSC North) are all scheduled to return to the secondary. This quartet combined for 238 tackles, 14 interceptions and 21 passes broken up. DE Travis Buchanan (2nd LSC North, 4.5 sacks, 8 TFL) will be missed on the defensive line.
Special Teams - K Matt Berry (HM LSC North) returns for his senior season. He was a perfect 28-28 on PATs, but only 8-15 on FGs with a long of 39 yards. On kickoffs, he averaged 59.8 yards per kick, with 12 touchbacks. Markell Walker was the leading punt returner, averaging 9.4 yards with one TD. The three top kick returners are back as well. Not coming back will be punter Ryan Massengale, who averaged 39.6 yards per punt as a senior last year.
Top 5 signees
QB Cody Miller - ESPN Recruiting Insider has Miller ranked #68, while Scout pegged him #106 nationally
RB Chad Winbush - rushed for 1,015 yard and 8 TDs at Trinity Valley CC in 2009 and signed with Alabama-Birmingham after JC
WR Jordan Robinson - All State selection, 54 receptions for 1,048 yards and 14 TDs
WR DeVonta McCully - All Stater with good speed
LB Jerico Rogers - OU transfer, former OK All State
Other top signees
WR Eric Granado
WR Adrian Woodard
DE Randy Armstrong
DE Carlos Warren - 26 tackles, 4 TFL, 3.5 sacks in just 6 games at NE Mississippi CC
LB Jamaal Whitney
DB Marcus Caddell
The Tigers added some really nice pieces, especially on the offensive side of the ball. Barring injury, Miller won't be needed this fall. Winbush should push for starting time right away, and Robinson and McCully should see the field as well. Defensively, there weren't big holes to fill, but there are a couple of additions who will likely contribute right away. Grade B
Complete List and overview.