Northeastern State took a great leap forward last season, sharing the LSC North title and posting their first winning season since 2000. They were in playoff contention until dropping two of their last three games. They do have some holes to fill, but the core of the team are scheduled to return.
Offense - The Riverhawks averaged 25 points and 329 yards per game (both 9th in the LSC) an improvement of 5 points and 50 yards per game. Returning starters include QB Kenny Davis (2,068 yards, 20 TDs, 6 Ints), the LSC North receiver of the year, Trey McVey (58-887 and 12 TDs), offensive linemen Colton Ables, Chris Cherry (both 1st team LSC North), Ben Beam, Caleb Tripp, Phillip Boyd and Stephen Anderson. Also look for youngsters RB Steven Hopper and WR Daryn Alves, who contributed as freshmen in 2010. They will need to replace the top two running backs, Josh Lewis and Prince McKinney as well as WR Ben Randle and TE Logan Cawyer.
Defense - The defense did not fare as well in 2010, allowing 31 points and 397 yards per game. That was slightly better than 2009, when NSU gave up 34 points and 406 yards on average. The Riverhawks lose first team LSC North DT Billy Blackard and LB Johnny Evans (LSC North Linebacker of the year), honorable selections DE Caom Hansen and safety Nick Dobler, as well as LB Shantel Mackey and DB Troy Adams. Top returnees are CB Nate Robinson (1st LSC North, 4 Ints and 10 passes broken up) DE Travis Boswell, LB Langston Jones (both HM LSC North), S Ryan Keenom, LBs Donald Dangerfield, Jack Gray and Gus Jones.
Special teams - K Drew Patton had a good freshman season, converting 12-17 field goals, including a 44 yarder, and 22-23 on PATs. He averaged 53 yards on kickoffs, with 4 touchbacks. He was named to the LSC North second team. P Cody Lenz was a first team LSC North selection as a junior. He averaged 41.4 yards per punt, with 12 going for 50+ yards and 14 downed inside the opponents 20 yard line. Nate Robinson averaged 22.7 yards per kickoff return, including a 95 yard TD, and was third in the LSC in punt returns with a 11.2 yard average. He was named first team LSC North as a return specialist.
Top 5 signees
WR Chris Smith, Fayetteville Arkansas - a switch in high schools could have led to DI schools overlooking him.
RB Tavares Sharp-Rhodes, Feather River College - Dominic Rhodes younger brother, could get carries right away with departure of leading rusher Josh Lewis
QB Thor Long, Sherman Texas - could be top backup for Kenny Davis, threw for 32 TDs and almost 3,000 yards last fall
LB Talris Brown, Coffeyville CC - JUCO All-American, originally signed with Troy our of high school
DB Victor Johnson, Oklahoma State - played in 25 games for the Cowboys and had 52 tackles.
Others to watch
QB Hans Cook - Kilgore JC - more depth at QB
WR Andre Taylor - East Mississippi CC - can contribute as a punt returner and wide receiver.
OL Mitch Harrison - Garden City CC - should compete for playing time on the line.
OL Jordan Karriman - Originally signed with Louisiana-Monroe after an all-conference career at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M.
DB Kyler Harris - Jenks HS - All-State safety can also play wide reciever.
Overall - Coach Evans did a nice job, addressing immediate needs at RB and WR offensively, and DB and LB on defense. Depth at QB, both immediately and down the road and a couple of OL who should be able to add depth if not push the returning starters. The one area that concerns us is the defensive line. They lost their best two linemen, and it's unclear if any of the additions are ready to fill the void. Grade A
Link to complete list of signings and bios.