By Anthony McClean, Editor In Chief Emeritus NEW HAVEN (BASN) —...
A Look At The 2006 Mississippi Valley State University Delta Devils
NORTH CAROLINA — The Delta Devils shouldn’t have any problems at all scoring points. They averaged nearly 33 points per game (second in the SWAC), 137 yards rushing and 287 yards passing, all near the top of the SWAC.
They also averaged over 6 yards per play and an impressive 423 total offensive yards per game. The one area or areas in need of improvement are discipline and taking care of the football.
The Delta Devils had more turnovers and more penalties on offense than their opponents in 2005, which I’m sure is an area of concern for Coach Totten and his staff in 2006. The Delta Devils offense will be led once again at the skilled position.
Once again, senior Aries Nelson (2004, SWAC Newcomer of the Year) will be the signal-caller. Nelson was very affective last year falling 58 yards short of 3,000 yards while throwing for 17 touchdowns. The Cleveland, MS native also was the team’s fourth-leading rusher a year ago gaining 254 yards.
It was no surprise that Neal captained the conference’s leading passing attack with the legendary MVSU Quarterback as the head coach (Totten) and with an abundance of pass catchers catching the ball. Senior speedsters Tyrone Timmons (2005, 1st team All-SWAC) and Shang Moore are very talented and have “deep threat” ability for the Delta Devils passing attack.
Timmons led the team with 62 catches for 1,059 yards and 8 touchdowns averaging 17 yards per catch including a 60-yard catch in 2005. He averaged almost 100 yards in receiving per game. Moore was second on the team with 32 catches for 554 yards and 2 touchdowns averaging 17.3 yards per catch including a season long 57-yard catch.
This catch showed his ability to stretch the field like Timmons. Look for senior Kalvin Woods, newcomer Robert Fox, and junior Clarence Cotton (2005, 2nd team All-SWAC, PR) to add lots of catches and big plays in a very deep and talented receiving corp.
The Delta Devils also look for a promising running game in 2006. Senior Walter Burnette led the team in rushing with 480 yards and 9 touchdowns. Burnette, senior Kalvin Woods (427 yards, 5 touchdowns and a 6.6 yards per rush average) along with Joyel Hargett (284 yards and 3 touchdowns) lead a talented bunch of running backs which is sure to give the Delta Devils a balanced attack on offense although they finished 8th in the SWAC in that category.
Also looking to see time in the Delta Devils backfield, are senior David Charles and junior La’Trent Brock at fullback. MVSU also looks to return juniors Carlton Cotton and Darrell Sproles.
To give Nelson time to throw the football to all of those talented receivers and to have a solid and consistent running game, MVSU has to have solid play on the offensive line. They have it.
Led by fourth-year starter Alter Foster at right tackle, junior center Kirk Fields, junior Thaddeus Coleman (left tackle), Londreal Williamson (right guard) along with red shirt sophomore Nelson Baddelle (left guard), they will provide protection for the quarterback, open holes for the running backs and provide solid line play, leadership and tenacity in controlling the line of scrimmage for the Delta Devils.
The Delta Devils have a veteran defensive unit but it’s a unit that needs to improve. The Delta Devils gave up almost 27 points per game (5th in the SWAC) and nearly 140 yards rushing per game. They also allowed teams to get the 1st on 3rd down 43 percent of the time and 31 percent on 1st down. They have 10 interceptions and 18 fumble recoveries (tied for 5th in the SWAC with a -0.09 turnover margin) both stats they would love to improve on.
As with the offense, any defensive success will start in the trenches. The Delta Devils return an extremely experienced group up front that features three seniors and one junior. Senior Barron Pullum was 8th on the team with 33 tackles, 2 sacks, and 1 fumble recovery and senior DeCarlos Myrick had 19 tackles, 1 sack, and 1 forced fumble last season. Both Pullum and Myrick should also provide pressure to opposing quarterbacks, which will take pressure off the secondary.
The interior is made up of Chavin Johnson and Ronald Green. Johnson had 14 tackles, 1.5 sacks, and 1 fumble recovery. Green is extremely athletic to be an interior lineman as he is 7th on the team with 36 tackles, 1.5 sacks, and 1 punt blocked. Both Johnson and Green should be huge factors as run-stoppers up the middle. The Delta Devils did finish 3rd in the SWAC in run defense and coach Totten and his staff expect more of the same this year.
The heart, soul, and most athletic part of most defenses are their linebackers. The Delta Devils are no different. The “linebacking corps” for the Delta Devils, is fierce, athletic, fast and filled with playmakers led by All-American Tyler Knight. The senior from Little Rock, AR, led the defense with 125 tackles including 17 tackles for a loss, 9 sacks, 7 pass break-ups, and 13 quarterback hurries.
As of result of his stellar play, Knight was named the 2005 conference defensive player of the year. With the loss of Jerrette Prout (2nd on the team in tackles with 116 and 8 sacks), senior Cleyton McDonald, will look to step into his place and build on his 86 tackles last year, which was fifth in the conference.
Junior Julius Love, after having seen extensive playing time in 2005, will now step into the starting role for the first time. Love had 28 total tackles and 2 sacks last season.
The Delta Devils backfield is as solid as most of their defense will be in 2006. Four-year starter, cornerback Chris Wilson (2005, 2nd team All-SWAC) could be the most talented and athletic player on the defense. Wilson was 6th on the team with 48 tackles, 2 interceptions, 12 pass break-ups, 1 fumble recovery, and 1 forced fumble.
He leads the way with other defensive players who saw significant playing time last year. In addition to those players are several key junior college transfers making the defense even more solid and formidable in the backfield.
There is no question the MVSU has firepower on offense and the athletic studs on defense to continue where they left off, around the top of the conference in many offensive and defensive categories. The team finished ironically 3rd in total offense and defense and was efficient offensively in the red zone (finishing 1st in the SWAC), which shows the ability to become stingy in giving up points defensively in the red zone (the finished 2nd in the SWAC).
However, the question is can they show the concentration and poise on offense and more improvement on defense especially in the secondary? They have a wealth of talent and experience, and are well coached, but you have to play the game because the game is not played on paper and this is a new year.
If this veteran football team plays on the field and refuses to listen to the hype and accolades off the field, there is no question a SWAC championship is not only accessible, achievable, attainable and conceivable, but it is very much acquirable.
Head Coach: Willie Totten
Coaching record at Mississippi Valley State: 4th year (13 wins, 26 losses)
Overall coaching record: all at MVSU (13 wins, 26 losses)
2005 Record/Conference record: 6-5, (5-4 IN THE SWAC EAST)
Number of returning starters: 20 starters (10 offense and defense)
Number of departures: 4 (1 ON OFFENSE, 1 ON DEFENSE AND 2 ON SPECIAL TEAMS)
Key losses: Jerrette Prout, Linebacker, Trey Butts, Punter and Joseph Blanco, Place Kicker.
Players to watch: Shang Moore, Walter Burnette, Kalvin Woods, Alter Foster, Barron Pullum, Chavin Johnson and Cleyton McDonald
All-American candidates: Aries Nelson, Tyrone Timmons, Clarence Cotton, Chris Wilson and Tyler Knight.
Notes: Fresh off the heels of their first winning season in nine years, head coach and alum Willie Totten and the Mississippi Valley State Delta Devils look to take the next step toward a championship season. To achieve this feat the Delta Devils will ride the shoulders of over 20 seniors and depend heavily on their leadership and experience to take them to that next level.
NOTE: The Delta Devils open the season versus Arkansas-Pine Bluff Sept. 2 in Chicago, IL at 4pm.