By ADD SEYMOUR JR.
A missed field goal returned for a touchdown against Albany State. Interceptions returned for a touchdown against Fort Valley State and then Tuskegee University. Those plays from last season still bother Morehouse head football coach Rich Freeman.
Along with big problems in the running game, they set the tone for a championship caliber season that ended up 6-4 and left a sour taste in the Maroon Tigers football locker room.
“The silver lining was that we still finished number two in the conference,” he said. “We still beat some of the best teams, being unstable and unable to run the football.”
This season, Freeman promises things will be different.
He points to new starting quarterback, junior William Brack. Brack was a backup last season, but threw eight touchdowns in five games.
“He will bring more stability and more responsibility, which is what this program needs,” Freeman said. “The program patterns itself after the coach and the quarterback. When you’re not stable, [mistakes and turnovers] tend to happen and that’s what happened to our football team [last season].”
Senior Achille Hendje, who joined Brack, senior offensive linemen Joseph Williams and Ramone Harewood on the SIAC’s 2009 Preseason All-Conference team, is Brack’s main receiver.
Brack will hand off to a stable of backs who Freeman believes will fix a running game that ranked last in the SIAC last season. Back for his second season will be Cameron Ford, who was forced into the lineup as a freshman after injuries hampered Christian Greene. Greene, a senior, returns at full strength and will be joined by 2007 part-time starter Jake Thompson and Georgetown University transfer, junior Michael Harrison.
On defense, senior Dejuan Holmes and junior D.J. Nettles on the defensive line along with senior linebacker Brandon Cunningham lead the Morehouse defense. Holmes is a first team Preseason All-Conference pick while Nettles, who Freeman believes is an NFL prospect, was chosen for the second team. Cunningham averaged six tackles a game last year and should have been an All-SIAC pick, Freeman said.
Transfer Ian Mullin replaces Micah Streiff as kicker this season, but the SIAC’s best kick returner, junior Jamar Rodriquez, is back for the new season.
Freeman thinks they all come together to form a team that can compete for a conference title.
“We’ve got the running game fixed and I think we have a stable quarterback,” he said. “We can put kids out there that are going to do exactly what the program calls for, which is play fast, hard and smart. We’re getting back to our grassroots of being a tough, hard-nosed, no-nonsense, mistake-free football team. I’m very excited. I can’t wait.”