The NJCAA's No. 17 preseason ranking is just one signal that suggests the Bulldogs may be much improved. What appears to be a solid and complete freshman recruiting class may be another inkling. The impending arrival of five Division I transfers may be another. Now just days before players report, all that is only on paper -- where games are neither played nor won.
Seeking their first post-season play since 2001, the Dawgs' fortunes this year likely will ride with a talented group of sophomores, Woodard told the SWJCFC Media Day audience.
"If we're going to get anything done this year, it will be because of our sophomore leadership," said Woodard, whose Bulldogs were picked third behind defending national titlist Blinn and Cisco. "If we get good play from our sophomores, we have a chance to do well."
Woodard, line coach Will Cook and secondary coach Plez Atkins are energized by an opportunity to strengthen a sophomore-laden defense that created a +17 turnover ratio last season and ranked third in total yardage. Likewise, assistant head coach Brian Mayper, new coordinator Nick Bobeck and line coach Will Richards overhauled the offensive gameplan with the certainty they’ll improve upon a very pedestrian 236-yard average that, by 30 yards, ranked last in the SWJCFC last season.
Woodard praised the spring work of Marlin sophomore quarterback Jeremy Sanders, who guided the Bulldogs through a change from a more pass-oriented offense into more of a balanced attack that includes more option football to take advantage of his quickness. Last year, Sanders accounted for a team-high 926 total yards (347 rushing and 579 passing) and eight scores, including tandem-yardage games of 263 against Tyler and 260 against New Mexico Military Institute.
Other QB candidates include freshmen Marcus Jackson, Andre Bevil, Kendal McClendon and Kenny Granger.
Healthy redshirt sophomore tailback Tyrone Ross of Tyler Lee could have a banner season, and a freshman rotation of Justin Sturns (5-11, 205, Rusk), Derke Robinson (6-1, 195, Lewisville Hebron), Octavious Logan (5-9, 180, East Oktibbeha, Miss. ), Vetric Sam (5-9, 185, New Iberia, La. ) and Aubrey Morrow (5-9, 175, Harleton) is on standby, ready to contribute. Robinson is the son of former University of Texas fullback Ronnie Robinson (1983-84).
Sophomore wide receivers Benny Jones, Andre Banks, Lucious Henderson and Jason Madkins should see plenty of footballs thrown their way, but freshmen Rodney Bradley (6-1, 180), Mervin Dudley (6-4, 205), Chris Tuck (6-5, 200), Ronnie Fontenot (5-10, 175) and Ryan Clark (6-1, 185) will have major roles.
Woodard also lauded the excellent spring of converted sophomore defensive end Gerald Harris (6-6, 250) at tight end.
Offensive line play -- deepened by five Division I transfers and a host of freshmen -- likely will be the most significantly improved aspect of the team. Starters Mike Mosmeyer (6-4, 300), Broderick Monroe (6-2, 300) and Fred Gaines (6-4, 340) are back, but face challenges from transfers 6-8, 310-pound J’Marcus Webb and 6-6, 315-pound Roy Watts, Jr. , (The University of Texas), 6-4, 331-pound Zhamal Thomas (LSU), 6-5, 280-pound Cameron Schacht (Oklahoma), and 6-2, 315-pound Robert Ramirez (I-AA Texas State). Factor more depth and competition with the presence of freshmen Anthony Morgan (6-4, 315) of Lancaster, Courtney Green (6-4, 285) of Corsicana, Charles Bryant (6-2, 275) and Sherrard Sorrells (6-4, 280) of Austin, Jimmy Garrett (6-2, 290) of Galena Park North Shore, and Clint Taylor (6-4, 280) of Breckenridge.
Defensively, the Bulldogs must replace three Division I signees in the secondary, but still has sack leader Donald Booker returning in the front six. Booker, with 61 tackles and 6 ½ sacks last year, likely moves from an end slot to middle linebacker.
Tackle Sharod Basey (51 tackles), end Chaz Walker (22), and Apollos Daily, Mark Taylor, and Broderick Davis return up front, expecting bigger seasons. Freshmen Malcolm Blount (6-1, 225), Lawrence Rumph (6-3, 260), Marquis Frazier (6-4, 275), Darby Jackson (6-3, 215) and Brandon Chalmers (6-4, 315) should bolster the rotation.
Joining Booker at linebacker likely will be fellow defensive-line switcher Robert Taylor of Lufkin (6-2, 240) and sophomore Brandon Onu (11 tackles). Freshmen Alfred "Boom" Jones (5-10, 235), Marquis Barnes (5-10, 220), Richard Embry (6-1, 225) and Leland Malina (6-1, 220) will battle for playing time and create an impact.
Replacing safeties Eric Robinson (Hawaii), Patrick Resby (Kansas) and strong safety Ray Sims (Baylor) will be difficult, but experience returns in cornerbacks Eric Harrison (57 tackles), Teo Freeney (28), Quin Wright and Sheldon Monsegue. Freshmen Edwin Simon, Larry Williams, Larry Johnson, Cordell Riggins, Trevor Drayton and William Harper will audition to break into the secondary lineup.
Sophomore placekicker Chad McIntosh and freshman punter Jerry Johnson appear to have key specialty positions locked.
HEAD COACH: Ray Woodard (1ST Year)
ASSISTANT COACHES: Brian Mayper (Assistant HC), Nick Bobeck (OC), Will Richards (OL), Will Cook (DL), Plez Atkins (DB)
2006 SEASON RECORD: 5-4
2006 SWJCFC RECORD: 2-3
POSITION IN STANDINGS: Three-way tie for 5th
2006 BOWL APPEARANCE: None.
KEY SOPHOMORES: DT Sharod Basey, LB Donald Booker, DT Apollos Daily, DE Broderick Davis, CB Teo Freeney, TE Gerald Harris, SS Eric Harrison, WR Benny Jones, WR Jason Madkins, WR Lucious Henderson, WR Andre Banks, DS Johnny Matusik, PK Chad McIntosh, LB Brandon Onu, RB Tyrone Ross, QB Jeremy Sanders, DE Chaz Walker, FS Quin Wright.
FRESHMAN RECRUITS: Charles Bryant (6-1, 270, OL, Austin Lanier); Alfred Jones (5-10, 235, LB, Bartow, Fla. ); Justin Sturns (5-11, 205, RB, Rusk); Larry Williams (5-11, 170, CB, West Mesquite); Richard Embry (6-1, 225, LB, Paris); Darby Jackson (6-3, 210, DL, Humble); Edwin Simon (5-10, 180, CB, Diboll); Sherard Sorrells (6-4, 270, OL, Austin Akins); Brandon Chalmers (6-4, 315, DL, Jefferson); Marquis Frazier (6-4, 260, DL, Garland); William Harper (5-11, 180, QB, Silsbee); Leland Malina (6-1, 220, LB, John Tyler); Terrance McCarter (5-6, 145, RB, Silsbee); Andre Bevil (6-2, 186, QB, West Orange Stark); Cordell Riggins (5-9, 185, FS, Humble); Lawrence Rumph (6-3, 255, DL, Keller Fossil Ridge); Kenny Granger (6-4, 220, QB, Warren); Rodney Bradley (6-1, 180, WR, Lake Highlands); Marcus Jackson (6-1, 175, QB, Tyler Lee); Trevor Drayton (6-3, 185, QB, Corrigan-Camden); Kendal McClendon (6-1, 185, Ath. , Arp); Vetric Sam (5-9, 190, RB, New Iberia, La. ); Aubrey Morrow (5-8, 171, RB, Harleton); Mervin Dudley (6-4, 205, WR, Nacogdoches); Marquis Barnes (5-10, 220, LB, Dallas Madison); Brandon Williams (6-4, 215, QB, Beaumont Central); Larry Johnson (6-1, 170, CB, Dallas Madison); Ronnie Fontenot (5-10, 175, WR, Beaumont Ozen); Ryan Clark (6-1, 185, CB, Beaumont Ozen).
KEY TRANSFERS: Roy Watts, Jr. (6-6, 300, OL, Houston Worthing / University of Texas); J’Marcus Webb (6-8, 300, OL, North Mesquite / University of Texas); Zhamal Thomas (6-6, 320, OL, New Iberia, La. / LSU); Cameron Schacht (6-5, 280, OL, Coppell / University of Oklahoma); Robert Ramirez (6-2, 315, OL, Galena Park North Shore / Texas State)
2007 BULLDOG SCHEDULE
Date, Opponent, Time
Aug 25 - at Fort Scott, Ks, 1 p.m.
Sept 1 - OPEN
Sept 8 - v. New Mexico Military, 7 p.m. (Midlothian, Tx. )
Sept 15 - at Kilgore *, 7 p.m.
Sept 22 - Tyler *, 7 p.m.
Sept 29 - at Trinity Valley *, 7 p.m.
Oct 6 - NE Oklahoma A&M *, 3 p.m.
Oct 13 - at Cisco *, 3 p.m.
Oct 18 - v. Arkansas Baptist College, 7 p.m. (War Memorial Stadium, Little Rock)
Oct 27 - Blinn *, 3 p.m.