Hinds set for opener vs. Holmes|[09/05/07]

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 5, 2007

RAYMOND — Former Vicksburg Post Player of the Year and Porters Chapel Academy product Chris Mixon had difficulty finding a way to get on the field at Hinds Community College in 2006.

That should not be the case this season. Mixon (6-2, 235) has added muscle and improved his quickness over the offseason and will start at linebacker in Hinds’ home opener Thursday against Holmes.

Hinds won its season-opener last week against Coahoma, 22-15.

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“Now I’m at 235. so I’ve put on another seven pounds and my speed has only gotten better,” Mixon said.

Last year, the Hinds coaches couldn’t decide whether to play Mixon on offense or defense. He was listed as the second-team linebacker but spent most of his action as the team’s starting fullback whenever the Eagles went into a short-yard formation or needed to ground away the clock.

Unfortunately, the Eagles’ base offense is the spread formation which does not use a fullback. The Eagles also won just three games so there was little opportunity to have to work the clock.

“I feel a lot better about it this year. They’ve moved me to first team on defense at linebacker and I like it a lot,” Mixon said. “I’ve been working a lot on my technique since the end of last season. I think the big thing I still need to do is work on my pass drops.”

Mixon’s progression has been enough to make him a candidate to move on to a senior college program next year.

“I think so,” Smith said. “He’s a next level kind of player. Not only is he a good athlete but he plays with a motor.”

Mixon is just one of several players Hinds is counting on to turn the team around after it stumbled to a dismal 3-6 mark in 2006. Smith and his staff hauled in a boatload of talented recruits in the offseason.

“We brought in better skilled guys and we’ve improved our overall team speed,” Smith said. “Quarterback has been an issue and we signed two. Brian Mann comes from the same school where Brad Banks played at and we also brought in a transfer from the Naval Academy ….”

Yet it’s been three district signees that has Smith smiling most — Provine running back Anton Taylor and two Vicksburg High Gators in Vernon Wolfe and Dekores Branch.

Last fall at VHS, Wolfe led the team in receiving with 40 catches for 633 yards and six TDs.

Taylor won the Class 5A 100 meter dash, while Branch (6-4, 235) was the Vicksburg Post’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2006. Branch has moved from linebacker at VHS to defensive end at Hinds.

“I feel like we’ve got some real good linemen on our team,” Branch said. “We have enough talent and depth to rotate several guys in.”

Branch said he’s also impressed with the new guys on offense.

“I know all about Anton Taylor’s running skills. We faced him for three years at Vicksburg,” Branch said. “But having Vernon over there is really going to be a big plus. He’s holding up real well at receiver.”