After winning SWAC crown, Tigers out for more

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 2, 2008

To say the Jackson State Tigers are excited about the upcoming football season is like saying the ocean is wet.

The defending Southwestern Athletic Conference champions are the favorites to repeat in the East. Prognosticators believe Jackson State and Grambling will meet in the SWAC championship game for the second straight year. JSU defeated Grambling 42-31 in the SWAC title game in December.

The biggest question of them all will be who will start at quarterback. Returner Tray Rutland and Louisiana Tech transfer Michael Mosely are in a battle for the starting job. Rutland played last year after transferring from Mississippi State.

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Jackson State had the No. 2 passing offense in the league last year and return four quality receivers. Brian Jackson, Rodney Gray, Carlos Simpson and Marcel Frost. JSU receivers accounted for 2,217 yards en route to an 8-4 season.

The Tigers will need to replace receiver Jaymer Johnson, the highest Mississippian picked in the NFL draft in April. JSU’s offensive line returns three starters.

Delta Devils look to re-tool under Totten

A new quarterback will lead Mississippi Valley State as the Delta Devils try to rebound from last year’s 3-8 season, one in which three different quarterbacks saw action.

Ryan Burciaga is slated to start at quarterback, while last year’s starter, Paul Roberts, has been sent to third string.

Head coach Willie Totten has expressed concern with the lack of experience under center, partly because the team finished dead last in SWAC offense a season ago.

If there are questions at quarterback, the same cannot be said for the running backs. The leading rushers for the past two years, Johey Hargrett and Ronald Brewer, both return to cement the Delta Devils’ backfield.

Totten signed 29 players in February to offset 18 players who left the program.

Defensive end Fred Poole is the Devils’ leading tackler. Reginald Graham could see action after transferring from Michigan State.

Delta State has goal of being No. 1

Delta State players and coaches are still seething after last year’s second round playoff loss, but expectations are again as lofty as ever.

The Division II power, which one a national championship in 2000, returns 13 starters from last year’s 10-2 team. DSU lost to North Alabama 20-17 in the second round of the playoffs.

Junior Garrett DeWitt will return at quarterback after throwing for nearly 1,300 yards and five touchdowns in six games. Dedrick Wilson and University of Georgia transfer Brock Barnes will challenge for playing time at QB. All-American tackle Mark Ellis leads a youthful offensive line.

Only two starters return on defense, which held opponents to 13.9 points per game.