Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College has finished in the NJCAA’S Top 10 rankings seven straight years and has reached the MACJC Title Game six years in a row. However, it’s what the Bulldogs couldn’t pull off in the last two seasons…an MACJC Championship...that has head coach Steve Campbell, his staff, and his players working overtime for in 2013. Fall practice began last week in the sweltering August heat.
“We’ve been very close to winning the State title in the past two seasons but couldn’t get it done,” said Campbell, who’s entering his tenth season as the team’s head coach. “Hard work is always part of what we do here at Gulf Coast, and this fall we’re working even harder to get back to the Championship game and finish the job.”
In 2012 Gulf Coast finished 9-2 and won another MACJC South Division title, the team’s sixth since 2005, with a freshman heavy squad. This fall the Bulldogs bring back six starters on offense, seven on defense, and a schedule that includes five home games. Gulf Coast is an impressive 36-3 at home since 2006 and had a 20-game home winning streak up until the 41-37 loss to Co-Lin at home in last season’s State Championship battle.
The Bulldogs begin 2013 as the Nation’s #1 team according to jcgridiron.com’s “Dirty 30” preseason poll and will also be ranked among the NJCAA’S top 10 when that pre-season poll debuts later this month.
“The voters recognize that we have a chance to have a great season,” said Campbell, who’s entering his 10th season at Gulf Coast. “It also puts a huge target on you, which gives us extra motivation to work hard during practice.”
On offense, the Bulldogs are led by 2012 NJCAA All-American wide receiver and Auburn commitment D’haquille Williams. Last season Williams caught 67 passes (4th in the nation) for 1,295 yards (2nd in the Nation) and 17 touchdowns (2nd in the nation) in 2012. The 6-3, 190 pounder averaged 19.3 yards per catch and scored a TD in every game but one during 2012. It’s the eighth year in a row that a Bulldog has earned NJCAA First Team honors. Fellow wideout Tyrone Williams will miss 2013 after injuring his knee during spring drills.
Getting the ball to Williams will be sophomore quarterback Colton Kane, a 6-4, 215 pound transfer from East Central. In addition to Williams, Kane will be handing off to bruising Bulldog running backs Detrick Goff and Antwon Wells. Goff (6’3, 235) rushed for 304 yards and 11 TD’S in 2012. Wells (5’10, 200), a sophomore from East Central, rushed for 159 yards and a TD in limited action last year. Several starters from an offensive line that produced the Nation’s second best rushing attack (272 yards per game) will be back for Gulf Coast, including Nick Proby (6’1, 280), Cordarrley Gaines (6’7, 360), Jonathan Steube (6’4, 335), Chris Frigo (6’2, 285) and Craig Frigo (6’4, 325). Starting tight end Marlon Pope (6’4, 265) also returns for Gulf Coast.
On defense, seven starters are back including the entire secondary from 2012 that racked up 9 interceptions combined. The defensive backfield includes Auburn commitment Derek Moncrief (3 INT) along with Nigel Green (2 INT), and Josh Keys (1 INT). Sophomore linebackers Cavellis Luckett (68 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 INT) and Trey Wafford (49 tackles, 1 sack, 2 INT) both return along with nose tackle Sherman Boyd (36 tackles, 1 sack in 2012) and defensive lineman David Howell.
Gulf Coast will also count on immediate contributions from 24 incoming freshman, including defensive lineman Tavares Bingham (6’2, 230, Mobile-Williamson H.S.), linebacker Elijah Parker (6’2, 205, Brandon), and defensive back Jeremy Cutrer (6’2, 170, Sumner, LA).
On special teams, freshman Kevin Phillips (Pillow Academy) and kicker Tristan Reynolds (Petal) will work with returning long snapper Wyatt Smith.
“I’m not sure if it’s unfinished business,” Campbell added, “But I do know this group has a chance to do something special. We’re going to focus on the process of putting in the work and getting better each day.”
The Bulldogs open 2013 at home against Coahoma Aug. 29.