HBCU Spring Football: Stakes High For Rose, Hampton

Hampton head coach Donavan Rose hopes to rebound from a 3-7 record in 2012. (Daily Press photo)

What Happened In 2012: The season got off to a bad start as Hampton was sanctioned by the NCAA for APR scores, eliminating the possibility of postseason play before fall practice. Hampton lost its first four games to open the season, before winning two of its next three games against conference opponents Norfolk State and Savannah State. It won just one of its final three games to finish 3-7, the program’s worst record since entering Division I in the mid-90s. Hampton was out-rushed, out-passed and out-gained by opponents in 2012. The offense scored just 25 touchdowns, and only ten of those came through the air. They turned the ball over 33 times on offense (16 fumbles, 17 interceptions). On defense, the Pirates recorded just 16 sacks in 10 games. The rumor mill had coach Donovan Rose exiting Pirateland, but Rose was retained for the 2013 season.

Who Won’t Be Back: Last season’s leading passer, Travis Champion, has left the program. Also gone from last year’s squad is Lyndell Gibson, who led the Pirates in tackles and tied for the lead in interceptions. The biggest loss, however, comes in the backfield as running back Jeremiah Schwartz exhausted his eligibility after running for 1,043 yards and 11 touchdowns as a redshirt senior. His production will be sorely missed as he rushed for over 900 yards more than Christopher Dukes, the highest returning rusher outside of quarterback Brian Swain.

Who Will Need To Step Up: Pretty much everyone. It starts at the quarterback position, where Swain and JJ Williamson both played as freshman last year. Though the duo passed for just two touchdowns against five interceptions, reports out of camp are positive so far. Swain has shown he can move the ball through the air, rushing for 105 yards and a touchdown against Howard last season.

Dukes didn’t get many carries behind Schwartz, but he flashed his potential with a 16 carry, 122 yard performance against Morgan State in the season finale. Last year’s leading receiver Andre Griffin returns as well, but keep an eye on Jorrian Washington. The 5-8 speedster from Los Angeles averaged 14 yards per catch, and also scored on a 100 yard kick return last season. The defense will look to linebacker Delbert Tyler and defensive back Carvin Johnson to make more plays this season.

Who They’ll Play: The first half of the season will be road heavy for Hampton, as they host just one game at Armstrong Stadium (against Tennessee Tech). The others will be road contests against Western Illinois, William & Mary, Coastal Carolina and South Carolina State. Hampton will host NC A&T for homecoming on Oct. 12. Traditional Rivalry Games against Norfolk State (Battle of The Bay) and Howard (Battle of The Real HU) also highlight the schedule.

What To Expect: The good news is that over a dozen freshmen and redshirt freshmen saw significant playing time. The bad news is that the payoff may be a few years down the road, and time is a luxury that Rose may not have. His job could depend on how stable his starting quarterback position is, and if his defense can muster enough pressure on opposing quarterbacks to force more turnovers.

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