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2015 MAC football non-conference previews: Delaware State Hornets

FCS opponent Delaware State makes a trip to Kent State on September 12th.

Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

On September 12th, Kent State welcomes a struggling Delaware State team that finished 2-10 last season. A member of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC), the Hornets were picked to finish a humbling 11th out of twelve teams in the conference this season. Delaware State's lone game against an FBS team did not go well last year, as they were smashed on the road by Temple by a score of 59-0.

The Hornets are optimistic heading into 2015, as they underwent a coaching overhaul after last season's dreadful finish. Every member of the coaching staff is new with the exception of the linebacker coach, Andrew Faison. The new head coach will be Kenny Carter, who was a running backs coach under Urban Meyer at the University of Florida when they won the National Championship in 2009. From 2010 up until last season, he was the running backs coach at the University of Louisville. He helped the Cardinals to two Big East Conference championships as well as two bowl appearances. Carter has also coached with LSU, Pitt, Pen State, and Vanderbilt. DSU hopes Carter can use his experience and resume to build the program back up again.

Carter's extensive knowledge of the run game is just what the Hornets need, as the team has been poor in that area recently. Last season, Delaware State ranked 10th in the MEAC and 114th out of 121 FCS teams in rushing, averaging just 96.7 yards per game. The 2015 edition of Hornets football features an experienced offensive line and a large crop of running backs working to reverse that trend.

DSU returns ten offensive linemen this year, including junior center Ernest Mengoni, who was named to the All-MEAC team for the preseason. Mengoni will be paving the way for a number of different backs hoping to get reps. The top candidate is Jamaal Jackson. The senior raced for 493 yards and one touchdown last year, including two 100-plus yard games. Senior Nagee Jackson led the team with 7 touchdowns as a freshman but has not done much since. Also hoping to return to freshman year form is Dae-Hon Cheung. Cheung ran for 410 yards and 3 touchdowns as a freshman and 361 more as a sophomore. Unfortunately, injuries kept him sidelined for all but three games last year. The Hornets add even more depth with Indiana transfer Laray Smith. The former Hoosier, holding junior eligibility, was ranked as one of the top15 running backs coming out of high school but saw little playing time at IU.

Returning at quarterback will be junior Gilbert Revera. Last season Rivera passed for 898 yards with 6 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. His favorite targets were redshirt junior Malik Golson (25 receptions, 275 yards, 2 touchdowns) and sophomore Marquel Knight (24 receptions, 187 yards, one touchdown). With a rebuilt run game and an improved O-line, the Hornets will look to have a better and less predictable passing game.

Yet another area of the team undergoing rebuilding is the defensive line. The biggest hole is the one left by DT Rodney Gunter, who was drafted by the Arizona Cardinals last year. This year the line returns just one starter in former tight end Gabe Sherrod. The junior was moved to tight end two years ago and started all last season. He recorded 46 tackles, including five sacks. Sherrod was named Preseason All-MEAC Third Team. Seeing guys in new positions is nothing new for the Hornets, as practically their whole defensive front have been converted to help out the line. Senior Tarique Anderson and junior Nick Nelson have been moved from the defensive end position to play tackle. Sophomore Josh Ealy saw good playing time at linebacker last year as a true freshman, and will now be playing defensive end.

The top returning defensive backs are Terrick Golston and William Burton. Colston, a senior this year, recorded 75 tackles and had 4 interceptions. Burton is entering his junior year after picking up 47 tackles and picking off two passes. The top returning linebacker is sophomore Dan Zajac who, as a true freshman last year, tallied 42 tackles and two sacks.

While the Hornets are making moves in the coaching department to improve the team for the future, Kent State will be a tough game. This is especially evident when you look at the beating they took from Temple in 2014. Temple's ranks in the offensive department are similar to Kent State and the Owls still put up 59.

The game is September 12th at Kent State's Dix Stadium at 6:00p.