ATLANTA — No longer can Morehouse consider itself the underdog of the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
The Maroon Tigers tied for second last season alongside SIAC powerhouses Albany State and Fort Valley State. Now, coach Rich Freeman wonders how his team will react to being favorites in most contests.
“We won’t be able to surprise anyone this season,” said Freeman, who enters his third season.
Morehouse, which was picked to finish third this season, returns six all-conference first-team preseason selections, with two others who made second team.
One of Morehouse’s top players is junior quarterback William Brack, who in five games last season averaged 158 yards passing and threw for eight touchdowns. Brack should get some good protection from 6-foot-8, 310-pound offensive lineman Ramone Harewood.
“He’s a good leader for us,” Freeman said of Brack. “He’s our man. His presence alone provides us with the stability we need.”
Achille Hendje leads the Morehouse receiving corps. He paced the Maroon Tigers with 681 yards receiving on 46 catches and seven touchdowns in 2008.
But for Freeman to continue his run-before-pass philosophy, he’s looking for better production out of his backfield. Morehouse finished last in the SIAC in yards and touchdowns on the ground.
With a lack of ball carriers, the Maroon Tigers depended on quarterback Christian Green, who led the team with 142 yards rushing.
If the Maroon Tigers expect to dethrone defending conference champion Tuskegee and surpass the other perennial contenders, Freeman knows his running game has to step up. He’s expecting to use a running-back-by-committee among four players, hoping that one or two emerges as the primary ball carrier.
“Last year, had we run the football better, we would’ve won the conference,” he said. “But we’ll be better in that area. It should lead to a better season.”
Brack hopes so too.
“The running game opens everything up in the passing game for me, as far as play action to hold the linebackers in place for just enough time for me to get the football off to our receivers,” the quarterback said.
On defense, the Maroon Tigers will have to find some new leaders after losing Jeffrey Cargile, who was SIAC defensive player of the year last season.
Tackle DaJuan Nettles, end Keith Rooks and Brandon Cunningham are expected to anchor the defense. But Freeman still has issues with the secondary, which will have all new starters.
“We’ll be good stopping the run,” he said. “But they’ll be a lot of new faces in the secondary. That’s one area where I have some concern. Other than that, I have great optimism about the season.”