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Southeast football preview: Redhawks will lean on sophomore QB to run the offense

Sunday, August 30, 2009

(Photo)
Southeast wide receiver Walter Peoples caught 65 balls for 903 yards last season.
(Southeast Missourian file photo)
Southeast Missouri State's leading passer and rusher from 2008 completed their eligibility.

Offensive coordinator Vincent White still believes the Redhawks will be able to improve their offensive production from last year.

"I think we have a chance to be very good on offense," White said. "We've got a lot of experience back."

The Redhawks return eight starters from a unit that ranked fifth in the nine-team Ohio Valley Conference in total offense, although its average of 315.3 yards per game was down from 2007 (331.8) when Southeast was eighth in the OVC.

Southeast finished seventh in the OVC in scoring at 21.8 points per game last year, an upgrade from the previous season when the Redhawks ranked last (20.5).

The Redhawks are without quarterback Houston Lillard (2,067 passing yards) and four-year rushing leader Timmy Holloman (420 yards in seven games), but White likes the returning weapons.

That includes sophomore quarterback Matt Scheible, who showed plenty of promise as a true freshman while starting two games and seeing significant action in several others.

"He showed a lot of poise," White said. "He can throw it and run it. That gives us a lot of options."

The Redhawks will try to upgrade a rushing attack that was last in the OVC with averages of 97.5 yards per game and 2.9 yards per attempt.

A position-by-position look at Southeast's offense:

Quarterback

Scheible's passing numbers were not eye-popping as he completed 43.1 percent (44 of 102) for 540 yards, with five touchdowns and three interceptions.

The mobile Scheible made a big impact with his legs, rushing for 254 yards and two touchdowns while averaging a healthy 4 yards per attempt.

Scheible had his best performance in the season finale, a comeback victory at Austin Peay after Southeast trailed by 10 points with less than six minutes remaining.

Scheible completed 12 of 24 passes for 195 yards and three touchdowns, while rushing for 73 yards on 17 attempts as he played the entire game. He directed a drive that resulted in the winning TD with 14 seconds left.

While Scheible enters the season as the starter, White also likes the ability of senior Dustin Powell, who primarily played on special teams last year after transferring from junior college.

Running back

Junior Henry Harris had a solid rookie season at Southeast and even bigger things are expected out of the former walk-on at Memphis.

Harris, playing in 10 of Southeast's 12 games and making one start, ranked second on the Redhawks with 318 yards rushing while averaging a team-leading 4.2 yards per carry.

Harris, who scored four touchdowns and added eight receptions for 64 yards, set career highs with 24 carries and 110 yards in a comeback win at Indiana State.

Sophomore Jacob McKinley and junior Mike Jones also figure to get their share of carries.

McKinley, who primarily made his mark on special teams as a true freshman, rushed for 76 yards on 21 carries (3.6 average).

Jones is listed at fullback, but he also will be used at tailback. The 240-pound banger rushed for 174 yards last year (3.9 average), after posting 291 yards (4.9 average) as a true freshman.

Senior Nick Grassi is a returning starter at fullback.

Wide receiver

Four of last year's top five receivers were underclassmen, with the group combining to nab 139 of Southeast's 211 completions.

Senior Walter Peoples tops the list at wideout as he had a breakout 2008 season, his first as a full-time receiver after switching from defensive rover midway through his sophomore campaign in 2007.

Peoples caught 65 passes for 903 yards and six touchdowns while averaging 13.9 yards per reception. He led the OVC in receiving yards and made the all-OVC second team.

Junior Miles Edwards was Southeast's second-leading receiver as he caught 31 passes for 432 yards (13.9 average) and three touchdowns.

Sophomore Chantae Ahamefule, Southeast's tallest receiver at 6 foot 6, was No. 4 on the Redhawks with 22 receptions for 326 yards (14.8 average) and two touchdowns.

Senior Brad Stewart was putting together a strong year before suffering a season-ending knee injury during the sixth game at Jacksonville State. He still caught 21 passes -- fifth on the squad -- for 256 yards (12.2 average) and a touchdown.

Several younger receivers also are pushing for playing time, including promising redshirt freshman Cedric Cox. He should see plenty of action.

Tight end

While Southeast's tight ends primarily were used as blockers last year, junior Bradley Brown did catch nine passes for 116 yards (12.9 average) and a touchdown.

Seniors Ashton Farmer, a 6-7 former basketball player at Arkansas State, and Jason Brown, along with junior Kyle Hubert, also should figure into the mix at tight end although none has caught a collegiate pass.

Opening plenty of eyes during preseason practice was true freshman D.T. Lesane, who will see action.

Line

This is an area that was plagued by injury last season, but the Redhawks appear to have more depth now.

Jackson native Matt James and Jaunell Pugh, both fifth-year seniors, are the most experienced of the linemen.

James moves to right tackle after playing in nine games and making four starts at the left tackle position last year while battling injuries. Pugh enters the season with a streak of 17 straight starts at right guard.

Junior left guard Frank Knights, junior center Sean Middleton and redshirt freshman left tackle Dominic Maldonado also are listed at the top of the depth chart.

Middleton takes over at center for sophomore Matt Shannon, who started twice in 2008 but suffered an injury during practice and likely will miss the season.

Knights is a junior college transfer, Middleton started five games at guard last year and Maldonado transferred from Arkansas, where he redshirted as a walk-on in 2008.

Other returners on the line include junior Bryan Curry and sophomore Armin Bla-gajcevic.

Curry started eight games at center last year, while Blagajcevic played in two games.

Junior college transfer Brandon Harris also figures into the mix, as does true freshman Evan Conrad.

Kicker

Senior Doug Spada, an All-American punter, enters his third season as Southeast's kicker.

Spada made 15 of 24 field goals last year while hitting 29 of 30 extra points.

Returns

McKinley returned 35 kickoffs last year for a school-record 785 yards (22.4 average), with a long of 85 yards.

Henry Harris was second on the team in kickoff returns, averaging 21.5 yards on 13 attempts, with a long of 54 yards.

Senior cornerback Eddie Calvin actually had Southeast's top kickoff return average of 28.6 yards on five attempts, with a long of 56 yards.

McKinley also is listed as Southeast's No. 1 punt returner. He averaged 10 yards on four attempts last season.

Junior college transfer Abraham Woodard also is slated to see action returning kickoffs and punts.


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