WILBERFORCE — The Central State University Marauders will kick off the 2017 season at home 1 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 2 against the Vikings of Elizabeth City State University.
Coming off a disappointing 2016 campaign, the Marauders enter 2017 with 38 new faces on the roster. With 17 seniors graduating from last year’s team, the projected 2017 lineup will include 16 new starters.
“We are moving forward into 2017 with a fresh mindset and positive attitude,” said Central State University Head Coach Cedric Pearl.” This is a new year and a completely different team. We are focused on getting better every day and preparing for ECSU. I have really liked the level of play and competition throughout our camp. From top to bottom, every player has been focused on getting better each day as we prepare for Elizabeth City State.”
During last week’s open inter-squad scrimmage, Pearl was extremely impressed with the depth at the running back position. With seniors Darian Nelson and Moses Vines Jr. projected to get the bulk of the carries, Pearl was also quick to point out that his entire backfield is capable of making plays.
“I have been really impressed with the progression of Terraris Saffold. Arkalius Howard is another guy who can make an impact for us as a freshman,” Pearl said confidently. “Overall, I think that the running back position is filled with players who will help us be successful in both the running game and passing game.”
This year’s offense will also feature a new signal caller in junior college transfer Trent Mays. A strong-armed quarterback, Mays hopes to connect with returning receivers Renon Lorenzo and Tyrone Jones. Last year’s starting quarterback Lavon Meeks will debut as a receiver and is expected to be another marquee target through the air. All-Conference center Darius Thomas returns to anchor down the offensive line.
CSU will have almost a completely revamped starting lineup on the defensive side of the ball. Christian Lassiter, who started all 10 games in 2016, and Xavier Johnson, who started the last three games, will team up with transfer Rashaun Searles and freshman Deontae Washington to make up the front four.
A new linebacker core will feature middle linebacker Demetrius Colbert with freshman Kailen Abrams patrolling the outside. Colbert, a Cincinnati Colerain High School graduate, spent one season at Ohio University before transferring to CSU. Abrams comes to the Marauders after a decorated high school career for Loyola High School in Detroit. Other players projected to see the field at the linebacker position include Javion Williams, Kobe Holtz, Mikey’ion Hunter and Kahari Logan.
“I am really thankful for the opportunity to play at Central State. We are all anxious to get the season started,” Colbert said. “From a linebacker standpoint, most of us are new to the team and come in with a lot of talent. Our focus has been developing chemistry and studying film to make sure we are in the best position to help our team win.”
K’Jamus Sanders and Torry Johnson will be among the starters for the defensive backfield. Johnson made a handful of starts as a freshman in 2016 and is projected to start at free safety. Sanders, who last played for CSU in 2014, makes his return to the team as the starting left cornerback. The remaining spots go to a pair of players from the Detroit area in newcomers Jerrell Allen and Johnathan Carey.
Freshman Trevor Teel will take over the placekicking duties for CSU in what might be considered the biggest upgrade of the offseason. Isaiah Thomas returns as the team’s punter.
“We started our training camp with a open competition and gave every guy an opportunity to compete for their spot,” Pearl says. “As we go into our first game, the guys who performed the best in our camp are the players who you will see on the field.”
The Marauders open the season at home for the first time since the 2014 season. Saturday’s meeting against ECSU will be the first game between the two schools since 1992. CSU currently holds a 2-0-1 edge in the all-time series which dates back to 1979.
“Saturday will be a great test for us. ECSU is a well-coached team,” Pearl says. “We know the fans on both sides are looking forward to an exciting opening week.”
ECSU, a member of the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association, finished last season with a 5-5 overall record and 4-3 conference mark under first year coach Earnest Wilson. A key part to the success of the Vikings will be the play of senior quarterback Daquan Neal, who threw for 2,068 yards and 15 touchdowns and ran for another 450 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Admission to the game is $15. Purchase tickets online at – http://centralstate.universitytickets.com/user_pages/event_listings.asp or buy with cash at the ticket window prior to the game. Parking is $10.