Houston, TX-This is it for the Texas Southern Tigers football team; the first day in a long journey for more than one-hundred young men. The heat was fierce on the football field but the TSU Tigers were focused on their goal…to become the SWAC Champions. Head coach Johnnie Cole and his staff have been preparing for this day since the end of last season. And while they celebrated their 2009 successes, the top prize has yet to be claimed.
“I like our chances this season,” said coach Cole. “We have most of our starters coming back. They had two seasons in the system and we are working to take our offense and defense to the next level.”
The first day aches and pains were evident, but the practice was promising. Most of the players stayed and worked out over the summer which allowed the team to focus more on execution rather that conditioning.
“The men were in pretty good shape for the start of camp, but we have a ways to go. Our challenge will be the mental aspect of the game…that’s what we’ll work on the hardest,” Cole said. Coach Cole says the enthusiasm was there and the players were on the huff, physically. The quarterbacks threw the ball well with returning starter Arvell Nelson leading the way. “It’s an exciting time for us,” said Nelson. “We have high expectations and we have to get it done now, because if we do not go after it in practice, then we won’t be able to do it in the game. So this is where our championship run
Coach is looking to develop a number two quarterback. Right know he’s looking at Gino Simoni, who saw some playing time last season and Dantavious Parker, a transfer from Troy. The offensive line looked impressive as well. They are led by All-American Charles Smith, Skylar Trimble and Fred Gaines. Freshman Marvin Hollie from Houston Madison is also in the mix for a starting role. The Tiger’s Oline is big, strong and athletic, and focused on protecting the quarterback and being the force for the running game.
The Southwestern Athletic Conference top defense is looking to pick up where they left off last season. The Tiger defense is tight, wearing their battle black and motivated by “212 degrees.”
“We have a lot of guys coming back. We’ve built some camaraderie and we have each other’s back, said All-SWAC linebacker Dejuan Fulghum. The defense is pretty solid with veterans at nearly every position. Fulghum and Shomari Clemons at linebacker, Rolando Melancon will led the defensive line, DeMarkus Washington, Curtis Thomas and Kydarian Wilkins at defensive back and Marquis Jackson is getting in the mix at the defensive end position. Jerome Thomas from Miami, FL was the pleasant surprise on the defense. The 6-2, 200 pound freshman showed he has what it takes to play at this level. “I was impressed with his performance today. He looked real good,” said Cole.
The Tigers’ get their tests right off the bat in the 2010 season. They open against 2009 SWAC Champion and rival Prairie View A&M in the State Farm Labor Day Classic on September 5th. They face runner-up Alabama A&M in their second SWAC game of the season, then they face Tuskegee, who nearly always competes for the National Black College Title. They also face UCONN in the second game of the season.
“After one day, I give us a C+, but that’s today. We are serious about what we do here at Texas Southern. To be the best, you have to beat the best and our schedule is setup that way. We are working hard to be champions and we won’t stop until we reach our goals…consistently.”