NSU rebuilding around youth

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 5, 2000

MICHAEL KIRAL / L’Observateur / August 5, 2000

METAIRIE – If there is one word that could be used to describe the Nicholls State University Colonels in 2000, it is “young.”Of the 79 players on the preseason roster, 58 are underclassmen. Thatincludes 37 freshmen and 21 sophomores.

But the Colonels do have some experience. Nicholls State returns 12starters from last season, eight of which are either juniors or seniors. TheColonels are hoping that blend of youth and experience can help turnaround a 1-10 season in 1999.

Among those returning is senior Brad Smith at quarterback. Smithcompleted 199 of his 411 passes last season for 1,485 yards and six touchdowns. He was also second on the team with 411 yards rushing and hada team-high five touchdowns on the ground.

In addition to the numbers, Nicholls State coach Daryl Daye will be looking for Smith to provide leadership to the young squad.

“His leadership coming into the season is probably the most important thing he brings to the table,” Daye said. “He’s a guy who’s a warrior. He hangs inthere, never complains and gives his best every week. Last year, he was oneof the bright spots on the offense. We’re excited about what he’s going tobring to the young guys we got and that’s going to set the tone for the future too.

Nicholls State returns just two letterwinners at running back in Sullivan Turner and Chad Carter, a Lutcher alum. Turner, who missed most of thespring with a knee injury, ran for a team-high 425 yards last season. Cartersaw action mostly as a blocking back but dud add 68 yards on the ground.

Daye is also looking for a new crop of backs that includes Assumption’s Rudy August and Brother Martin’s Phillip Brock, to battle for playing time.

“Sullivan Turner and Chad Carter are two guys who have been in the heat some,” Daye said. “We got a lot of young guys who will have the opportunityto play and play right away. We’re going to take the best one and stick him inthere.”Nicholls State also returns only two starters at wide receiver in Curtis Johnson and Sullivan Beard. Johnson is the leading returning starter with 25catches for 283 yards last season. Beard caught 13 passes for 278 yards.Junior Kenric Johnson, a Lutcher grad, joins those two after catching five passes for 93 yards in 1999. Daye is also looking for good things out ofjunior college transfer Thurman Lewis and true freshman Javarus Minor.

“With Sullivan and Thurman the deep threats and Curtis and J.J. Minorunderneath creating, we can pose a threat for a lot of people.”Nicholls State lacks depth on the offensive line. Sophomores Graham Jarrottand Kyle Smith are the only lettermen returning. The Colonels are looking forJoseph Trosclair, a signee out of Riverside, to battle for a starting role.

Junior college transfer Jeremy Smith is also expected to battle for a starting spot.

The defense returns five starters from 1999. The line is especially youngwith all 10 players listed at the spot either freshmen or sophomores.

Sophomores Seth Laviolette, Burnell Taylor and Michael Peck, a LaPlace native who prepped at Bonnabel, saw action last year. Taylor and Peck areexpected to start this year along with freshmen Victor Grant and Michael Carey.

Linebacker is expected to be one of the strengths of the team. Senior RockyCurl and junior Todd Rivera, both of whom ranked in the top five on the team in tackles last season, return. Senior Nehemiah Lucas, who saw playing timelast season, is also expected to get the start in 2000. Torrian Thomas, aredshirt freshman out of West St. John, is expected to see playing time onspecial teams and in spot duty.

The secondary returns three starters in sophomore Steve Ellis, junior Lee Rogers and senior Derrick Pittman. Rogers moves back to the position fromlinebacker where he was third on the team in tackles in 1999. Like formerWest St. John teammate Thomas, Pendarvis Morris is expected to getplaying time on special teams after redshirting in 1999.

“Defensively, our strengths are our linebackers and the depth we have in our secondary,” Daye said.

Nicholls State returns both its punter, Jeremy Thompson, and kicker, Kyle Leisher. Leisher has started the last three seasons and has converted hislast 30 extra point attempts. Thompson had a 38.1 punting average lastseason.

Nicholls State opens at home for the first time since 1992 against Central Arkansas. The Colonels open Southland Football League play the followingweek at home against Jacksonville State. The Colonels then go on the roadfor a month against Louisiana-Monroe, Western Illinois, Samford and Southwest Texas. Nicholls State plays three of its final five games at home.Nicholls State has been picked to finish eighth in the league but Daye said fans can expect the team to play hard every week.

“The fans are going to see a team that is going to come out and play hard every game,” Daye said. “They are going to leave it on the field. They are notgoing to be intimated by anybody. They are going to war with anybody and layit on the line.”Daye has seen improvements as he is satrting his second year as head coach fo the Colonels, especially in the team’s grade point average and test scores.

“We have some quality kids and some character kids,” Daye said. “The herdis going in the right direction. The changes that have taken place are allpositive.”

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