|(Vashun Newman photo)|
By: Shalyn Moore
After claiming the 2014 CIAA Championship, Virginia State fell to 6-4 overall and 4-3 in conference play last season. The players and staff say that last year’s record simply wasn’t good enough.
“They all know 6-4 wasn’t good enough, especially coming off of that championship run,” interim coach Justin Harper told HBCU Gameday. “Last year can be narrowed down to about four plays that would have had us in the championship run, but that’s a direct reflection of us.”
1)The Show Must Go On
VSU is under new leadership for second time in as many years. Former Virginia standout Byron Thweatt led the team last season after Latrell Scott accepted the job at Norfolk State, but Thweatt resigned after one season. Former receivers Coach Justin Harper was named the interim head coach for the time being. Harper expressed that from a team standpoint the Trojans are running things as if he’s the guy and taking things one day at a time. The Trojans motto has been to “control what you can control.”
2) Defense looking to get active
Outside of intense practice and preparation for the upcoming season the Trojans have utilized spring ball to focus on team bonding and living up to their new motto. The Trojans will look to the fly around the ball defensively, according to defensive backs coach Almondo Curry. “With defense our main thing is to fly around this year. Good tempo, be destructive, and cause chaos out on the field,” Curry said.
3) Replacing Smallwood
VSU is hoping it has filled the holes as needed in terms of roster talent and depth. One of the biggest holes is at receiver, where Jaivon Smallwood has exhausted his eligibility. “Smallwood was a great receiver and played a big role in our offense, but he was also a great leader and molded the guys behind him to come in and make plays,” running back Kavon Bellamy told HBCU Gameday. Josh Harris, the team’s leading returning receiver, will be looked upon to take a bigger role in 2016.
4) The Backs are back
Trent Cannon and Kevon Bellamy formed a powerful rushing attack last season, combining for a total of 1,891 rushing yards, 267 receiving yards, and 17 touchdowns. Cannon’s speed (he rushed for 1,228 yards last season) and Bellamy’s toughness provide the Trojans with two different styles of running backs that both look to score when the ball is in their hands. This spring, the running backs have also been doing a dip slip drill which simulates in game blocks and how to cut off of them to create scoring situations. “We feel like we have the best running backs in the conference so that is going to create a lot of scoring and excitement in Rogers Stadium,” Cannon said.
5) Keep an eye on:
The Trojans expect rising junior Tyquante Simms and rising sophomore Tarell Cisneros-Harrison to have a big impact for the secondary and special teams. “Those are two guys that I’m really excited about,” Harper said. The Trojans will return Tarian Ayres as the starting quarterback, but with two backup quarterbacks in Beau Morgan as a backup, along with the addition of new recruits for the fall, the Trojans figure to have depth at the QB position.
Va. State began Spring Practice on March 17th and will continue until April 8th. Spring Ball will conclude on April 9th with the Trojan Blue and White Spring Game, which will consist of an inner squad scrimmage held at Rogers Stadium slated for 1 P.M.