Mills welcomes 86 players to start of spring football drillsMarch 13, 2006
By CSU Sports Information
|Senior QB Collin Drafts|
CHARLESTON, S.C. Ė Charleston Southernís football program, riding high after last seasonís 7-4 record and share of the Big South Conference championship, opened spring football practice on Monday afternoon.
Head coach Jay Mills, beginning his fourth season at the school, welcomed 86 players, including 16 returning starters, to the start of drills. The Buccaneers will work a few days per week for the next four weeks, concluding with the annual Blue-Gold scrimmage in the stadium on April 8.
Expectations will be higher than ever as the Buccaneers seek to continue the progress made over the previous three seasons. CSU finished 1-11 in Millsí first season, improving to 5-5 in 2004 and 7-4 last season.
The Buccaneers closed out last season with five consecutive wins, including a double overtime 34-27 win over Coastal Carolina in the regular season finale to claim a share of their first-ever football championship.
Offensively the Buccaneers return the 2005 Big South Offensive Player of the Year in senior quarterback Collin Drafts. In only three seasons, Drafts has broken every school career
record for passing and total offense and enters his final season with 7,103 yards passing and 52 touchdowns. Drafts threw for 2,544 yards and 20 touchdowns last season, completing 61 percent of his attempts.
Three starters along the offensive line return in juniors Troy James and Rick Howell, and sophomore Alex Bragg. The top two rushers from a year ago, Andre Copeland and Robert Adams, also return. Copeland, a sophomore, gained 721 yards and scored seven touchdowns last season while Adams, a rising senior, gained 356 yards and averaging nearly six yards per rushing attempt.
CSU also returns its top three receivers, led by Maurice Price, who caught 72 passes for 1,043 yards in eight games as a sophomore. Sophomore Markus Murry caught 33 passes as a true freshman and senior Drew Rucks caught 29 passes after transferring from Purdue University before last season.
Defensively, the Buccaneers will work hard in the spring to find replacements and depth along the defensive line but the linebacking corps and secondary will be stronger than ever. Returning with experience along the defensive front are ends Tyrese Harris (sophomore) and Phil Jordan (senior), and nose guard Brett Bowdren, a senior.
CSU returns the top four tacklers from last season, led by junior linebacker Jada Ross, who tallied 128 stops and earned the 2005 Big South Defensive Player of the Year honor. Fellow linebackers Josh Mitchell and Jonna Lee, both juniors, totaled 86 and 62 tackles, respectively, last season. Lee led the team with 11 tackles for loss.
Anchoring the secondary will be fourth-year starting senior Marvin McHellon at cornerback and junior free safety C.J. Hirschman, who was fourth on the team in tackles last season with 58 total hits. Corners Okeba Rollinson and Jonathan Carmon also return, while sophomore bandit Mike McCann returns after missing all of last season with an injury.
CSUís special teams will be in good hands again in 2006 as well. Junior Nick Ellis connected on seven field goals and 35 extra points last season while sophomore Hart Pearson averaged 37.4 yards per punt a year ago.
Charleston Southern opens the 2006 season at Presbyterian College on September 2, followed by a game at The Citadel on September 9. The Bucs, who play six home games in 2006, open the home schedule on September 16 against Wingate.