By ADD SEYMOUR JR.
|TE Ryan Edwards, Head Coach Rich Freeman, QB Kivon Taylor|
Morehouse College head football coach Rich Freeman will be the first to admit it – last year, his team didn’t play very well.
The Maroon Tigers had an experienced quarterback and some good defensive pieces coming back for the 2016 season and were picked to finish high in the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference’s East Division race.
But bad special teams play, a defensive secondary that was carved up by teams like Elizabeth City State, Tuskegee and Clark Atlanta, and a lackluster offense led to a 3-7 record and a last place finish.
“We own it,” Freeman said during the recent SIAC Media Day, where Morehouse was picked to finish last in the 2017 East Division race. “All of those things attributed us to being picked a fifth-place preseason football team.”
But look past what happened in 2016, Freeman said. Heading into the new season, the 2017 Maroon Tigers are a very different looking, talented team.
“It definitely motivates me because I don’t see fifth-place talent when I look around our locker room,” he said. “And I definitely don’t see fifth-place coaching when I look around and see the experience on our staff.”
Shoring up the defensive secondary has been a priority this year, and Freeman said a solid recruiting class, and a year of experience, should help that. Otherwise, led by Preseason All-SIAC players in linebacker David Smith (first team) and defensive lineman Voris Bryant and Antonio Johnson (both second team), the Maroon Tigers already look to again be strong against the tun. While Morehouse was next to last in pass defense in 2016 (giving up a league-high 21 touchdowns), they had the SIAC’s second-best run defense and was third in total defense.
The biggest move at Morehouse this off-season was the hiring of offensive coordinator Harry Williams. Williams, who replaces longtime offensive coordinator Leon Murray, was the coordinator for a Langston University offense that led their conference in scoring with 51 touchdowns and averaged nearly 41 points a game.
Williams brings a spread offense that has already had the football all over the field during spring drills at Morehouse. For a program that didn’t even have a full-time offensive line coach, a more free-wheeling offense, instead of one heavy on reads and intricate blocking schemes, is a better fit for the program and for the players, said Freeman and his players.
“The offense had become stagnant,” said dual-threat quarterback Kivon Taylor of 2016. “With Coach Williams, he’s brought in a bunch of new looks and he kind of re-invented the spread look and put some power into it. The conference hasn’t seen this look. “[Coach Freeman] went and found a coach who suits our playing strengths. Now we have an offense designed around our strengths. It’s exciting.”
With those needs being addressed, Freeman is chomping at the bit get this season started.
“We don’t have everything we need, but we have what we need to be a lot better than fifth place and I’m looking forward to that happening,” he said.