Livingstone football preview
By Bret Strelow
Livingstone went winless in coach Lamonte Massie’s debut with the program.
The Blue Bears took positive steps last year and hope to make more progress in 2009.
Livingstone finished with a 3-7 overall record and 3-4 mark in CIAA play last season, the school’s best since identical numbers were posted in 2003.
“Across the board, we built from what we had last year, having the 3-4 conference record,” Massie said. “We should be able to turn the tide on that. We’ll probably be a whole lot more competitive.”
Livingstone opened its league schedule with a 3-0 record last year thanks to a forfeit by Bowie State, and the Blue Bears played meaningful games in October.
Alkeem Deloatch (defensive back), Devonta Harmon (defensive back), Justin Johnson (linebacker), Michael Haygood (defensive lineman), Christopher Peoples (receiver), Jamel Moore (running back), Kyle Blackwell (offensive lineman) and Justin Norton (offensive lineman) are expected to be some of Livingstone’s leaders this season.
Steven Williams and Bryan Aycoth (West Rowan) are again competing for snaps at quarterback.
“They spent a lot of time in the offseason together, and they work out together,” Massie said. “It’s a friendly battle, and it’s good to see that. Beyond just the football part of it, they have that friendship. When one’s playing the other is supporting him.
“I’ve never in my nine years as a head college football coach seen two guys work together like that competing for the same position. I said that last year, and I’m more adamant about it this year.”
Moore rushed 27 times for 106 yards and one touchdown last season as the second option behind departed Rashaad Flucker. Linwood Jenkins will also figure into the mix.
Peoples, a 6-foot-5, 225-pound Mooresville product, is a weapon at wideout. Massie sees potential in freshmen Jeremy Hughes (5-8) and Omar McFadden (5-9).
Peoples led the team in receiving a year ago with 464 yards and five scores.
“He’s matured a lot and gotten stronger and faster,” Massie said. “One of the flaws he had last year was consistency. Things got better for him as he matured, and he has been moving forward ever since.”
Blackwell is the team’s center, and Norton can play either guard position.
The Blue Bears will also count on freshmen Darryl Coleman, Josiah Simms, Dustin Walsh and Damien Greatheart up front. Aaron Williams, a sophomore, could contribute on the line or at tight end.
“We’re going to be young, but I think we’re a lot more athletic than we’ve been the last couple years,” Massie said.Jordan Beckham will handle the kicking duties, and Livingstone has a deep secondary.
Deloatch (55 tackles, 69-yard interception return last season), Harmon (five interceptions, a second-team All-CIAA selection), Jamar Graham (a Savannah State transfer who had three picks last season), Jerrod White (a Fayetteville Britt graduate who was the defensive MVP of the East-West All-Star Game), Jeremy Fairley (a former Albemarle standout who runs the 40-yard dash in 4.37 seconds) and Aliquon Bullock are all expected to see action. White made a first-half interception near the goal line in the East’s 6-0 victory against the West this summer.
The linebacking corps is currently without suspended standout Robert Massey-Brice. Johnson and Kenneth Odom, a Bethune-Cookman transfer, are key players at that position.
Haygood, Anthony Earles and Christopher Brown will help anchor the defensive line. Earles is moving to tackle this season.
“We have some experience on the interior, and we have some athleticism on the exterior,” Massie said. “We’ve upgraded our speed and strength.”
Freshmen comprise nearly 60 percent of Livingstone’s roster, and the season begins Saturday at home against Virginia State.
“With us having a little bit of success last year, we’re able to find a little bit better athlete,” Massie said. “When you’re 1-10, it’s hard to get guys to come. Even though 1-10 and 3-7 aren’t that far from each other, a lot of guys saw a great opportunity to come in and help out.”