Dover, Del. (July 31, 2019) --- The 2019 Delaware State football team took to the Alumni Stadium turf today for the first time since preseason camp began this week. The Hornets held their first practice session in preparation for the season opener on Aug. 29 at the University of Delaware. Rod Milstead welcomed about 100 players to camp for his second season as head coach at his alma mater.
“I’m excited about our prospects for the season,” said Milstead, whose team won three of the last four games to post a 3-8 overall record and 2-5 mark in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference in his first season as Hornets’ head coach in 2018. The three overall wins were the most by the program since 2013. Delaware State was 5-40 in the four years prior to Milstead’s arrival.
“This season is critical to measure our progress as we continue rebuilding the program,” said Milstead. “The players have put in great conditioning and classroom work during the off-season, and I’m eager to see how it transfers to the field. Everyone will have an opportunity to compete for starting positions this year. We have seven home games, eight total in the state of Delaware this season, giving us an opportunity to build on last year’s finish and convince our fans and supporters that we are headed in the right direction.
Shayne Smith (jr.; 6-1, 200), with one collegiate start, is the most expected of the five quarterbacks in camp this summer. Smith completed 16-of-19 passes (84.2%) for 212 yards and three touchdowns in the Hornets’ 41-7 victory over Virginia University of Lynchburg in his lone career start in the 2018 finale. He also rushed for 47 yards on seven carries in the contest.
Former New York high school star and true freshman Tylik Bethea will also compete for the job after enrolling at DSU in the spring 2019 semester. The 6-5, 195-pounder completed 132-of-224 passes (58.9%) for 1,500 yards with 15 touchdowns and five interceptions as a senior at Brooklyn’s Abraham Lincoln High School in 2018. He helped lead Lincoln to two wins in the 2018 New York City Public League Playoffs.
Another freshman, Jabari Blake also joins the Hornets this season after an impressive career as a signal caller at Heritage High School in Lynchburg, Va. Blake combined for 5,038 passing yards, 2,123 rushing yards and 87 touchdowns during scholastic career. He was the VHSL Class 3 State Offensive Player-of-the-Year, Region 3C Offensive Player-of-the-Year, Seminole District Player-of-the-Year, and News & Advance All-Area Offensive Player-of-the-Year as a senior.
Despite losing last year’s leading rusher Brycen Alleyne to graduation, the Hornets are excited about their 2019 running backs.
Bryant Dallas (sr.; 5-8, 205) is the top returning runner with 349 yards and one touchdown on 72 carries in 2018. Dallas rushed for 308 yards in the last six games, averaging 5.0 yards per carry during the span.
The DSU running game is also expected to be bolstered by the return of Mike Waters, who was limited to five games due to injury in 2018. Waters rushed for 107 yards vs. St. Francis (Pa.) last season and ran for a DSU freshman record 820 yards as a freshman in 2016.
Richard Harris (sr.), Thomas Bertrand (r-fr.), along with former Milford (Del.) High School two-way star David Bowman are also expected to contribute to the running game this season. Bowman competed as a defensive back during his freshman season with the Hornets in 2018.
The Hornets are expected to feature an improved offensive line this season, led by 2019 Preseason All-MEAC First Team pick Kaiden Crawford (jr.). Matthew Derks (jr.), Savion Hopes (jr.) and A.J. Moli (sr.) are other experienced linemen expected to bolster the front line this season.
Delaware State’s 2019 receiving corps is led by wideouts Trey Gross (jr.) and Kwannah Kollie (jr.), who ranked second and third on the team in total catches last season. Gross had 31 receptions for team-highs 480 yards and four touchdowns, while Kollie hauled in 17 passes for 168 yards and a score in 2018.
Hornet tight end Isaiah Williams (sr.), a preseason All-MEAC Third Team selection, also returns after catching 12 passes for 97 yards and a touchdown last season.
Brian Cavicante, the 2019 Preseason MEAC Defensive Player-of-the-Year, is the leader of the unit. Cavicante was second in the league in total tackles (89) and third in tackles per game (8.1) last season. In addition, he was second in the conference with 17 tackles-for-loss and tied for third with 50 unassisted tackles.
Safety Jahad Neibauer (sr.), a 2019 Preseason All-MEAC Second Team pick, was second on the Hornets and tied for 14th in the league 0in tackles at 6.4 per game (70 total) during the 2018 season. He was also tied for eighth in the conference with 10 tackles for loss (7 break-ups + 3 interceptions). Neibauer shared MEAC Defensive Player-of-the-Week honors for his performance against Savannah State on Nov. 3, which included an interception and 30-yard return, a sack in the endzone for a safety and five solo tackles.
All-MEAC Preseason Third Team selection Devin Smith (sr.) also returns to the secondary after trying for third on the Hornets with 55 tackles each in 2018.
Returning linebacker Alex Lozano (jr.) tallied 46 tackles, including 5.5 for loss, and two blocked kicks in 2018.
Preseason All-MEAC Second Team honoree Christian Johnson (r-sr.) is the Hornets’ top returning defensive lineman. He had 33 total tackles, including 5.5 in the opponents’ backfield, last season.
Brandon Carswell (gr.), a former All-MEAC defensive lineman at Savannah State, joins the Hornets this season and will provide valuable experience up front.
Former Temple University recruit Carrington Jones (r-fr.) joins the active roster this season after sitting out the 2018 campaign.
The Hornets have also shifted former offensive lineman Liki Seu (jr.) to the defensive line this season.
Delaware State’s placekicker and punter has each earned Preseason All-MEAC Second Team recognition. Placekicker Jose Romo-Martinez (r.-so.) connected on eight of 11 field goal attempts (72.7%) and was perfect on 20 extra-point kicks in 2018.
His brother, Fidel Romo-Martinez (sr.) missed the last six games in 2018. In 2017, he was tops in the MEAC and fourth among all FCS punters with a 44.8 yard average.
The first of the Hornets’ seven 2019 home games is Sep. 14 against Lincoln (Pa.). The 4:00 p.m. contest will mark the first meeting between the teams since 1960. DSU's homecoming contest is the following Saturday (Sep. 21) against Howard. Kickoff is scheduled for 2:00 p.m.