News » Southeastern University

Expectations Rise in Year Two

Contributed by admin on Aug 31, 2015 - 10:16 PM
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LAKELAND, Fla.—Winning eight games with a roster comprised mostly of freshman has set a high standard for the Fire football program.

In its first year of competition, the Fire were just seven points away from claiming a conference championship.

“We had no idea we would win eight games,” said SEU head coach Keith Barefield. “We go into every game every week with a plan to win and believing we can win, but common sense would tell you we’re a brand new program and would be very fortunate to win two or three ballgames that season.”

The excitement level for the 2015 season is high with seven starters back on each side of the ball.

On offense, the Fire finished seventh in the NAIA last year in scoring, averaging 38.7 points per game. A big part of that was the nation’s second leading scorer in running back Jarrell Reynolds. Named an NAIA Preseason All-American by The Sporting News, Reynolds returns for his redshirt sophomore season after rushing for 1,469 yards, good for fifth in the NAIA.

Barefield feels the offensive line will be a big strength, making Reynolds job a little easier.

“Our offensive line has five guys that have been with us from the beginning (in 2013),” said Barefield.

All-Conference performer Raleigh Alexander is back at tackle with Cody McGahee, Forrest Garner, Augie Schmidt, and Miguel Perera all returning as well. This group helped the Fire average 214.8 yards per game on the ground and gave up just 15 sacks in 10 games.

All-Conference quarterback Jonathan Pearce is back after finishing second in The Sun Conference in passing at 183 yards per game. As a redshirt freshman, Pearce only threw three interceptions in 254 pass attempts.

The receiving corps will see big play threat DeVonte Mack return after making 25 catches for 489 yards and three touchdowns last season. Slot receiver Dakota Duron, who made a team-high 35 grabs for 287 yards and a score is also back. The Fire will also be looking to Youngstown State transfer Michael Wheary and Malone University transfer Jordan Phillips to contribute as well.

“Every sport you talk about, you want to be strong up the middle; that’s where our strength is: our line, our quarterback, and our running back,” said Barefield of the offense.

Defensively, the Fire finished second in The Sun Conference in points per game, allowing 21.3 points per contest.

“Our defensive line has experience, depth, and talent,” said Barefield. “If that moves from being an area of improvement to be¬ing a strength, we will have made great strides.”

Dance Estes made 13.5 tackles for loss last season, finishing fourth in The Sun Conference and earning first team all-conference honors at outside linebacker. Robert Greathouse, who missed four games with an injury, made four tackles for loss in six games last season, and returns at tackle.

At linebacker, sophomore Will Tillo returns after he averaged 5.2 tackles per game as a true freshman. Tyrell Green, one of just five seniors on the roster, is back after making 6.5 tackles for loss last year. “We made a step up at linebacker,” said Barefield. “We have legitimate depth as well as experience and talent to go with it.”

The secondary is a work in progress, but will welcome back honorable mention all-conference corner Mark Myers as well as strong safety Collin Thomas. “My biggest concern would be in the secondary where we are still young and improving,” said Barefield. “I think we have people coming in that can make us better and be better than we were a year ago, but right now, they’re not proven.”

Special teams could be a big advantage for the Fire with sophomore Caleb Winter returning after an impressive rookie campaign. Winter connected on eight of his 11 field goal attempts in his first year ever playing football, including three of over 40 yards.

“Caleb was a very fresh face last year, but has shown a lot more matu¬rity and is almost like an old veteran out there,” said Barefield.

He also handed the punting duties, averaging 43.8 yards per boot with a long of 74. Only two of his punts reached the end zone, and landed 14 inside the 20-yard line.

The Fire will face their biggest test right out of the gates in the home opener against Faulkner University, which is ranked 10th in the NAIA Coaches’ Poll. The Fire will travel to Warner the following week for their first Sun Conference game of the year.

In the conference preseason coaches’ poll, the Fire were predicted to finish second behind defending champion Webber International.

“I think the conference will be highly competitive this year,” said Barefield. “It’s going to be a dogfight every week, and that’s the way it should be. What we want to see is at the end of the season is whoever’s won the most dogfights will be in the national tournament.”

Barefield believes all the pieces are in place for a special season at SEU.

“We will be successful this year if we stay healthy,” said Barefield.