As the Bulldogs hustled through Mississippi’s August heat in preparation for the 2017 MACJC season, a constant reminder of what’s expected at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College stood guard.
Four years are adorned above the visitor bleachers at A.L. May Memorial Stadium: 1948, 1971, 1984 and 2007.
Players and coaches may come and go, but preseason forecasts rarely change.
“Expectations around here at Gulf Coast are high and we know that,” Chad Huff said ahead of his fourth season as head coach at MGCCC. “The bar is raised. We know that as coaches. We’re expecting to compete in every football game.”
Every year, Gulf Coast seems to be in an “arms race” of sorts with other junior college programs and this offseason was no different. The biggest addition was arguably former Ohio State signee Torrance Gibson. A prep All-American out of Florida, Gibson originally signed with OSU in 2015 as a quarterback before moving to receiver. After being suspended by the university for all of the 2016 season, Gibson attempted to transfer to Cincinnati before landing in Perkinston.
Gibson wasn’t merely given the keys to Gulf Coast’s offense, however, as he’s duking it out with former Resurrection standout Larry Sisson.
“I like our position right now. I like our situation. We have Larry coming back, who ended up starting the rest of the season last year and winning some football games and leading us to the playoffs,” Huff said. “The addition of Torrance Gibson here has been great. It has made Larry better and Torrance is picking the offense up and learning. Both are real competitors, good teammates and pushing each other every day in the meeting room.
“We’re just going to keep battling there. Both will contribute.”
Regardless of who starts under center, the Bulldogs’ QB should have several prime targets — including tight ends Jake McDonald and Landon Rice, as well as Oklahoma transfer Zach Farrar. Gulf Coast will need the aforementioned trio to step up — and then some —to replace the production receivers like Brandon Martin (Arkansas) and Jonathan Nance (Arkansas) and Lester Wells (Central Arkansas) took with them.
The running back position, however, could be interesting as the Bulldogs graduated T’Rod Daniels, who’s now at Southern Miss, and Ge’Vonte Jones. The two combined for 1,386 yards and 10 touchdowns as sophomores. At the start of fall camp, Huff pointed to a large group of freshman running backs — including Coast products Terrion Avery (Stone) and Deandre Torrey (Gautier) — to lead the unit.
“Right now they’re learning,” Huff said, also mentioning Meridian’s Antjuan Rogers and Damien Johnson out of West Marion. “I’ll tell you what I do like: They’re a good group, picking the offense up. We need to establish the run. We’re a run-pass offense and to me those guys ... we definitely need somebody to step up and take that thing over.
“Whoever starts at running back will be a new face who didn’t play last year. Those guys have to step up; but I like where we’re at.”
A pair of former LSU Tigers in Saivion Smith and Isaiah Washington are expected to shoulder the load on defense as the Bulldogs look to replace the likes of Isaiah Buggs (Alabama), Carson Jordan (Western Kentucky), Vaughnte Dorsey (Texas Tech) and others.
Both ex-Tigers transferred to Perkinston during the summer and were immediate hits.
Washington will team up with former Auburn signee Daquan Newkirk to form what should be a formidable duo along the defensive line.
“I think those two are veterans and sophomore guys who have been through the grind, been through the offseasons and a camp before,” Huff said. “Brandon Walley is a guy we moved from offense to defense who is doing good things. I really like our freshmen, Lakendrick Jones (from Brandon) and Austin Adams (from Newton) and big Lucky Davis (from McComb), D.J. Stevenson from Gulfport and Davion May from Hammond out there running around.”
Smith was considered one of the top cornerbacks in the nation when he signed with LSU out of IMG Academy. He received playing time as a freshman, but opted to transfer this summer. Huff said he has fit in well and checks a number of boxes.
“We needed some experience there with graduating some of the guys we graduated,” Huff said. “Savion coming in gives us some experience and a good skill set for a corner. I’m excited about that.”
Huff also mentioned returning defensive backs Aretavious Hendrix and D’Iberville’s Ty Peters as players he’s expecting big things from.
Stone High kicker Mason Hunt didn’t go far, signing with MGCCC. He’s expected to be a weapon on special teams for Gulf Coast.
The Bulldogs open the season Aug. 31 with familiar foe Itawamba traveling to Perkinston. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
Mississippi Gulf Coast C.C.
Conference: MACJC South Division
2016 record: 5-5, 5-2
Postseason: Lost to EMCC, 27-24 in MACJC State playoffs
Coach: Chad Huff
Aug. 31: Itawamba, 7 p.m.
Sept. 7: At East Mississippi, 7 p.m.
Sept. 14: At Copiah-Lincoln, 7 p.m.
Sept. 21: East Central, 7 p.m.
Sept. 28: At Hinds, 6:30 p.m.
Oct. 5: Mississippi Delta, 7 p.m.
Oct. 12: Southwest Mississippi, 7 p.m.
Oct. 21: At Pearl River, 2 p.m.
Oct. 28: Jones County, 3:30 p.m.