Still a couple weeks out from the Sept. 1 opener at Itawamba Community College, the 2016 Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College Bulldogs are starting to take shape.
With the Bulldogs’ new facility — which is two days from being officially unveiled — now towering over the field at A.L. May Memorial Stadium’s turf field, the Bulldogs kicked off their first two-a-days of fall camp Monday.
“I thought the kids responded. It was the first day in shells. You're going to have moments where they have to decide how much they love it and we had guys this morning push through it. Was it perfect? No. But it was definitely a great start,” MGCCC coach Chad Huff said. “The energy and excitement … there's a spark in this football team that's going to turn them into leaders. People are feeding off of them.”
Isaiah Buggs is one of a number of highly recruited players bolstering the Bulldogs’ defense. One Coast player who flew under the radar out of Hancock High but is demanding plenty of attention from his coaches and peers now is Carson Jordan.
Multiple times during Monday’s morning session, teammates and coaches pointed out the talented South Mississippi defensive end.
“Carson is having a heckuva year. He's a big-time football player. He's a Division I guy,” MGCCC defensive coordinator said of Jordan, who registered 22 tackles as a freshman in 2015. “If somebody doesn't take him, they're going to miss out. He's big, he's strong, he plays hard and he's smart. He's the whole package.
Another weapon along the line is former Louisville signee Mike Boykin out of Carrollton, Georgia. At 6-foot-6, 270 pounds, Boykin physically looked like he fits in along the line. He’s still a little raw, but the Bulldog coaches are excited about his potential.
“He has great ability. He has to learn to focus and get locked in. He has some skills,” Davis said. “Can you imagine if we go to a four-man front with him, Carson, Buggs and whoever the other guy is? We'll see.”
The Bulldogs appear as deep as they’ve been in recent years. With national title aspirations, MGCCC has hit preseason camp hard. Huff said there’s positional battles daily across the depth chart. He doesn’t expect that to subside anytime soon.
“I've told the guys, 'you're competing to keep your job and you're competing to take somebody's job,” he said. “We're demanding right now that every rep they take, you've got to be 100 percent full speed like your life depends on it. The one play you take off might be the one play somebody takes your job.”
MGCCC rotated several quarterbacks Monday, with Resurrection Catholic’s Larry Sisson getting reps alongside Jabe Burgess and Kalen Whitlow. The latter two signed with Tulsa and Western Carolina out of high school respectively.
“There’s great competition at that position and they’re making each other better every day,” Huff said. “They’re all showing signs of some things they can do well and they’re all showing some of their weaknesses.
“We have to strengthen their weaknesses and continue to build on their strengths.”
The QBs are competing to replace A.J. Erdely, who signed with UAB in December.
“They all bring something a little different to the table and it’s great to have the competing,” Huff said. “It’s going to make all three of them better.”
The NJCAA unveiled its preseason poll Monday with plenty of Mississippi flavor atop the top 20.
East Mississippi topped the poll, with MGCCC at No. 4, Copiah-Lincoln at No. 7 and defending national champion Northwest Mississippi at No. 10. Hinds was the fifth MACJC school ranked at No. 19.
MGCCCC hosts EMCC on Sept. 8, Co-Lin on Sept. 15 and Hinds on Sept. 29.