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Fighting Okra put Delta State on football map

Who are these guys?

They have been called by a variety of nicknames…Fighting Okra,Green Scourge, Emerald Tide and Statesmen.

Delta State University has reached a position in the NCAADivision II football playoffs where they have never been before. Infact, most teams have never been in the quarterfinals.

More than likely, you’ve probably heard of Delta Statequarterback Josh Bright. He is a heavy favorite to win the ConerlyTrophy which annually recognizes the top collegiate player inMississippi.

Bright, a 6-foot-5, 217-pound junior from Batesville (SouthPanola) has set all sorts of records in guiding the Statesmen to an11-1 record. He has passed for 1235 yards and 12 touchdowns. He hasrushed for 1111 yards and 15 touchdowns.

If you like stats, Bright has completed 67 of 136 passes andthrown 6 interceptions. He has carried the football 169 times.

His first name, Joshua, makes him a natural military leader.Certainly, he has led the Statesmen to the Promised Land in twoyears as a starter. They are 11-1 entering Saturday’s showdownagainst Catawba College (11-0) in Salsbury, N.C.

Another bright star on the DSU offense is fullback Rico McDonald(5-8, 187, jr.) from Ripley. McDonald has rushed 213 times for 1311yards and 16 TDs.

Bright’s prime receivers are Jason Franklin (6-0, 200, sr.) fromMeridian, James Grubbs (6-4, 185, soph.) from Magee and DeforestHart (5-7, 185, sr.) from Vicksburg. Franklin, from EastMississippi; and Hart, from Hinds; both arrived at Delta State viathe community/junior college route.

We certainly don’t want to overlook the offensive line. The sixstarters are Randy Grierson (6-0, 273, sr.) of Pascagoula atcenter, Chris Booker (6-1, 288, so.) of Clarendon, Ark., at leftguard, Jamie Everett (5-9, 269, sr.) of McComb at right guard, ReedStringer (6-5, 282, jr.) of Canton at left tackle Kenneth Johnson(6-2, 279, so.) of Douglas, Ga., at right tackle and Justin Ashley(6-3, 273, fr.) of Richland at tight end. Ashley, a redshirt,changes jerseys when he switches to offensive tackle.

On defense, the Statesmen have done an outstanding job. In lastSaturday’s 49-12 playoff victory over Valdosta (Ga.) State theylimited former University of Kentucky quarterback Dusty Bonner to219 passing yards and 1 TD. Bonner filled the air with footballs,completing 34 of 53 passes and throwing 2 interceptions. He wassacked five times.

On the tackle charts, outside linebacker Rory Bell (5-8, 187,sr.) of New Orleans leads Delta State with 111 tackles, including79 solo stops. End Andre Brown (6-0, 218, sr.) of Roundaway inCoahoma County has 69 tackles, Outside LB Teddrick Polk ( 5-7, 166,jr.) of Bassfield has 64 tackles and cornerback Demetrius Patterson(5-10, 185, sr.) of Theodore, Ala., has 61 stops, plus 4interceptions.

If you are looking for local connections, freshman defensive endKelvin Redd (6-5, 245) of Brookhaven has played on the scout teamsthis season. Redd will be redshirted. He’ll be bigger and strongernext year.

Two more freshmen who will be redshirted are linebacker ScottieCline (6-1, 212) and offensive lineman Jason Ford (6-1, 176) ofCopiah Academy at Gallman. Both players are Hazlehurstresidents.

There are 22 junior college players on the DSU roster, includingthree from Southwest. Everett, linebacker Jerod Beckett of Apopka,Fla., and offensive lineman Max Weathers of Liberty played atSouthwest. None of the JUCO players are from Co-Lin.

DSU head coach Steve Campbell has compiled a 17-5 record in twoyears on the Cleveland campus. He was 12-8 in two seasons atSouthwest, including a 7-3 mark in 1998, the Bears’ first winningseason in 12 years.

Campbell, a 1988 Troy State (Ala.) graduate, served asSouthwest’s offensive backfield coach for one season in 1996 underformer head coach Joe Wickline who went to Baylor University as aline coach.

Campbell was offensive coordinator at Delta State in 1992 andoffensive line coach from 1990-91. He got his coaching start as agraduate assistant to Pat Dye at Auburn University in 1988. He wasoffensive coordinator at Nicholls State from 1993-95.