Gridiron 2016’s Southwest preview: Peavey leads young, talented Bears group into 2016 season

Published 10:00 pm Friday, August 12, 2016

Photo courtesy of Southwest media relation/ Southwest head coach Tucker Peavey and his team look to rebound after a 3-6 season.

Photo courtesy of Southwest media relation/
Southwest head coach Tucker Peavey and his team look to rebound after a 3-6 season.

Going into a season with a team comprised mainly of freshmen is not the ideal situation for any coach. However, despite having only 15 sophomores on his team this year, Southwest Mississippi Community College head coach Tucker Peavey does not seem to be dwelling on that fact. Peavey (USM, ’86) is in his fourth year at the helm of the Bears.

“It’s always a concern whenever you’re going to run a bunch of guys on the field that hasn’t been there before,” Peavey said. But, he said his group of newcomers, along with the few returnees, “are a good group of players and I think ultimately they’re going to be a really good group.”

“I guess probably the biggest concern will be the offensive line and the inexperience there,” Peavey continued. The only way we can get that (experience) is game experience. We can work all we want to at practice and work hard, and the players are doing that, but at the end of the day they’ve got to get out there and do it under the lights.
It’ll take a little time, but I’m encouraged by the effort and the focusthey’ve had up to this point.”

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One area in which the Bears do have experience this season is at quarterback. Back for his sophomore season is Centreville Academy graduate Casey Haygood. Haygood was thrust into the Bears’ lineup in 2015 after starter Neil McLaurin was lost to injury in the season-opener and number two man Tyler Shell was grounded and missed several games due to an injury in game three.

Haygood completed 73 of 144 passes for 935 yards and six touchdowns with four interceptions. McLaurin also returns.
That experience, Peavey said, is “always a positive and we’re going to need that leadership from that position, not just in the X’s and O’s, but also with the way we go about preparing for a game.”

Peavey said he is also “very encouraged by what our receivers are doing. I think as a total group, from tight end to wide receiver, we’re a lot more talented there than we’ve been in recent years.

“We’re looking forward to seeing who comes in and stands out.

Certainly, with Ravian (Pierce) back at tight end, that gives us experience at that position.”
Pierce led the Bears in 2015 with 27 receptions. He totaled 307 yards and had three touchdowns. He has been listed as a Sporting News Super Sophomore going into the upcoming campaign.

“Offensively,” Peavey said, “I think we’ve got a chance. But, we’ll probably only progress as fast as the young guys up front do.”

As with the offense, the Bears’ defense will contain very few familiar faces in 2016. However, defensive coordinator Kelby Bowman (Belhaven, ’00) is not overly concerned.

“I think by us getting them in the summer (it gives) them a chance to get acclimated to classes and what we’re doing on defense,” Bowman said, “That’s where you have to mature them the most. It’s a part of this league, and everybody has to deal with the same thing, that in some years you have a majority of sophomores and in other years freshmen.”
“However,” Bowman said, “You just have to use your time wisely and get them as many reps (as possible) in the summer, mentally and physically. Also, I think a big part of (the maturation process) is us coaches not putting too much on them. So, it’s all based on how they learn and how fast they pick up on things. And, as coaches, we have to make sure we put them in the right situations on the field, but also what we’re putting in defensively and scheme-wise; just not overloading them if they can’t handle it. If they can, then we move forward.”

Bowman said people can expect his defense “to compete like we always do. At the defensive back position, the Bears return Justin Pack and Michael Ware Warren Central High School).

Joining Pack and Ware is freshman Chase Mitchell who, Bowman said “is a good football player.”

Freshman Kendell Anderson comes in as a cornerback. On the line, the Bears return Delmond Landry and have newcomer Von’ Darius Freeman. Bowman said Landry “has done a great job for us.

The Bears have potentially only one player returning at the linebacker position, D’ Edward Proctor.

“Obviously, I’m going to say we’re trying to win (the Division).That’s the objective. But, it’s a very difficult road.”
“We have a lot of new faces,” Bowman said, “but, I think we’ve got some good talent and some athletic kids. The thing is to make sure that we’re fundamentally sound and make sure we’re doing what we’re supposed to do.”

Asked for his thoughts on the MACJC’s South Division, Peavey said, “Obviously, I’m going to say we’re trying to win (the Division).
That’s the objective. But, it’s a very difficult road.”

“Certainly,” Peavey continued, “the teams that are always there, the Co-Lin’s, the Gulf Coast’s and now East Central, coming off a playoff season (will be there). It’s so good, top to bottom, (that) it’s hard to say who will actually come out on top. But, there’ll be a lot of good football teams.”

Addressing the playoffs possibility again, Peavey said the Bears are “trying to achieve something that hasn’t been done here in a while (the last playoff appearance for the Bears’ football team came in 2000), so that’s the objective. Everything we do is about trying to win a championship and to do that you’ve got to get to the playoffs.”

“Our men’s basketball team proved that this past season,” Peavey said, referring to the Bears’ capturing the MACJC state title.
“You’ve got to get in that thing to have a chance to win it. But, when you look back and you look at reality, we want to make sure that we’re getting better every day and that every game what we play we’re doing the things on the field better.”

Looking briefly at the Bears’ special teams, special teams coordinator Cameron Achord said he was looking forward to the kicking game in this season with the team bringing in a new kicker and punter.

Gone are kicker Reed James (who signed with the University of West Alabama) and punter Brandon Mancuso, both of whom had been with the team for two years.

Handling the kicking chores will be freshman Casey Griffith while newcomer Parker Robinson will take care of the long snapping duties. The punter position is still up in the air.
The Bears have punt returner Trey Fleming back from last season and Achord said he is “looking for some big things from him.” Achord said during the fall camp, he will be looking for who will be his man on kickoff returns. Achord said he felt there “will be some new excitement because we have some new guys out there (who) should bring a lot of excitement to the game.”

In addition to Achord and Bowman, joining Peavey on the sidelines again this year are Donald Dykes (SLU, ’88-Defensive Backs), DeMorrius Jones (Belhaven, ’10-Defensive Line) and Dominique Sullivan (USM, ’14-Wide Receivers). In addition to being special teams coordinator, Achord also coaches the quarterbacks, running backs and tight ends and serves as recruiting coordinator.

The Bears open their season on the road in Clarksdale vs. Coahoma (September 1) and in Goodman against Holmes (September 8) before making their home debut on September 15 against Hinds.