By Jorge Campos
With a new quarterback and running back corps combined with veteran leadership on defense, the Dons look for an improved 2015 season despite a 67-21 thrashing at Allan Hancock College last Saturday.
“All the talent is there. We have young coaches who can relate to us, they know our age group better,” said sophomore defensive back Elijah Herrera.
Last year ended with a five game-losing streak, but the defense played well, ranking fifth in conference with 77 tackles per game. Herrera ranked in the top 50 in the region with 36 tackles. He averaged 6.6 tackles per game with 4.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks as a freshman.
“I expect us to succeed and play really well. As a unit, a lot of us are close, we want to win and do better than last season,” Herrera said.
Sophomore linebacker Justin Alabi redshirted while at the Air Force Academy in 2013. The Georgia native will bolster the Dons’ defense, and coaches rave about his leadership and work ethic.
“With his military background and his leadership skills and qualities he brings to the team, I feel he’s a great figure to have to help the young players mesh on the team,” Special Teams Coordinator Adam Nyssen said.
But the Dons need to improve dramatically from last year after ranking in the lower half of the conference in multiple categories including completions, attempts and interceptions.
Bounce back Jason Habash wants to change that with stronger quarterback play. The ex-San Jose State Spartan passed for 182 yards and three touchdowns in the opener against Hancock.
“We need to work harder on getting the offensive plays together to score as much as we can. We had a lot of opportunities last game. Going forward I would like to secure those opportunities,” Habash said.
The roster also features 10 running backs, four of whom played in the first game. The competition at running back has Head Coach Geoff Jones confident the Dons are well stocked.
The four players who stood out are William Hanley, Taj Ashmeade, Marcus Swanigan and Scottie Jordan, Jones said.
“They all want the ball more then they get it and they understand their role,” Jones said.