Hampton preview: Pirates land at CAA, hopes for early progress

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Welcome to the party, Hampton.

While the Pirates aren’t the only new kid on the Colonial Athletic Association football block for this upcoming season (my colleague, former Big South Conference school Monmouth, is also jumping for the ride), football from Hampton arguably brings more history and pedigree to the fray.

An esteemed name among Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) for academics and athletics, Hampton Football is a household name to some but a bit unfamiliar to others. This makes HU’s presence in the CAA for this year unique, and what awaits the Pirates in their new home is entirely up in the air.

For Hampton himself, however, he hopes his time in CAA will end up ending like many seasons in his past: holding trophies.

Here’s a look at what Hampton football will bring to the grid for this season, as FloFootball previews every CAA football team ahead of this season’s kickoff.

Summary of the 2021 season: Hampton’s three-year run in the Deep South ended with a 5-6 aggregate record, including a 3-4 league mark last season.

An entertaining offense that gained a high average of 410.7 yards per game in the Deep South was countered by the fact that the Pirates had the league’s worst defense with 430.1 yards allowed per game, Hampton’s games ended. often turning into offensive shootouts at worst. of routes.

Wide receiver Jadakis Bonds (773 receiving yards, six touchdowns) was named a two-time All-Big South first-team pick after the 2021 season, and for good reason, as the 6-foot-4 standout appears to be bolstering his NFL Draft stock year after year. But even he couldn’t do enough after his team’s frequent defensive breakdowns to make up the difference most of the time, as the Pirates gave up at least 30 points in seven different games.

Offense: Many CAA offenses are entertaining and love to put on a show. Hampton is already fitting into that mold heading into its first year in the league.

The aforementioned, now-senior Bonds is a stud and one of the best escapees at the FCS level, but oddly enough, he wasn’t selected to the All-CAA preseason team, despite his prior accolades.

This could very well be the motivation he needs to tear the secondaries to shreds in his new conference.

Sophomore running back Elijah Burris (702 rushing yards, six TDs in 2021) also looked great in his freshman year with the Pirates, with the Big South acknowledging Carolina’s former 5-foot-10 commitment. North with the league’s Offensive Freshman of the Year award. Therefore.

Any quarterback would love to have this combo to rely on in their arsenal, but one question remains for the Pirates about it: who exactly will it be?

Dual-threat caller Jett Duffey is gone, with redshirt rookie Christopher Zellous the only other player to throw passes under center last season. He will be the hunt for the starting job, along with a pair of new names in JUCO transfer Malcolm Mays – who threw for more than 2,700 yards and 26 touchdowns at Kilgore College in Texas last season – and Houston transfer Sofian Massoud, a former three-star rookie who struggled to break into the Cougars roster in the two seasons he was there.

Defense: With all the promise on the offensive side, why should Hampton finish last in CAA in the league pre-season survey?

Well, the defense was really that bad last season.

The Pirates’ yards allowed per game ranked 101st in the FCS, but pass defense was particularly abysmal at 271.2 allowed per game, which ranked last in the Deep South by 20 yards and was the fifth-worst mark in America.

It won’t last long in the CAA.

Longtime collegiate assistant coach Chris Cosh, who has served as the defensive coordinator at two different CAA schools in the past (Richmond and Delaware), has been hired to be Hampton’s defensive co-coordinator, sharing the role with returning staffer Todd McComb.

They’re both going to have to come together to come up with a new set of strategies for the new season and the upcoming conference change, as the Pirates are going to need them against some of the CAA offenses.

Nevertheless, there are talents returning to the ranks.

Take former redshirt KeShaun Moore, for example, who led Hampton in sacks (7.5) and tackles for the loss (13.5) a season ago. The defensive lineman proved to be a force on the inside, eventually earning his way to the All-Big South second team.

But with a Big South-low six interceptions and a brutally bad red zone defense that allowed their opponent to score 87.5% of the time their opponent reached their 20-yard line, the Pirates have a lot of work ahead of them. on the defensive side of football so as not to be in danger of a rude reception at CAA.

Wildcard: As one of the most successful HBCU football teams in history (having won a total of seven black national championships), Hampton, like several HBCU sports programs recently, participates in the ever-changing world of college football realignment. .

However, the Pirates take arguably the biggest leap forward from their peers this season by joining the CAA, which is widely regarded as one of the top FCS leagues in the country. And while HBCU leagues like the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference and Southwestern Athletic Conference are full of rich history and tradition, their participation in the Celebration Bowl (the de facto black college championship) and subsequent abstentions from send their best teams to the FCS playoffs as automatic bidding means exposure to the best of the best in FCS is limited.

Hampton bucked that trend by joining the Deep South in 2018, and after a cup of coffee in that league, where he was eventually joined by another HBCU, North Carolina A&T, found himself in the CAA for the year. coming.

The move should give the Pirates more consistent cracks in the FCS playoffs, which they haven’t played since 2006, and a schedule that mixes some of the division’s best with former HBCU opponents.

How quickly Hampton adapts to the new schools on the slate is another story altogether.

Game to watch: Hampton Vs. Howard, 6 p.m. EST, Sept. 3 (link above)

After no missed games between the two of HBCU football’s biggest rivals from 1994 to 2017, Howard and Hampton can finally play each other again for back-to-back seasons in ‘The Real HU’, after drama and a global pandemic threw some hijinks in the making game have occurred on two recent occasions.

The first case dates back to 2018, when Hampton, who left the MEAC for the Deep South before this season, claimed his former league banned the team from playing MEAC opponents as punishment for making the switch, which resulted in no Howard-Hampton game for that season.

Although the two teams met for a neutral site matchup in Chicago in 2019, the COVID-19 impacted 2020 season prevented the Pirates from fielding a team for that year. Again, no new iteration of rivalry.

The game returned again for 2021 with a win for Hampton – his fifth in a row over Howard – at Audi Field in Washington DC, and the teams will kick off their 2022 campaigns with a showdown at the Pirates’ Armstrong Stadium this time around.

The Bison struggled last season, going 3-8 overall, with just two of those wins over DI opponents, but not too long ago Howard beat Hampton four straight from 2011 to 2014 either.

As always in The Real HU, teams will have their work cut out in an electric environment.

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