Donovan Rose is entering his third season as the Pirates' head coach after 17 years as an assistant, and says the program now bears more of his imprint than in the past two seasons, which have produced a combined .500 record. If that's true, it's time for Rose's team to start producing the consistent play that results in victories. HU started last year's 6-5 campaign strong, opening 5-1 and vaulting to first place in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, before fading down the stretch. Rose is hoping for a more upbeat end as he begins his third decade on the Pirates' sideline.
Third year at HU (11-11)
Rose spent 19 years as an assistant with the Pirates and has seen their winning ways first-hand, first in the CIAA and then in the MEAC. A former pro who played in the CFL and with the Miami Dolphins, Rose often talks of restoring the Pirates' championship tradition and of doing it with some style. There's no time like the present.
Soph. | 5-9 | 170 | RB
Chisholm earned MEAC offensive rookie of the year honors after rushing for 607 yards and four touchdowns last season. February knee surgery kept him out of spring practice, but he was still a preseason first-team all-conference pick. With bruising change-of-pace back Steve Robinson now a free-agent signee with the Detroit Lions, Chisholm is the only returning member of the backfield who had more than 40 carries in 2010.
Sr. | 6-0 | 225 | LB
Sanchez, the 2010 MEAC preseason defensive player of the year after leading HU with 98 tackles in 2009, is back and healthy after a knee injury short-circuited what would have been his senior season. He is getting some high-profile help in the Pirates' linebacking corps with the transfer of Lyndell Gibson, who started 13 games for Virginia Tech last year. Though he said he's been cleared to play, in the first week of fall practice, Sanchez was still waiting for NCAA confirmation of his medical redshirt and eligibility for 2011.
Sr.| 6-1 | 195 | CB
Pellerin, who joined Chisholm as a preseason first-team all-conference pick, is a captain and the leader of a secondary Rose hopes will be a strength for a defense that loses safety Ricardo Silva, who signed a free-agent deal with Cincinnati. Pellerin had two interceptions and 14 pass break-ups last season and led HU cornerbacks with 41 tackles.
Fred Kaiss, HU's offensive coordinator during the Pirates' conference championship glory days, returned last season amid high hopes of revitalizing an offense that averaged just 19.5 points per game in 2009. Instead, the Pirates managed just 17.5 points per game, and Kaiss lasted just one season. Enter new guru Willie Snead, whose spread offense won state titles at the high school level in Michigan and has HU hoping once again for some point production.
LEGREE'S LAST CHANCE
Senior quarterback David Legree entered 2010 intending to establish himself as the Pirates' go-to guy and unquestioned starter. But a porous offensive line that often left him running for his life led to more split playing time with then-senior Herb Bynes and contributed to the leg injuries that plagued Legree for most of the season. Legree looked healthy in spring ball, and Rose said the quarterback is comfortable, and steadier in the pocket, in Snead's system.
BIG HOLES TO FILL
Hampton's defense gave up just 271.5 total yards, third-best in the country, and 18.4 points, tied for ninth-best, in 2010. Gone, though, are the Pirates' five leading tacklers — three of whom are now on NFL rosters, including mammoth tackle Kenrick Ellis, a third-round pick of the New York Jets after a 94-tackle, two-sack senior season. The linebacking corps that was a strength last season should be solid again, but the Pirates will need someone to step into Ellis' sizable shoes up front.
Three of the Pirates' top four wide receivers from 2010 return, including Virginia transfer Javaris Brown, a preseason second-team All-MEAC pick who led HU with 639 yards and five touchdowns on 40 catches last year. Isiah Thomas (29 catches for 315 yards and two TDs) and Dyrri McCain (11 catches for 144 yards and a touchdown) will also provide experienced targets for Legree, who hopes to spend more time throwing the ball and less time eluding pressure.
Some schools don't even give kickers full scholarships. At HU, Dylan Kerns got a full ride at long snapper out of Palm Beach (Fla.) Gardens High after a tumultuous special teams ride in 2010 that included three botched punts in the Pirates' 28-14 loss to Old Dominion alone. The Pirates also signed placekicker Taurean Durham out of Nassau Community College to bolster a kicking game that went 6-of-11 on field goal attempts last year.
Sept. 3 | vs. Alabama A&M | 5 p.m. | Chicago
The opener should be a little less taxing than last year's trip to Central Michigan, but the Pirates will have to perform early on a big stage at Soldier Field in the Chicago Football Classic.
Sept. 8 | Florida A&M | 7:30 p.m.
Rattlers head coach Joe Taylor, who led HU for 16 seasons, returns to Hampton in a Thursday night game televised by ESPNU. FAMU was picked third in the preseason MEAC poll, one spot ahead of the Pirates.
Sept. 17 | at Old Dominion | 6 p.m.
Round Two of this hyper-local rivalry takes place at Foreman Field after the Monarchs drew first blood in last year's 28-14 win at Hampton.
Sept. 22 | at Bethune-Cookman | 7:30 p.m.
The Pirates travel to face the Wildcats, coming off a 10-1 NCAA playoff season and recipients of eight first-place votes in the conference preseason poll, in another ESPNU Thursday night game.
Oct. 8 | Princeton | 1 p.m.
It took a while, but the two schools at last meet in the return game from a contest the Pirates won 48-27 in New Jersey in 2007.
Oct. 15 | at Norfolk State | 4 p.m.
HU looks to make it two in a row in the Battle of the Bay after edging the Spartans 7-6 in last season's offensively challenged meeting at Armstrong Stadium.
Oct. 22 | North Carolina Central | 2 p.m.
The Pirates welcome the Eagles, playing their first full MEAC schedule, in a homecoming contest after a 27-13 win in Durham last year.
Oct. 29 | at Savannah State | 2 p.m.
Nov. 5 | Howard | 1 p.m.
"The Battle of the Real HU" hasn't been much of a contest lately, as Hampton continued its recent dominance with a 31-21 win in D.C. last year.
Nov. 12 | Delaware State | 1 p.m.
HU beat the Hornets 20-14 last season for the third win in a five-game streak that catapulted the Pirates to the top of the MEAC — before a four-game slide.
Nov. 19 | Morgan State | 1 p.m.
The Pirates close the regular season with the third of three consecutive home games. A 21-16 win at Morgan State in 2010 gave HU a winning season.
7-4. If Hampton can weather a tough early schedule that could well leave it 1-3 going into the Princeton game, it can get back to .500 with a win at Norfolk State before facing a more manageable second half. Working in the Pirates' favor: games against the MEAC's two newest members mean HU won't face preseason conference favorite South Carolina State for the first time since it began MEAC play in 1996.