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'Rebirth' ahead for Ramsey, TSU
Tigers await NCAA’s ruling while preparing to defend crown
After months of waiting, Texas Southern interim football coach Kevin Ramsey knows closure is near.
Regardless of the outcome of an NCAA investigation, Ramsey is ready for a fresh start as the Tigers prepare to open defense of their Southwestern Athletic Conference title Sept. 10 against Prairie View A&M.
TSU is coming off the first SWAC title in school history.
“We’re looking forward … we’re not looking ahead,” Ramsey said Tuesday during the SWAC football media tour. “We know we cannot change the path that was set before. But one thing we do know is we can run it with perseverance and endurance.”
The NCAA is expected to release its findings of an investigation into the TSU football and men’s basketball programs.
TSU athletic director Charles McClelland, who was unavailable for comment Tuesday, has said he anticipates “major NCAA violations toward our football program with regard to recruiting, unethical conduct and academic inconsistencies.”
In advance of the NCAA report, TSU took pre-emptive steps within the football program by firing head coach Johnnie Cole and associate head coach Daryl Williams in April. Later that month, Ramsey fired three more offensive assistants.
Ramsey, who spent the past two seasons as TSU’s defensive coordinator, completed a makeover of his offensive staff with the hirings of Charles Coe (offensive coordinator/quarterbacks), Larry Holton (running backs), Robert Ford (wide receivers) and Quintin Smith (tight ends). Offensive line coach Manny Martinez is the only offensive holdover from Cole’s staff.
“These kids deserve to have the best teachers and mentors around,” Ramsey said . “It wasn’t easy, but I felt a need to upgrade certain positions for this program.”
With sanctions likely on the way, TSU did not sign any players during the national signing period in February. The Tigers added seven players in June but are faced with a limitation on scholarships after losing 15 in May as the result of a historically low performance in the NCAA’s Academic Progress Report.
In June, TSU hired Kimberly Evans as academic advisor, a dedicated position within the football program that did not previously exist.
Senior Marcus Wright, the SWAC’s top returning rusher, said the Tigers haven’t spent the offseason thinking about possible NCAA sanctions.
“We’re just trying to stay the course,” said Wright, who rushed for 1,212 yards last season. “Whatever (the NCAA) does to us, we have to take it.”
Marquis Jackson, a junior all-conference defensive end, said the Tigers are taking a “business as usual” approach to fall camp.
“We feel like it’s a rebirth of our program,” Jackson said. “We’re not starting over, but we’re making changes.”
Last season: 9-3 (8-1 SWAC).
Predicted 2011 finish: Second in West Division.
Players to watch: DE Marquis Jackson, DT Jonathan Hollins, RB Marcus Wright, DB Zach Gallow, RB Martin Gilbert, WR Joseph Anderson, TE Kirk Fitzhugh.
Must address in fall camp: The defense, anchored up front by all-conference players Jackson and Hollins, and a deep backfield are strengths. Protecting the ball is a priority after TSU led the nation in turnovers last season. Depth on offensive line and secondary are concerns. Dantavious Parker enters camp as No. 1 QB.
Prairie View A&M
Last season: 7-4 (6-3 SWAC).
Predicted 2011 finish: Third in West Division.
Players to watch: CB Moses Ellis, LG James Dekle, LT Tim Tusey, DE Adrian Hamilton, LB Raheem Cardwell, LB Marcus White, WR Deandre Cooper.
Must address in fall camp:He Former defensive coordinator Heishma Northern, who takes over following the departure of Henry Frazier III, has holes to fill at quarterback, running back and wide receiver. Jonathan Troast is leading candidate for QB job. Ellis, an All-American and SWAC preseason defensive player of the year, leads an experienced defense.
By JOSEPH DUARTE, Houston Chronicle