Brutal schedule lined up for Gulf Coast in 2022

Published 2:42 pm Wednesday, August 31, 2022

PERKINSTON — Mississippi Gulf Coast head coach Jack Wright will start his fifth season in charge here with an even tougher than usual schedule lined up for the Bulldogs.


He said more so than any other year he’s been here, it’s all about the unknowns. He thinks his team is good, if inexperienced. On the high side, they could be 9-0 at the end of the regular season. Make enough mistakes, and it might be 0-9.

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“We’ve got the toughest schedule in the league, probably the toughest schedule in the country,” Wright said. “But that’s what you sign up for when you play in the MACCC. The schedule rotates, and ultimately, you’re gonna wind up playing the best teams in the league, and it’s not like the other teams can’t beat you, either.”


The Bulldogs are unranked in the preseason poll for the first time since Wright’s first season, although the NJCAA rankings only go through 15 since Division III was spun off last year. The Bulldogs are among the next five teams who received votes.


Gulf Coast opens 2022 with a pair of long road trips, this Thursday at No. 4 Northwest Mississippi and next at Itawamba. Those are the first two North Division teams on the slate, with No. 6 East Mississippi visiting Perk on Sept. 22 for a game which will be televised by ESPN+.


The Bulldogs’ first home game will be Sept. 15 against Southwest Mississippi, with season tickets and chairback tickets on sale at The Bulldogs also play at No. 8 Hinds and host No. 12 Jones.




Gulf Coast has a pair of signal callers who will see action this season, Pat McQuaide (Fr., Solon Ohio/Solon) and Asher Morgan (Fr., Philadelphia Miss./Philadelphia).


“We brought in two Division I transfer quarterbacks, and both of them are hungry to play. Both of them are very football intelligent, very football savvy. They’ve both worked really, really hard in camp. I’m excited they’re both here, and my job is to get the most out of them as a group.”


McQuaide transferred from Kent State, and Morgan from Samford. They’ll have a pair of experienced players leading the running back corps. Cam Thomas (So., Picayune/Picayune) led the team with 714 yards while playing only six games because of injuries sustained in a car accident, averaging 5.9 yards per carry. Xavier Evans averaged nearly seven yards per carry before getting knocked out by injury in the third game.


There’s more experience in the wide receiving group, with Rico Dorsey (So., Hattiesburg/Presbyterian Christian) coming back. After coming in from USM, he caught seven touchdowns among his 29 receptions that gained 327 yards. Jonathan Harris (So., Hattiesburg/Petal) and Keymari Odum (So., Haines City Fla./Ridge) are also back. Odum showed his value in the running game when pressed into service there after injuries ravaged that group. He gained over 200 yards, including 127 and a touchdown on 13 carries in a win over Southwest Mississippi.


“We’re going to be leaning on some of those experienced receivers,” Wright said. “If we’re going to win some of those games early in the year, they’re going to have to make some plays for us.”


KD Wells (So., Brookhaven/Brookhaven), an Alcorn State transfer, leads the tight ends and fullbacks. He can be effective as a blocker and receiver.


Up front, the offensive line is young and talented. Kyle Bruce (So., Florence/Florence), who started four games, and Cam Richardson (So., Madison/Madison Central) are back.


“We’re going to have fight through some mistakes early with them, but I really like ’em,” Wright said. “We’ve got a bunch of good guys, big strong guys. They just need to play and fight back from making mistakes by adjusting. They need experience.”




The defensive line for The Regulators doesn’t have a lot of guys who have played before, but no group has shown the improvement they have since the team put the pads on this month.


“We’ve got some high-motor guys, guys who’ll play hard and get after the quarterback,” Wright said. “The good thing is all of our defensive linemen are going to play a lot. I think that whole group can help us. The strength is our depth.”


Scott Burton (So., Bogue Chitto/Parklane Academy), Ricardo Williams (So., Jackson/Provine) and John Brown (So., Jackson/Provine) return, and Division I transfers Torran Coppage-El (Fr., Stone Mountain Ga./Parkview) and Jon Jones (Fr., McKinney Texas/McKinney) will be in the rotation.


Ishmael Naylor (So., DeKalb/Kemper County), the leading returning tackler, Drake Thornton (So., Gautier/Gautier) and Hayden Hill (So., Flowood/Northwest Rankin) lead an experienced linebacker group. Thornton played at Gulf Coast in 2020, and Hill played two years at Copiah-Lincoln. Joseph Perryman (So., Madison/Madison Central) is also back, joined by newcomer Xavion Handford (Fr., Gautier/Gautier).


The Bulldogs sent 24 players to the Next Level last year, and no group sent more than the defensive backs.


“We lost a lot of guys to D-I teams,” Wright said. “We’ve got a lot of guys who were here last year and didn’t play much, so hopefully they took that year to learn and better their craft. It’s an inexperienced group thrown into the fire early.”


Returners like Josh Phillips (So., Grenada/Grenada), Levi Wyatt (So., Vicksburg/Holmes County), Keon Preyor (So., Hattiesburg/Oak Grove) and JaQuan Copeland (So., Hazlehurst/Hazlehurst) are joined by Division I transfers LaDareyen Craig (Fr., Mobile Ala./Baker) from South Carolina, Coryon Francis (Fr., Fort Worth Texas/North Crowley) from New Mexico and Dramarian McNulty (Fr., Brookhaven/Brookhaven) from Western Carolina.




Gabe Showalter (Fr., St. Martin/St. Martin) will handle kicking and punting duties, and he had 28 touchbacks on 34 kickoffs in high school last year. Collen Penton (So., Picayune/Picayune) is back to handle long-snapping duties.


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