Donovan Rose feels more comfortable going into his third season as head coach at Hampton University. He knows, though, that there's an even greater impetus to get things done.
That point was driven home at the Pirates' end-of-the-year athletic banquet as Rose talked with women's basketball coach David Six and men's basketball coach Ed "Buck" Joyner. Six, who has won back-to-back Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference tournament titles in his two seasons as the Lady Pirates' coach, and Joyner, whose Pirates won the MEAC tournament championship this past season in his second year at the helm, were each rewarded with three-year contract extensions in April.
"All three of us came in at the same time," said Rose, a 17-year HU assistant before taking the head job in 2009. "Six won (the conference championship) his first year. Buck won it his second. It's on me now."
Rose's Pirates, who went 6-5 in 2010 after a 5-6 finish in 2009, were picked to finish fourth in the MEAC in 2011 in voting Friday by league coaches and sports information directors.
South Carolina State was picked to win the league, while fellow 2010 FCS playoff team Bethune-Cookman was tabbed to finish second and Florida A&M, led for the fourth season by former HU coach Joe Taylor, was third.
At Friday's preseason media gathering, Rose was seated next to Taylor, who won 136 games and eight conference championships (three CIAA titles, five MEAC) and made five playoff appearances in his 16 seasons at Hampton. Such proximity provided another reminder of the success Rose knows is expected as he puts "more of my blueprint, my fingerprint" on the Pirates' program.
"It's amazing sitting next to Coach Taylor and being able to get a sense of what he goes through," Rose said. "(Coaching) is not for everybody. It's a lot of ups and downs, a lot of highs and lows, but the key is consistency. We're moving in the right direction."
Across the room, S.C. State coach Buddy Pough, who has won two outright MEAC titles and shared another in his nine seasons with the Bulldogs, echoed Rose.
"I really like Donovan. I think he's really started to come on and do some things," Pough said. "Once you get past the fact that I'm in this position and just trying to hold onto it … you forget about being careful and you start trying to do things the way you want."
Rose's 2011 team returns starting senior quarterback David Legree and sophomore running back Antwon Chisholm, the MEAC rookie of the year and a preseason first-team all-conference selection after rushing for 607 yards in 2010. The Pirates also have experience at wide receiver, while their offensive line is a mix of veterans and transfers, including ex-Rutgers tackle Jamal Wilson, a 6-foot-5, 310-pound sophomore.
Legree, who shared starting time with Herb Bynes in his previous two seasons, is healthy after battling leg injuries last year and learning new offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Willie Snead's spread offense.
"David is more relaxed," Rose said. "He's taken more ownership. … It's a simple system, and David is the catalyst."
Defensively, the Pirates lost three players who are now in the NFL — tackle Kenrick Ellis, a third-round pick of the New York Jets, and linebacker Brandon Peguese and safety Ricardo Silva, who signed free agent deals with Philadelphia and Detroit, respectively. But along with an experienced secondary featuring senior cornerback and preseason first-team All-MEAC pick Micah Pellerin, HU's linebacking corps should be formidable, with an infusion of Bowl Subdivision transfer talent and the return of Julio Sanchez, who led the Pirates with 98 tackles in 2009 before a knee injury sidelined him in 2010.
Sanchez is joined by Lyndell Gibson, who started 13 games for Virginia Tech last season, and Travis Williams, Lake Taylor High's all-time sack leader who redshirted last year at Miami.
"(Gibson) showed up June 1 for conditioning and he hasn't missed a day," Rose said. "The linebacker corp is going to be strong. Defensively, it's going to be exciting. I can't wait for practice to start so we can start doing some things."
After producing 11 wins in his past two seasons combined, Rose knows Hampton fans may well feel the same.
"I don't feel pressure, but I know in this business, it's about W's. It's about winning," Rose said. "It's obviously going to be very competitive, but I think we're going to put ourselves in position to be successful."Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times