THE VITAL INFO 2009 | 3-5 MEAC, 5-6Last playoff berth | 2007 (lost to Souther Illinois 45-27)
THE COACH Donovan Rose= 2nd year at HU (5-6)Rose spent18 years as a Pirates assistant before replacing Jerry Holmes after Holmes' lone season as head coach. Rose graduated from Hampton in 1979 and had a brief pro career with Miami before returning to HU in 1991. His familiarity with the Pirates' program, though, didn't breed success last year, Hampton's first losing season since 1996. Rose has shuffled his staff, bringing back former HU offensive coordinator Fred Kaiss, in an effort to return the Pirates to the winning ways he grew accustomed to in his long tenure as an assistant, including stints as defensive backs coach and defensive coordinator.
THE STANDOUTS Julio Sanchez Sr. | 6-0 | 225 | LBSanchez transferred to HU last year from Butler (Fla.) Community College and led the Pirates with 98 tackles. He's the MEAC preseason defensive player of the year.
Kenrick Ellis Sr. | 6-5 |340 | DTEllis had 15 tackles for loss and recovered two fumbles last season. In 2010, the Pirates will again rely on his formidable presence up front.
David Legree Jr. | 6-5 | 230 | QBA transfer from Syracuse, Legree was called upon often with Herb Bynes hobbled by an ankle injury. He threw for 803 yards and goes into 2010 as the starter.
THE STORYLINESLegree's time. Herb Bynes, two seasons removed from a sophomore season that saw him throw for 2,713 yards and 19 touchdowns, had offseason surgery on the ankle he injured in preseason practice and struggled to rehab for all of 2009. That gave almost all the reps in spring ball and hence the starter's job to David Legree, who came to HU from Syracuse last season and split time with Bynes, throwing for 803 yards and seven touchdowns to Bynes' 987 yards and eight TDs. Rose hopes Bynes will provide a solid option behind Legree, who will need to assert ownership of what is now his team.
The next Coker? Running back Steven Robinson, a transfer from Georgia Military Academy, showed flashes of his ability last season, rushing for 510 yards and four touchdowns behind LaMarcus Coker, who led the MEAC with 1,027 rushing yards. With Coker now gone, Robinson has a chance to step into his league-leading shoes, and early reports from preseason practice indicate he's making the most of it. Former Phoebus running back Dennis Mathis may also get a chance to contribute as the Pirates try to replace Coker's 93 rushing yards per game and balance new offensive coordinator Fred Kaiss' spread-based system.
Better balance. Last season, the Pirates held opponents to 19.4 points, third-best in the conference. Problem was, the Pirates only put up 19.5 points per game. Hampton returns several key starters on defense, including preseason MEAC defensive player of the year Julio Sanchez, a senior linebacker, and preseason first-team all-conference senior lineman Kenrick Ellis. Also back are two preseason second-team MEAC picks in senior LB Brandon Pegeuse, who led HU with 7 1/2 sacks and 15 tackles for loss, and defensive back Ricardo Silva, who had 66 tackles and two interceptions. Hampton's defense should be solid once more. It will just need a little more help.
Familiar face. The man in charge of revitalizing Hampton's offense has been there and done that. Fred Kaiss was the Pirates' offensive coordinator from 2001 to 2006, and his 2004 unit ranked second in the country with 43.6 points per game. HU hopes Kaiss, who spent the past four seasons at Tennessee State, can work his magic again. Kaiss brought two longtime assistants, offensive line coach Charles Huff and quarterbacks coach Shannon Harris, with him in an effort to provide stability to an offensive staff that has undergone a plethora of changes in recent years. The Pirates hope their latest change pays off in points.
In search of discipline. It's a respectable number - 116.4 yards per game if you were talking about, say, opponents' rushing yards per game. It's not so respectable when it indicates the average yards your team was penalized. HU was the most-penalized team in the nation last season, drawing 146 flags for a whopping 1,280 yards in a shameful statistic that especially rankled Rose, described consistently by fellow coaches and his players as "disciplined." Rose will have to do a better job of imparting that discipline to his team in his second season in charge if he's to see better results in the win column.
THE SCHEDULESept. 2 | at Central Michigan, 7 p.m.The Pirates face an immediate test to open the season, traveling to I-A Central Michigan, the defending MAC champions who beat Troy in the GMAC Bowl.
Sept. 11 | at Howard, 1 p.m.The Pirates have gotten the better of the Bison in the "Battle for the Real HU" as of late, winning 37-0 last year for their 13th straight series victory.
Sept. 18 | vs. North Carolina A&T, 6 p.m.The Pirates, likely to be 1-1 at this point, face the Aggies in their only home game out of their first five contests in an early season must-win.
Sept. 30 | at Delaware State, 6 p.m.The Hornets scored three TDs after two missed HU field goals and an interception in last season's 21-6 win, leaving the Pirates 2-2 and wondering what might have been.
Oct. 9 | at North Carolina Central, 4 p.m.HU got off to a promising start with a 31-24 win against N.C. Central to open 2009 as Legree threw for 140 yards.
Oct. 16 | vs. Norfolk State, 1 p.m.Last year's "Battle of the Bay" was a 46-6 thumping by the Spartans. Revenge may be difficult against a Norfolk State team picked to finish third in the MEAC.
Oct. 23 | at South Carolina State, 1:30 p.m.The defending MEAC champions are ranked No. 11 in The Sports Network's preseason top 25. Beating the Bulldogs at home will be a daunting task.
Oct. 30 | vs. Old Dominion, 1 p.m.The Monarchs, 9-2 in their first year of FCS play, will match their start-up success against the Pirates' tradition in an intriguing matchup of nearby rivals.
Nov. 6 | vs. Bethune-Cookman, 2 p.m.The Tigers edged the Pirates 27-24 in Daytona Beach last year despite being outgained 158 to 72 in rushing yards, leaving HU hungry for a rematch.
Nov. 13 | at Florida A&M, 3 p.m.The Pirates bested former coach Joe Taylor in last year's 25-0 victory, but will face an experienced Rattlers team picked to finish second in the MEAC.
THE EXPECTATIONS5-6 | With two tough non-conference opponents joining a MEAC slate with traditional powers and improving contenders, the Pirates will be hard-pressed to improve upon last year's victory total. If that does happen, HU's offense will have to catch up to a defense that gave it a chance to win more games in 2009..