The Mustangs kickoff the 2011 season Saturday, Sept. 10 with high expectations, despite the loss of some key players, particularly on the offense.
One constant, despite the turnover that is an inevitable part of community college athletics, is Head Coach Gary Barlow and his system that has produced results year after year.
“The chemistry will change but the culture will not, and that’s one of the things that keeps us consistent year in and year out, we have developed a Delta way of doing things. That’s how at the community college level you are able to create consistency, even though you have a high rate of turnover,” said Barlow.
The team’s first scrimmage took place Aug. 28, and the very first play was all the time it took for Barlow to emphasize the point to his team, that while the roster may have changed, the team frame of mind hasn’t.
Right out of the gate, freshman quarterback Sam Hutsell connected on a beautifully thrown deep post pattern with sophomore wide receiver T.J. Brown.
This was the first salvo fired in a tightly contested battle to replace all-conference quarterback Adam Kennedy, who now plays at Division IA Utah State, and adds to a growing list of Barlow quarterbacks that have gone on to receive scholarships.
The quartet vying for the starting spot under center consists of Hutsell, sophomores Zack McCurdy, Michael Zanutto and Dennis Johnson.
All four had solid outings during the scrimmage.
McCurdy’s arm forces opposing defenses to cover the entire field, while Zanutto shows a fair bit wriggle in his runs, distinctly on option plays, to go with a handful of solid passes.
Johnson, the only left-handed thrower of the bunch, followed a somewhat hesitant start with a couple of extremely accurate and well-timed throws.
The team-first attitude has been paramount to the program’s success. While Kennedy has left some big shoes to fill, the offense seems to be in very capable hands, regardless of who emerges as the starter.
“Adam is just one in a long list of scholarship quarterbacks that we’ve had, he will be missed but there’s an old saying that nature loves to fill a vacuum, so there’s an opening now and someone’s going to step up and fill that opening, and perform well,” said Barlow.
On the other side of the ball, the Mustangs defense is showing strong signs of being its old suffocating self, and primed to once again cause problems for opposing offenses.
Aggressive by design, this lightning strike defense uses an array of blitzes that take advantage of tremendous speed, which was on display at the Aug. 28 scrimmage.
The unit’s unrelenting pursuit of the ball was reminiscent of a swarm killer bees.
Beyond what immediately meets the eye, this is a hard working defense that across the board simply plays the game how it’s meant to be played.
Barlow highlighted the contributions of the defensive coaching staff, led by coordinator Todd Herrington.
“Everything, when you talk about our defense, you have to start with our defensive coaching staff. Defensive coordinator Todd Herrington, secondary coach and recruiting coordinator Doug Murray, our defensive line coach Marvin Jackson, and then our linebackers coach Michael Spears. That coaching staff does an amazing job at getting the defense to play fast, and play with intensity and that doesn’t just happen. That’s because the coaches show them what that is and teach them how to do it,” said Barlow.
This is a strong and immensely well-coached unit that above all, finds its strength in its ability to work as a team.
Barlow elaborated on what he believes is one of the key components that helped his defense hold opponents to the fewest points per game in the conference.
“Everybody feeds off of everyone else. Everyone out there is one eleventh of what’s going on. It’s not an individual based defense, it’s a team based defense, and it’s a system that’s worked well for us,” he said.
Overall, the Mustangs look to once again be a team that nobody will look forward to facing. Physical and smart, Delta’s brand of football will make for another exciting season.