Big challenges go hand in hand with big expectations for South Carolina State

They’ve got a fistful of MEAC crowns, and are picked to win it all again. But don’t think South Carolina State’s Bulldogs aren’t facing their own obstacles this offseason.

It starts with the departure of David Erby, the 2010 MEAC’s defensive player of the year, who’s awaiting a call from the NFL right now. That’s just the biggest name gone from the Bulldogs’ linebacker corps. (Julius Wilkerson and Marshall McFadden have also completed their eligiblity.) Then, there’s quarterback Malcolm Long — who set eight school records and helped SC State to a conference championship in each of his three seasons as a starter. (Three new faces are vying to replace him: Derrick Wiley; younger brother Tedarius; and Richard Cue.) Meanwhile, sophomore wideout Lennel Elmore has been declared ineligible for the upcoming season. Elmore, a first-team All-Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference wideout, was expected to contribute to the return game, as well. The offensive line also lost three starters, including NFL prospects in tackle Johnny Culbreath and guard Josh Harrison.

In all, head coach Oliver “Buddy” Pough (76-29 record overall; 58-13 in the MEAC) is looking at around 35 newcomers in camp, which began this week on Tuesday.

That won’t make continuing Pough’s recent successes easy. Over the last three years, South Carolina State has made regular appearances in the FCS Top 25. The Bulldogs also claimed the 2009 SBN Sports Black College Football national championship.

The only returning senior among his linebackers is Donovan Richard; Joe Thomas is a promising prospect, as well, after notching 17 tackles and one fumble recovery for a touchdown in 2010. They also get back senior Blake Erickson, who last year set single-season and career school records for field goals made. The receiver corps is down to sophomore Tyler McDonald, along with reserves Trey Williams and Caleb Davis. Redshirts Dennis Rowe, Marcus Lloyd and Brandon Miller could also be called on.

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