The Mustangs went 2-8 last season, after going 4-6 the year before. Scott, however, sees his record at Kennesaw Mountain — 6-14 — a lot better than the 3-27 mark the team accumulated in the three years before his arrival, and he contends that his players have the same attitude.
“I don’t see what we did last year as a step back,” Scott said. “Last year, we probably competed a lot better with teams than the previous year. We just weren’t fortunate enough to win as many games.”
Positive spring energy has less to do with record, however, and more to do with the fact the team finally has a full coaching staff and resources for players.
“Probably the biggest issue for us is that we’ve battled a lack of coaches,” Scott said. “One of the things our administration did when they hired me a few years ago was make a tremendous commitment to football. We’ve been very fortunate over the last year-and-a-half to be able to hire a full staff. (The administration) spent a lot of money updating our weight room and equipment, so our kids are extremely excited about the opportunity to go into the summer and fall. We’re as excited as we’ve ever been.”
Kennesaw State now has eight coaches on staff, including new defensive coordinator Mike Candela, who will partner with new secondary coach Wade Stewart to patch up a unit that allowed 39.5 points per game last season.
The Mustangs will need faces to step up with the loss of defensive end Taariq Shabazz, who signed to play at Duke this fall. Rising senior Ryan Peterson is expected to anchor the defense, after recording 91 tackles and 2½ sacks as a junior.
Offensively, Kennesaw Mountain will be led by new coordinator Michael Pfiester, who coached the offensive line for the past two seasons. Brent Fullwood (running backs) and Cody Neal (receivers) round out the new coaching positions on the offensive side of the ball.
Scott is confident with three-year starting quarterback Nigel Hayes returning for his senior season. Hayes, who threw for 909 yards, rushed for 453 and scored a combined 15 touchdowns last year, threw the game-winning touchdown pass in the Mustangs’ spring game.
“He had a tremendous spring,” Scott said.
Scott also mentioned Jordan Saunders, who will take a leading role as a receiver, cornerback and return specialist, as a player to watch in the fall.
Aside from a few key names, Scott is confident in his team’s nucleus of experienced players.
“We’ve had a good influx of young kids that are coming along, but most of the kids that we are counting on are all returning starters. We have 27 seniors who understand how to compete,” Scott said. “For the first two years that we’ve been here, we’ve learned how to do that. We’ve got kids spending a lot of time in the weight room and now we just need to put it all together.”