Hinds has won 13 state championships, including six under current head coach Gene Murphy, and looks to achieve elite status again in 2012.
The Eagles, who are ranked sixth in the country in the 2012 National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) preseason poll, finished second in the South division to reach the postseason, but were defeated by eventual national champion East Mississippi Community College to conclude the season with a 7-3 record.
The loss has left a bitter taste in the mouths of the coaching staff and of the sophomores who will be returning to action in 2012 and is a feeling that has lingered into the Eagles preseason camp.
Murphy, who will return to the sidelines for his 20th season as the Eagles head man, says the bitterness from the final game has served as a motivator for everyone associated with the program.
“We have to do a better job of finishing games, plain and simple,” said Murphy, who is currently the active wins leader in the NJCAA with 148 victories. “However, we have made a lot of progress this summer, and are looking forward to opening the season.”
The Eagles open the season on Thursday, Aug. 30 at home versus Mississippi Delta Community College. Game time is set for 6:30 p.m. at Joe Renfroe Stadium in Raymond.
The Hinds offense will return an explosive group of wide receivers, Quantavius Leslie and Quadarius Mireles, who were named to the MACJC All-State first and second teams, respectively, as freshmen.
Leslie (Hogansville, Ga.) topped the Eagles in touchdowns scored a year ago with 10, averaging a TD per game. He also hauled in 28 catches for 523 yards for an average of 18.7 yards per catch.
Mireles (Boynton Beach, Fla.) finished first in receptions and receiving yards among the Eagles receiving corps, pulling in 45 passes for 693 yards and three touchdowns. He also rushed 10 times for 110 yards and two touchdowns.
Christopher Nelson (Theodore, Ala.), a sophomore quarterback, looks to be the man responsible for getting the ball to these playmakers. Nelson saw limited time as a freshman, as he was 5-7 for 23 yards passing, but is poised for a breakout season after a strong showing to this point in preseason camp.
Nelson has a tall task ahead of him, as he looks to replace Deon Anthony, an All-State quarterback in 2011 and Troy University signee. Anthony finished 126-231 with 2,202 yards passing to go along with 18 touchdowns and only eight picks. He also gained 461 yards on the ground on 110 carries and scored nine touchdowns a year ago.
The playmaking ability does not stop with the offense, however, as the Eagles return six athletes who were named to the All-State team, including one named to the All-American team.
Dontrill Hyman (Warsaw, N.C.), a defensive lineman, is the returning All-American recipient who finished with a team-leading 14 sacks, and was fifth on the team with 52 solo tackles and 10 assists.
Mitchell Hoskins (Port Gibson), a linebacker who was named to the MACJC All-State first team, led the team in tackles with 81 solos and 25 assists. He also finished with 13 tackles for a loss and broke up three passes as a rookie.
Andrew Bolton (Bolton), a defensive lineman who was named to the All-State second team, was second on the team with 8.5 sacks, and wrapped up the year with 47 solo tackles and 18 assists.
Leander Ford (Marianna, Fla.), Tedarian Johnson (Jackson) and David Washington (Atlanta, Ga.) were all named to the MACJC All-State honorable mention team after stellar freshmen campaigns.
Ford, a defensive lineman, had 24 solo tackles and 10 assists, along with collecting two sacks and 7.5 tackles for a loss in 2011.
Johnson, a defensive lineman, wrapped up the 2011 campaign with 26 solo tackles, 12 assists, five sacks and 11 tackles for a loss.
Washington, a defensive lineman, had 21 solo tackles, five assists, seven tackles for a loss and three sacks as a freshman.
Zachary Witchett (Atlanta, Ga.) caught nine passes for 186 yards and a touchdown as a freshman wide receiver in 2011, but has since moved to defensive back. The Eagles coaching staff has raved about his ability and smooth transition since moving to the other side, and look for big things out of him as a sophomore.
“We have a talented group of freshman, but they are untested at this point,” said Murphy. “The good thing is that we have a large group of sophomores returning who have loads of experience and made great contributions a year ago.”
“Our task now is to get over the nagging injuries and bumps and bruises that go along with preseason camp,” Murphy said. “We have to keep the players focused on getting to game week because they are itching to go.”
Hinds will get their first look at outside competition on Saturday, as the Eagles will play Mississippi College and Northwest Mississippi Community College in a preseason scrimmage beginning at 9 a.m. at Clinton High School.
The scrimmage will be dictated by the coaches to allow for a certain number of plays to be run, and will be broken into two 20-minute halves.