Cedric Thomas came home to the Delta to make a difference. The former Trojan and East Side High School alum came back to Mississippi Delta Community College, determined to build a winner, determined to groom excellence, determined to make the Trojans a JUCO team to be reckoned with. With more than 75 players dressed out to begin fall practice, Coach Thomas and his staff are ready to build.
The 2020 season ended with the Mississippi Delta Community College Trojans playing only four games. The rest canceled due to COVID. There were no wins. Even though masks were still in place, the off-season brought changes with Thomas who took over when former coach Jeff Tatum resigned to take over the Athletic Director position at Garden City (Kansas) Community College. And there’s also a new face at the top of the athletic pyramid – Athletic Director Jason Conner who replaced Dan Rives who took an opportunity to head up the Hinds Community College baseball program.
Coach Thomas, a Bolivar County native, keeps coming home. He first came to MDCC as a defensive back in the 1997 and 1998 seasons, then was on campus two more times as an assistant coach, first from 2003 to 2004 and then 2007 to 2011. The Trojan head coach spent last season as the defensive backs coach at USM. That was after a two-year stint as the head football coach at the University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff, his four-year alma mater where he took a two-win team to four and then six wins.
Thomas knows how to build winners and hone players’ talents. He coached 14 All-Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) honorees with nine of them being first team. Before his stint at Pine Bluff, Thomas put in six years at Alcorn State as defensive backs coach and then defensive coordinator. His defense helped bring home four consecutive East titles and two straight SWAC titles in 2014 and 2015.
No stranger to the JUCO system, he coached at Itawamba Community College in 2005 and 2006 then returned to MDCC for the 2007-2011 seasons. He first came to MDCC as a player from East Side High School and signed a scholarship offered to him by former head coach Tatum.
But now his sights are firmly set on success on and off the field for his team as the Head Coach at MDCC chasing championships. But he first has to shape his team both mentally and physically for the grind of Mississippi JUCO football. Coming into fall practice, he and his staff have plenty of work ahead.
“They are practicing hard, learning the concept and what the expectations of the culture are,” Coach Thomas said. “We’re excited.”
With a couple dozen returning players, Coach Thomas knows his sophomores technically didn’t play a full season but got plenty of work done in the restricted 2020 season.
Looking at the offense, the Trojans will be under the direction of Offensive Coordinator Torenzo Quinn. He’ll have plenty of different looks for the opposition.
“Coach Quinn is doing a good job with his multiple offense and driving me crazy with all these personnel groupings,” Coach Thomas said. “He’s doing a lot of up tempo so the team has to be in great mental shape as well as great physical shape.”
The offensive plan is to “take what the defense gives us” so the Trojans may focus on rushing one game and passing the next. But their goal is to be “Team 4” – that is getting at least four yards or more on every offensive play. The Trojan offense will rely on their six returning offensive linemen staring with Shaw native Jimmy Brown who will anchor the line at right guard along with Greg Nealon from Leland. There are also new faces on the O-line who look to get plenty of playing time.
“We’ve got two transfer kids in, Ronald Brown from Tennessee State and a really good, promising freshman from Grenada, Jamie Gant,” Coach Thomas said. “We’re excited about those offensive linemen.”
At quarterback, the Trojans will rely on Henrico, Virginia native, Jalon Jones who transferred from Jackson State where he played in 11 games. He had originally signed with the University of Florida.
“He’s been here all summer and it helps when you have some weapons. We’ve got Lorenzo Perez (Clarksdale) and Treveon Miles (Woodville) at wide-receiver – those are two older guys who look really well.”
Promising freshmen receivers Raheem Fairley (Oak Grove High School) and Dantavius Triplett (Louisville High School) are fighting for playing time. The backfield has plenty of talent led by Kelvin Smith (Columbus) who made Second Team All-Conference. “We’ve really got some really good kids on the back end – skill guys and running backs – returning for us,” he said. “We’re excited about those guys.”
On the defensive side, the Trojans have the most returning players mixed with some finds from the transfer portal. Ken’Terious Owens (Oxford) returns at defensive line after committing to Arkansas State along with Tyler Smith who transferred in from Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Austin Mitchell (Pearl) returns along with Malik Sanders (Greenwood), Fred Haywood (Demopolis, Ala.) and newcomer Tra Norwood (South Panola).
“Marlon Brown, a big time linebacker from Yazoo City that we’re expecting big things out of him. And Stemarion Edwards is a piece of dynamite – one of those state championship kids out of Hollandale. We’re really juiced up about those guys,” Coach Thomas said. “On the back end, we’ve got some kids who can really play. (Freshman) Jaylon Johnson is a Power Five kid from South Delta and Kevin Green is a 4.4 kid that can fly. We’re expecting big things defensively. We’re really excited about these guys coming out every day at camp and getting better.”
The Trojans will rely on transfer kicker from McNeese State, Mason Caldwell. Braxston Blackwell (Long Beach) will be the long snapper and Jarren Sanford from Florence will handle the punting.
“Those guys are football players. They’re not specialty guys to us. They lift and hang out with us. They have to win a game or two for us,” Coach Thomas said.
Last season, Northwest led the North Division with a 6-0 record. The South was led by Mississippi Gulf Coast at 5-1. Coach Thomas knows the league will be tough, night in and night out.
“I’m a product of the league so I’m always excited to see the league do well,” he said. “Delta kids are good enough and just need that opportunity. The league has always been tough and competitive. We’re excited to roll our sleeves up and compete with some of these good coaches and great minds in this league.”
The Trojans kick off their seven game regular season on the road Thursday, September 2nd at Pearl River. Coming home, this time as head coach, to build a winning team both on and off the field, is MDCC Head Coach Cedric Thomas.
The rest of the Trojan coaching staff consists of Offensive Line Coach Tobias Smith, Special Teams Coordinator/Defensive Backs Coach C.J. Hampton, assistant Defensive Line Coach Zacchaeus Sias, Linebackers Coach Chris Stamps and Quarterbacks Coach Roger Totten.