Editor's note: This is the second in a series of articles previewing the teams the Northeastern A&M Golden Norsemen play during the 2008 football season.
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - Although coach Richard Wilson's Arkansas Baptist College Buffaloes endured a winless season in their inaugural campaign, they were able to generate some much-need enthusiasm for junior college football throughout the state.
The Buffaloes open the home portion of the Golden Norsemen schedule with a 7 p.m. contest on Sept. 6 at Robertson Field.
Following an open date and a home game with Trinity Valley, Texas, the Norsemen will travel to Little Rock on Sept. 27 for a 7 p.m. rematch with the Buffaloes at War Memorial Stadium.
Last season the Golden Norsemen won both games against the Buffaloes. Wide receiver Curtis Tucker caught touchdown passes for 6, 46 and 4 yards to lead NEO to a 58-9 victory in Little Rock.
Returning to Miami two weeks later, the Golden Norsemen received 145 yards rushing from quarterback/running back Bo Bowling en route to a 38-9 win over Arkansas Baptist.
Entering their probationary season for admittance into the Southwest Junior College Football Conference, the Buffaloes return nine starters on offense and seven of the defensive side.
"We knew going into last season that it would be a learning situation for both the coaching staff and our players," Wilson said. "But, by the end of the season we had made huge strides towards being able to compete in what many consider to be the toughest junior college football conference in the country."
An indication that the Buffaloes could put points on the scoreboard was the fact that they only suffered one shutout (58-0) at the hands of Blinn College in the fourth week of the season.
Former Golden Norseman Joe Jefferson enters his season season as offensive coordinator for the Buffaloes.
Cornerstone of the Buffaloes ground game is former Tulsa Washington running back Mike Harris (5-9, 185). After transferring to Arkansas Baptist from the University of Arkansas, Harris amassed 849 yards on 132 carries with six touchdowns.
Joining Harris in the Buffaloes backfield are backs Travis George and LaMarcus Jordan. George (5-7, 180 of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) rushed for 236 yards on 79 carries with two TDs while Jordan (5-7, 175 of Little Rock) added 156 yards on 24 carries.
Expected to return at quarterback are veterans Maurice Phillips and Josh Dixon.
Phillips (6-1, 205 of North Little Rock) completed 36 of 79 passes for 359 yards and four touchdowns with seven interceptions.
Dixon (6-1, 210 of North Little Rock) connected on 23 of 84 passes for 118 yards with no touchdowns and four interceptions.
Returning to bolster the Buffaloes receiving corps are Brandon Small, Mike McDonald and Kendra Rochell.
Small (6-0, 165 of Memphis, Tenn.) made 16 receptions for 121 yards and one TD.
McDonald (5-8, 180 of Little Rock) caught 12 passes for 106 yards and two touchdowns.
Rochell (6-0, 190 of Tampa, Fla.) finished with 10 receptions for 96 yards.
While the Buffaloes offense featured a few individual weapons, the defensive unit was slow coming around. Arkansas Baptist averaged allowing 435 yards in total offense to the opposition.
Anchoring the defensive front is tackle Brandon Bradford (5-11, 290 of Malvern, Ark.). Bradford led the team with 121 total tackles and six quarterback sacks for minus-32 yards.
Linebackers Antonio Leak and Kevin Hubbard return in the middle of the Arkansas Baptist defense. Leak (6-3, 225 of Little Rock) recorded 109 total tackles while Hubbard (6-4, 225 of Little Rock) contributed 103 total tackles.
Returning to the Buffaloes secondary are safeties Leonard King and Larry Jenkins, Jr. King (6-0, 200 of Little Rock) posted 74 total yards and two interceptions while Jenkins (6-2, 210 of North Little Rock) finished with 63 total tackles and three interceptions.
Twenty of the 65 players on last year's Buffaloes roster were from the immediate Little Rock area.