By Pete Nakos
OhioBobcats.com Feature Writer
A snapshot of the Hampton Pirates, who take on Ohio Football on Saturday at 7 p.m. inside Peden Stadium.
Last season: Finished 5-6 (5-3, third place in Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference)
Coach: Connell Maynor (fourth season at Hampton, 14-20)
Series: This will be the first game between the Bobcats and the Pirates.
Player to watch: DE Steven Smith. The senior led Hampton in 2016 with tackles for loss (10.5), sacks (4.5), and quarterback hurries (10).
Who is playing quarterback
Hampton head coach Connell Maynor announced Delmon Williams as the Pirates quarterback a week ago, then four days later declared the position an open race.
On his weekly teleconference with the MEAC, Maynor said that Williams, Brandon Cox and Brendan Greene are in the mix.
Cox is a graduate transfer from Utah.
"All three are competing for the job," Maynor said. "To be honest with you, I don't know who's going to start. I like them all, and I think all of them can play, so it's a good problem to have. I don't like to play musical chairs at quarterback, so I'm going to start somebody and give him a chance.
Maynor said that all three will travel to Athens.
Running back duo
Hampton brings an experienced backfield to Ohio, with Yahkee Johnson and Shai McKenzie. Johnson earned preseason All-MEAC honors.
Johnson, a speedy and shifty back complements McKenzie's style of power. The two will be the bulk of the Pirates' offense as they will be focused on working out the kinks at quarterback.
"We think we have two great guys there," Maynor said. "We'll try to wear them down, and then in the fourth quarter, both of those guys can be more effective."
Struggling with FBS
The Pirates made a recent jump to the Football Championship Series (I-AA) level. Saturday's matchup will be only the fourth game against a Football Bowl Series opponent in school history.
Hampton has not defeated an FBS opponent, falling to Central Michigan (2010) and twice to Old Dominion (2014 and '16).
Relying on defense
Along with relying on the two running backs on offense, Hampton will be defense centric with multiple returners on its defensive line.
Last season, the Pirates were second in the MEAC in yards allowed with 340.5 per game. They allowed 24.5 points, high for a team second in conference in yards allowed, but Hampton turned the ball over 29 times.
The defense returns eight players who started at least two games, including three on the front line. The Pirates add to their defensive presence with linebacker Kapri Doucet, a transfer from Oklahoma.
"We'll really have to lean on our defense early until we get the offense clicking on all cylinders. It's tougher on offense — you need all 11. One guy can make a play and the defense is off the football field."