Catawba football notebook: Cox's comeback has coaches smiling

By Mike London, Salisbury Post The Catawba notebook ... Dustin Cox, the middle linebacker anchor of Catawba's 4-3 base defense, accumulated enough credit hours to graduate last spring, but elected to return to school -- and Shuford Stadium. That choice brought a smile of relief to head coach Chip Hester, who's watched Cox (6-0, 220 pounds) mature from a redshirt in 2000 to a physical force in 2003.Glad he's back,Hester said. Put in any game-tape you want to from last season and Dustin had a good one. He's rock-solid, someone the young guys we put around him can learn from. He'll bring them along. There were some anxious moments for the Catawba coaching staff, but Cox said his comeback was a no-brainer. It wasn't all that hard a decision --play football or go to work. he laughed. I love football and I had a great time. Now I've got the chance to do it again one last year. Cox, a marketing major with an accounting minor, says he's taking 12 hours worth of classes this semester, which could lead to an additional degree. It's the first time my schedule hasn't been cram-packed, he said. I'm going to enjoy this. But Fayetteville State will probably not enjoy seeing Cox when it visits Shuford Stadium on Saturday. The former Ledford star made a dozen tackles against the Broncos in Fayetteville last year. PENALTY BOX: Catawba was assessed a scary number of penalties last season, averaging about 25 more yards per game in infractions than its opponents. The Indians are laboring to do something about it. We had refs in camp telling us what's holding and what isn't and what they're gonna call, said senior guard Daniel Lynch. We had one hold in our scrimmage. That's still one too many, but it's better. NO HUDDLE: By design, Catawba's offense will often go without a huddle. The plan is to maximize the talent and experience of senior quarterback Luke Samples and to take away situational substitutions from opponents. There will be a lot more signals to learn, but if we're all on the same page, we know Luke's gonna make a lot of plays, Lynch said. Lynch foresees practical benefits as well. If there's no huddle, the big guys can just stay up on the line and won't have to do all that walking back and forth, he joked. LOOKINGATLUKE:Samples, who has put up phenomenal numbers the past three years, including 53 TD passes, is a legitimate candidate for the Harlon Hill Award, which is given annually to the top player in D-II. Samples was listed as one of 11 D-II stars on USAToday's Players to Watch list. THEY'REBACK: Catawba mainstays Ryan (R.D.) Daniel and Piotr Kalinowski are healthy again. Kalinowski is showing no ill effects, Hester said. He's in great shape. Kalinowski was a key guy in 2002, but missed last season following back surgery. He'll start at nose guard. Daniel, who started quite a few games in 2002 after Cole Beane was injured, missed the 2003 season with illness. Now he's competing for the starting left tackle spot with East Carolina transfer David Jorgensen. Whit Efird, a transfer from UNC, has also recovered from back surgery and factors into the offensive line picture. INJURYUPDATE:Catawba is as deep at tailback as it is anywhere, but Hester's still concerned about a preseason injury to Jonathan Leach because he's so good on special teams. Leach had a lingering knee problem and recently underwent arthroscopic surgery. He'll be out for several weeks. Once he's healthy, Leach, a junior, figures to be behind Rodney Wallace, Mario Crowe and Kory Fisher (an electrifying redshirt freshman who rushed for 6,000 yards in his career at New Bern High) on the depth chart. BACKUPQB:Hester knocks on wood every time he mentions Samples' name, but if an emergency arises he's confident the Indians are in good hands. Redshirt freshman Brad Roach (6-4, 200) has gained 20 pounds since he arrived at Catawba and Hester praises his powerful arm and quick release. Hester says junior Delany Mills, who played in four games last season, is currently co-No. 2 with Roach. Delany's a big heart guy and a winner,Hester said. It may not always be pretty, but he gets the job done. NAMESTOKNOW:A handful of true freshmen have a chance to make an impact. The short list includes corners Trey Glover and Brandon McIntyre and defensive lineman Ron Ellington (6-4, 215), who was part of Independence's football dynasty. If Ellington's anything like some other Independence recruits -- New York Giant Radell Lockhart and current star linebacker SaMario Houston come to mind -- watch out. Contact Mike London at 704-797-4259 or Cox's comeback has the coaches smiling

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