Stallings looking to keep Morgan moving forward

Versatile senior is now the focus of Bears' offense


August 11, 2002|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

Two seasons ago, the big chance arrived for T.J. Stallings to hit instead of being hit.

Morgan State was playing North Carolina A&T and Stallings was asked to enter the game at defensive end. All 170 pounds of him.

"Their quarterback was a lot bigger than me," Stallings said. "But they didn't play the defensive end, and I knocked him out of the game."

That was the only time the Randallstown High graduate has appeared on defense during a solid career with the Bears and it is unlikely he will receive another opportunity.

The whippet-like receiver, runner and kick returner is a senior who will continue to function as Morgan's offensive leader this season. There probably won't be any defensive assignments.

"He has great character," said the Bears' first-year coach, Donald Hill-Eley. "He does whatever he has to do and always gives his best to everything. Now the onus is on him to pick up where Ali Culpepper left off. He's geared for that."

Culpepper was the cornerstone of the Morgan attack for three years and broke the school's all-time rushing record. With Culpepper carrying the ball 236 times last year, the Bears averaged 22.8 points and 357.9 yards per game.

"Ali was a quality running back, and those are big shoes to fill," Stallings said. "I'm just a little body, but I plan to make it up with a big heart.

"We also have William DeShazo, who reminds me of myself with regard to size. Between him and me, we've got the weight to make up for losing Ali."

Stallings averaged 5.4 yards per carry as a backup, caught 26 passes for 431 yards and returned seven kickoffs for a 14.4-yard average.

Keenly aware that the Bears haven't had a winning season since 1979, he doesn't believe the famine will affect this squad.

"We joke around about it. We know how much talent this team has. There is no reason we can't win. We were just waiting for the right leader," Stallings said.

He said many of the team members wanted Hill-Eley to be named the coach to succeed Stanley Mitchell after a 2-9 season. In February, they got their wish.

"Everybody was pushing for this," he said. "We let them [administration] know that this is who we wanted. It's good to know we had a little say-so."

Morgan will officially launch fall practice sessions tomorrow for the season opener Aug. 31 at Gardner-Webb. Its first area appearance will be at Towson the following Thursday.

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