Cards Football Expects Wins
While the end of summer marks the dawn of a new school year for all Wesleyan students, it also means the beginning of a long and arduous training camp for Wesleyan football as it gears up for its 130th season of competition. Head coach Mike Whalen ’83 is back at the helm for his third season with the Cardinals and is expected to guide the team to its first winning record since 2002, when the team finished 5-3.
Following a successful six-year stint as the head coach of Williams, Whalen led the Cardinals to a promising 4-4 campaign in 2010 and an encouraging 3-1 start through the mid-point of the 2011 season. However, the Cardinals stumbled down the stretch last season and dropped their final four games to finish with a pedestrian 3-5 record that was good enough for a tie with Bates, Colby, and Hamilton for sixth in the NESCAC.
With only 15 starters returning from last year’s squad, plenty of spots are still up in the air leading up to Wesleyan’s opening game at Tufts on Saturday, Sept. 22. A whopping 99 players have been brought in to compete for approximately 80 roster spots, and many of the roster battles will go down to the wire with the internal competition at such a premium level.
On the offensive side, running back LaDarius Drew ’15 is expected to be the focal point for the second year in a row. Drew was a powerhouse in the Cardinal’s backfield in 2011 as he rushed the ball 173 times for 755 yards and seven touchdowns. His efforts earned him NESCAC Rookie of the Year honors and a spot on the second-team all-NESCAC. Paving the way for Drew in the trenches will be an experienced offensive line anchored by fellow all-NESCAC team member Jacob Sheffer ’14.
Despite the fact that the offensive coordinator Jack Siedlecki’s strategy will be tailored around the running game, the starting quarterback battle has been the most scrutinized competition in camp thus far. With the graduation of two-year starter Matt Coyne ’12, the quarterback job is up for grabs between Jesse Warren ’15, Luca Cobucci ’15, Peter George ’15, and recent University of Maine transfer Jackson Taylor ’15. Regardless of who emerges as the starter for the season opener, it will not be a surprise to see any of these four under center at any point in time during the upcoming year.
Although there is a level of uncertainty with the Wesleyan offense, the Cardinals’ defense is likely to be a formidable force once again after ranking fourth in the NESCAC in points against. The secondary is expected to keep opposing quarterbacks and recievers in check, as first team all-NESCAC cornerback Jake Bussani ’14 leads a strong contingent of defensive backs that includes tri-captain Jon Lis ’13 and Donnie Cimino ’15. Morgan Hanson ’13 will be counted on to lead a defensive line that includes newcomer Zach Vinci ’15, a transfer from Colgate. Vinci played in 11 games for the Red Raiders last season and is penciled in to start as defensive end for the Cards this season.
The Wesleyan football season is now only a couple of weeks away and anticipation is growing amongst players and fans alike. Andrus Field is in its transitional stages; the goal posts have been put up, the bleachers have been installed, and newly-minted white lines have been painted into a perfect gridiron. Wesleyan fans will get their first taste of home action this season on Saturday, Sept. 29 when Hamilton visits for the Cardinals’ second game of the season.