Thursday, September 3, 2015

New year, new opportunities: 2015 Lycoming College football

A WOLnews File Photo
WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. – With the passing of every football season, sometimes it can be hard for a college football coach to not focus on what players graduated, leaving with four years of hard-learned experience in the program.

For a Lycoming College football team that returns just seven starters, that could have been the trap that eighth-year head coach Mike Clark could have fallen into, but after three eight-win campaigns in the last four years, Clark feels that this team, one of the youngest in his tenure as head coach, has the ability to not miss a step as it looks for a 16th Middle Atlantic Conference title.

“There are still a considerable number of pretty good players in the program, but we have graduated three pretty good classes in a row,” Clark said. “We need to build off where we were in the spring, which showed us that there are a lot of really good guys here that are hungry for the opportunity, but just don’t have experience. We are going to approach this year by figuring out how to best answer questions long-term for this season, whereas the last couple years we had the luxury of knowing a lot of the answers.”

Tyler Jenny '14
With the addition of three-year starting quarterback Tyler Jenny to the sideline as a student assistant while he finishes his accounting degree in 2015, the Warriors are in search of a new signal caller for the first time in 30 games.

“What we need at the quarterback position is someone who is confident, because whether it is fair or not, it is the most critical position to a football team,” Clark said. “We need someone with strong leadership skills.”

The competition for the spot, between five rostered quarterbacks, has quickly seen some cumulative gains for the team. While junior Chase Whiteman (Gettysburg, Pa./Gettysburg) has a season under his belt as Jenny’s primary backup, the team has also seen the rise of two sophomore quarterbacks – Chase Williams (Damascus, Md./Damascus) and Collin Wright (Secane, Pa./Ridley).

“All three of the guys are more than physically-talented enough to be a good college quarterback,” Clark said. “Who becomes the best player and leader for our offense remains to be seen.”

Whiteman, a transfer from Division II Lock Haven University, has seen action in each of the last two seasons and provides a good arm with some decent scrambling ability. Williams, likewise, is a similar quarterback, while Wright offers the team a 6-5 frame and a very strong arm.

Two freshmen quarterbacks could also move into the lineup.

Blake Bowman
Running Backs
In the backfield, the Warriors will have to account for the loss of Academic All-American Craig Needhammer ’15, but return junior Blake Bowman (Valley View, Pa./Tri-Valley), who averaged 5.5 yards per carry in 74 attempts in 2014.

Bowman, who like Needhammer stands at 5-7, has some explosive speed and the ability to break into the second level, and the ability to put up big numbers, as he ran for 149 yards at Misericordia.

“Blake has proven to be really good,” Clark said. “It’s good and it’s bad that he was in the position of playing behind Craig for two years because Craig was unique and a really rare player, but the best part about Blake is that he is very textbook in what we want the running back to do. He makes good reads and does the things he is coached to do. We are excited for Blake to get more of an opportunity this year.”

Sophomore Scott Palmer (Blairstown, N.J./North Warren Regional) has also impressed during camp after struggling with injuries as a freshman and sophomores Sam Dressler (Riverside, Pa./Danville Area) andEric Heller (Green Lane, Pa./Boyertown Area) also return.

At fullback, the team will have to deal with the loss of the top two players on its depth chart in 2014, including Tyler Kapinus, who will transition to the sidelines this year.

Junior Dennis Dimaio (Cockeysville, Md./Loyola Blakefield) and Nikolai Pritchyk (Lake Ariel, Pa./Western Wayne) have both seen snaps with the first team offense during the past two years, though, and could emerge as solid blocking options. Sophomore Kyle Kahley (Burnham, Pa./Mifflin County) also has a year experience with the team and sophomore R.J. Haas (Dupont, Pa./Pittston Area) has made the move from the defensive line to fullback.

“Dennis and Nikolai both have shown glimpses, but they need to both show that they can bring the physical component to the fullback position,” Clark said. “How that position shakes out will really shape our identity on offense this year.”

Five freshmen could also factor into the mix in the backfield immediately, with three at the tailback spot and two at fullback.

#8 WR Ryan Umpleby heading for the end zone
Wide Receiver
While only two receivers return with game experience, the team feels that the young group mixed with seniors Ryan Umpleby (Forest Hill, Md./Fallston) and Pat Whalen (West Chester, Pa./West Chester East) can make a big impact on any opponents’ game plan.

Umpleby, a captain, gives the team the top returning wide receiver in the MAC, as he recorded 66 catches for 1,022 yards and 10 touchdowns as a junior. A First Team All-MAC and Third Team East Region pick in 2014, Umpleby’s speed and size always make him dangerous, as he is already the only wide receiver in school history to post two 200-yard receiving games.

“Ryan is going to be a guy who is very consistent,” Clark said. “He is a worker. He is not very vocal or outspoken. He leads by example and sets the tone in practice.”

Whalen entered the receiving rotation as a junior and provided the team some solid depth, as he made 13 catches for 99 yards. He also scored twice. An athletic receiver, Whalen gives the team a solid second option and he could make a big impact this season.

“Patrick, a year ago, was our best blocking wide receiver,” Clark said. “He plays incredibly hard.”

Junior Keeghan Morrison (Loysville, Pa./West Perry) can also step in to a larger role after making one catch for four yards as a junior. Sophomores Courtney Watson (Brooklyn, Pa./William Allen) and Brett Clea (Steelton, Pa./Steelton-Highspire) both return after injury-plagued rookie years. Each have tremendous athleticism and will mix with a group of seven freshmen to provide a youthful mix on the flanks.

“There are going to have to be a couple young kids that help us at receiver,” Clark said, “at least to provide depth.”

Tight End
Junior Matt Adams (Erial, N.J./Timber Creek) stepped into the starting tight end position in the second half of the 2015 season and gives the team a blocking option at the position. He also caught one pass for six yards in nine games.

“It could get interesting for us, because we have some position flexibility at tight end,” Clark said. “Matt was a fullback as a freshman and made into a tight end a year ago. That gives us the opportunity to make him a hybrid h-back type guy.”

Behind Adams, junior Chris Raupers (Waverly, N.Y./Waverly) and sophomores Dudly Ulysse (Levittown, Pa./Bucks County Tech) and Tyler Gardner (Williamsport, Pa./Williamsport Area) give the team more experienced options, while four freshmen have also entered camp looking to earn playing time at the spot.

“Chris had a really nice spring,” Clark said. “He has always been a very willing player. He is a guy who was on the skinny side a bit, well now he is 235 pounds. He started to open our eyes a bit in the spring. If he makes the progress we hope he does, then maybe we play with two tight ends a bit.”

Offensive Line
Even with the loss of three starting offensive linemen, Clark said that he feels the offensive line has enough experience returning to make them a formidable force.

At center, the team returns senior Matt Patterson (Danville, Pa./Danville Area), a 6-1, 260-pound lineman that started six games as a junior and earned Honorable Mention All-MAC honors. Although, he will be moving over from the guard position, Patterson has served as the team’s backup center for the past two years.

Senior Mike Watral (Scranton, Pa./Scranton) will also give the team snaps at the center position, as he enters his third year on the depth chart at the slot.

In the guard slots, the team will look for junior Austin Mital (Ginter, Pa./Moshannon Valley) and seniorEric Bonenberger (Pottstown, Pa./Pottsgrove) to step into starting roles. Mital, who was the team’s Most Improved Offensive Player as a freshman, struggled with injuries as a sophomore, seeing action in just three games, but he does offer the team an experienced guard. Bonenberger, likewise, is an experienced lineman, seeing action in all 10 games as a junior after transferring from Delaware Valley University.

Juniors Brad Biever (Schuylkill Haven, Pa./Schuylkill Haven), Kregg Shuman (Birdsboro, Pa./Exeter),Aaron Clemons (Gaithersburg, Md./Damascus) and Jeff Weiss (Cranford, N.J./Cranford) give the team solid depth at the position.

At tackle, the team returns a starter in junior Bailey Hughes (Forest City, Pa./Carbondale), who has seen action in 14 games already in his career. At the other tackle slot, the team can infuse a mix of players that have experience in the program in sophomores Colin Buffington (Quarryville, Pa./Solanco) and Avery Baker (Severn, Md./Meade) and juniors Ken Artur (Cinnaminson, N.J./Cinnaminson) and Bill Lytle (Seven Valleys, Pa./Dallastown Area).

“We graduated some really good seniors, but here is the question – can Bailey Hughes, who has been a starter, become an all-conference player?” Clark said. “Austin Mital only played in only two games last year, but he is our most physically talented lineman. If we have him for a whole year, can he be an all-conference player? Matt Patterson was all-conference and he missed a handful of games. Those three guys are a nice place to start.”

Six freshmen offensive lineman and a transfer will also look to make an impact on the depth chart.

Assistance Head Coach and Defensive Coordinator
Steve Wiser
Defensive Line
If there were a hallmark of a defense coached by Steve Wiser, it would be a deep, fast and explosive defensive line. While the Warriors may seem a bit inexperienced, the group has the opportunity to once again be the kind of pressuring force that terrorizes opponents.

Led by senior Cole Welham (Lewistown, Pa./Lewistown Area), who led the MAC in sacks with eight as a junior, the group returns several other experienced players. Welham was a First Team All-MAC selection and he provides strength and speed off the edge.

Junior Tyler Smith (Sellersville, Pa./Archbishop Wood) also returns after injuries kept him sidelined as a sophomore. Smith gives the team some extra speed on the edge, as he posted four tackles for loss and a sack as a freshman.

Sophomore Shaviah Coleman (Delran, N.J./Delran) saw plenty of action as a freshman and could contribute more during his second year in the program, as could sophomore Mike Palmer (Chester, Pa./Monsignor Bonner). Junior Adin Hines (Harrisburg, Pa./Susquehanna Township) has also shown the ability to earn a spot as a defensive end and senior John Ciurlino (Springfield, Pa./Springfield) will also be available after coming back from an injury.

In the middle, senior Josh Cook (Hatfield, Pa./North Penn) returns after posting three sacks and 4.5 tackles for loss as a junior. The captain will be joined by junior Jon Rummel (Lykens, Pa./Williams Valley) (one sack), senior Tyler O’Connell (Ogdensburg, N.J./Jefferson Township) (three sacks) and sophomore transfer Brad Stubbs (Curwensville, Pa./Curwensville Area) as players that could contribute immediately in the defensive tackle slots.

“Looking at that group, you feel really good about starting with Cole Welham and Josh Cook,” Clark said. “Josh Cook is a captain for a reason – he has a great deal of respect from his teammates because he works hard and is relentless. Cole is a very talented guy. The challenge for Cole is going to be to take it to the next level. It could be a very good group.”

Sophomore Bryan Darling (Marydel, Md./Queen Anne’s County) and a group of seven freshmen will also work for playing time.

Senior Brian Campbell (Drums, Pa./Hazleton Area) will give the team some needed stability at the linebacker spot, as the Honorable Mention All-MAC performer led the team with 67 tackles and added 7.5 tackles for loss in his first full year as a starter in 2014.

“Brian Campbell is a guy who has all the ability in the world,” Clark said. “We moved him from running back to linebacker and now he has to learn to be consistent. He has done some nice things and he is certainly fast and physical enough to be a good player there. “

An athletic, rangy player, Campbell will move to the strongside linebacker slot while making way for several other players to make an impact on the second level. Junior Mike Neuman (Lumberton, N.J./Rancocas Valley Regional) returns after making 13 tackles and forcing two fumbles as a sophomore. He could move into the middle linebacker slot.

Sophomores Malik Thomas (Delran, N.J./Delran) and Erik Wagner (Warriors Mark, Pa./Tyrone Area) could also step into roles in the strong or middle linebacker slots. Sophomore Josh Sawka (Dunmore, Pa./Dunmore), sophomore Chris Boes (West Milford, N.J./West Milford Township) and juniors Kevin Bettis (Ijamsville, Md./Urbana) and Dan Heinrichs (Pennsburg, Pa./Upper Perkiomen) will also look to work into the lineup.

On the weak side, senior Phil Schron (Albrightsville, Pa./Marian Catholic) has seen action during much of the last two years, as he posted 19 tackles and one sack as a junior. Junior Kirby Moist (Lewistown, Pa./Mifflin County) will transition to the linebacker slot and junior Malcolm Bell (Severn, Md./Old Mill) could also find an increased role.

Eight freshmen will also work into the mix for increased playing time.

“We’re going to look at a lot of guys in the linebacker slots,” Clark said. “If all of our players progress, it could be a good grouping.”

Defensive Backs
With the loss of two all-conference safeties, the Warriors will look for a youthful group in the secondary to step into big roles early in the season.

Senior Matt Malecki (Stevensville, Md./Kent Island) brings with him plenty of experience in the cornerback slot, however, as he has started the last 20 games for the Warriors, the longest active streak on the team. He finished second on the squad with 65 tackles and three interceptions as a junior, also posting three more pass breakups.

In the other cornerback position, sophomore Johnathan Zedar (Dalton, Pa./Lackawanna Trail) will be asked to step into a more primary role. Sophomores Aaron Davis (Sayreville, N.J./Sayreville War Memorial) and Michael Riley (Philadelphia, Pa./South Philadelphia) could also see time.

At safety, the team is looking for sophomore Mike Ward (Edgewater, Md./South River) to transition from cornerback after he notched 33 tackles, an interception and five breakups as a freshman. SophomoreCaleb Robbins (Williamsport, Pa./Loyalsock Township) could also work into a key role at the safety position, along with junior transfer Zach Smith (Elliotsburg, Pa./West Perry). Junior Joe Pawlowski(Shamong, N.J./Seneca) will also see time in the defensive backfield after moving over from the running back position.

Seven freshmen will also need to make an immediate impact for the team at the position.

“We feel pretty good, but we may be a little worried about the depth at the position,” Clark said. “There is enough there that we should be able to figure out the fourth piece and to give us the depth to play some nickel and dime.”

With another year under his belt, sophomore Devon Flynn (Levittown, Pa./Conwell-Egan Catholic) will be counted on for continued accuracy as he hit 40-of-42 extra-point attempts. He will be expected to improve on field goals, as he hit only 6-of-12, but he does have the ability to strike from long distance, hitting one 39-yard field goal in 2014.

“Devon is talented enough,” Clark said, “but he was a little inconsistent last year. He can do it. He has the physical tools, but from a kickoff and a PAT and field goal perspective, he needs to be more consistent.”

Sophomore Joe Bernardini (Hicksville, N.Y./Kellenberg Memorial) will also enter with a year of experience under his belt, and he will be expected to continue to improve, as he booted 11 punts in 2014, posting a season-long 41-yard punt in his second of four games.

Three freshmen could also help with the kicking game responsibilities.

“We hope that Joe and any of the freshmen can keep Ryan Umpleby out of the game as our punter,” Clark said. “If we have to use Ryan, we know he is capable of doing it, but our goal is to get him out of that role if we can.”

The Warriors will open the 2015 season at Susquehanna for the Stagg Hat Trophy game on Saturday, Sept. 5 at 1 p.m. After that lone non-conference game, Lycoming will step into conference play by facing Stevenson (Sept. 12) on the road before heading home for games against Wilkes (Sept. 19) and Albright (Sept. 26).

In October, the Warriors will play at home just once, hitting the road for contests at Lebanon Valley (Oct. 3), King’s (Oct. 10) and 12th-ranked Widener (Oct. 31) and hosting FDU-Florham for Homecoming on Oct. 24.

The team finishes the year at David Person Field for games against Delaware Valley (Nov. 7) and Misericordia (Nov. 14).