August 26, 2009

Experience will guide us

McDaniel will look to veteran group as 115th football campaign opens

WESTMINSTER, Md. - A combined 3-17 record over the last two seasons might be enough to discourage most football coaches. However, McDaniel's 17th-year head coach Tim Keating is not most coaches.

"Unfortunately our entire team has struggled over the past couple of years," Keating noted. "There are many reasons for that. Fortunately, though, neither our coaches nor players have lost their resolve. Our goal is to return the team to the success we had in the late 1990s and early 2000s."

Keating has legitimate reasons to think 2009 could be the first year on that road back to the top. The 115th season of Green Terror football opens on Sept. 5 at home against St. Vincent with 22 seniors on the roster - the squad's largest senior class in four years.

"I think we have an outstanding group of seniors who are going to be the core of leading this team back to the championship form we enjoyed not so long ago," Keating stated. "We just need to get these young men to believe in themselves and good things will happen."

McDaniel does not just have 22 seniors on the roster. The Green Terror could have as many as 15 in the opening day starting lineup.

Following its 2009 opener at home, McDaniel travels to Moravian to open its slate in the Centennial Conference (CC), where the Green Terror was picked to finish eighth in the annual balloting of coaches and sports information directors. McDaniel garnered 26 votes, four ahead of ninth-place Juniata. Johns Hopkins was tabbed as the preseason favorite with 115 votes, including 10 first-place votes. Dickinson and Muhlenberg shared second-place honors with 102 points. Muhlenberg received five first-place tallies while Dickinson earned two. Moravian, chosen fourth with 91 points, received the other first-place vote. Gettysburg (75), Franklin & Marshall (63) and Ursinus (45) make up the middle of the poll.

As with every new season, there will be questions that need to be answered for the Green Terror to have the success it did when the team won seven CC titles between 1997 and 2004. Will Tom Massucci (Tabernacle, N.J./Seneca) take hold of the starting quarterback job and not let go? Who will replace Jay Leonard in the kicking game? Who will provide the depth behind a very experienced starting 11 on defense? What will a change in defensive coordinator bring?

That last question might worry many coaches. However, not many coaches have the luxury of bringing a two-time Arena Football League-champion coach on staff. Keating did just that, though, with the addition of Mike Dailey, who replaced Eric Van Heusen in the spring. Van Heusen left for a job in the newly formed United Football League. Dailey was out of work when his league suspended operations. The timing was perfect.

"I'm extremely excited to have Mike on board with us," Keating said. "He brings a wealth of knowledge to the table. It's like having (former defensive coordinator) Al (Thomas) again."

Special Teams

McDaniel lost only five of its starting 22 from a year ago and also returns every key member of special teams save one.

The only legitimate question in the specialties is in kickoffs and field goals, where the Green Terror lost Leonard to graduation.

Freshman Nick DeLuca (Devon, Pa./Conestoga) could be the answer to that question.

"Nick's definitely got the accuracy to hit the kicks we need him to hit," Keating disclosed. "He probably doesn't have quite the length right now that Jay had but we're going to work on increasing his range."

Another option is sophomore Jake Nichols (Frederick, Md./Gov. Thomas Johnson), who could emerge as the starting kicker and will likely be the backup to Travis Wenrich (Wernersville, Pa./Conrad Weiser) at punter.

Wenrich punted 67 times over the first nine games of 2008, averaging 33.9 yards per boot. He unfurled three punts of 50-plus yards that included a season-best 61-yarder in the second quarter at St. Vincent. He dropped 11 kicks inside the 20-yard line and had only two touchbacks. He also forced 12 fair catches.

Wenrich is also one of the Green Terror's options in the return game. Last year, he returned 16 punts for a team-high 169 yards.

Matt Cahill (Broomall, Pa./Haverford Twp.) was also a weapon in both the punt- and kick-return game last season, returning four punts and five kickoffs. Among his 89 punt-return yards was a 70-yard touchdown scamper in the season finale at Johns Hopkins. He racked up 76 yards in the kick-return game.

T.J. Develin (Boyerstown, Pa./Boyerstown Area) and Juris Eyler (Middletown, Md./Middletown) had the most touches on kickoffs. Develin had 13 returns for a team-best 278 yards, averaging 21.4 yards per return. Eyler returned kickoffs 11 times for 169 yards (15.4 ypr).

Paul Smith (Woodlawn, Md./Western Tech) added seven kickoff returns, averaging 19.7 yards per return. Among his 138 return yards was a 42-yarder at Juniata on Oct. 4.

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Check back tomorrow for the preview of the defense and on Friday for the offensive outlook.

 

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