Coming off its third straight winning season, going 5-3 in 1999 including a tremendous 33-28 victory over otherwise undefeated Williams College, Wesleyan will have a solid foundation upon which to build its gridiron fortunes in 2000.
Wesleyan graduated some outstanding performers, including All-American wide receiver Matt Perceval and all-time passing leader Jake Fay, as well as all-NESCAC linebacker Terry Sears. Still, the Cardinals have a veteran offensive line to block for its returning starting backfield of fullback Larry Woolard (88-357, 10 TDs) and tailbacks Ron Jacobs (48-215, 2 TDs) and Greg Thomas (14-63). Center T.J. DiCocco, guards Nick Lodato, Jon Brandt, and Don Badger and tackles Albert Cabello and Peter Karayiannis are all seasoned veterans on the front wall. Looking to step in at quarterback is junior Kevin Cornish, who understudied Fay for two seasons. Though he threw just four passes a year ago, Cornish had a superb effort in the lone start of his career when he completed 17 of 26 passes for 276 yards and three TDs in a 30-24 win at Bates in 1998. Wide receiver George Thompson (31-515, 2 TDs) leads a group of returnees that includes tight end Luke Kephart and wide outs John Stokel and Todd Themistocles. Wesleyan averaged 25 points and 367 yards a game in 1999 and will be looking to maintain that pace in the year ahead.
Defensively, down linemen Kevin Lenane, Tom Moran and Nick LaFontaine headline the list of returnees joined by ends Noel Pena and Nick Shiggs-Quiroga. Linebackers Dion Mueller, Larry Mason and Glenn Sherman are back as mainstays at their position with Jared Connelly looking to step into a starting spot. In the secondary, corners Mark Olschefskie and Derrick Brantley are back in starting roles along with strong safety Louis Bronk-Zdunowski and free safety Scott Perceval.
Olschefskie also handles punting for the Cardinals, coming off a season that earned him both ECAC and NESCAC first-team honors (40.7-yard average). Wesleyan must replace its placekicker Brian Walker, who graduated, and fill in for kick-return and punt-return specialist Matt Perceval. Olschefskie is the most experienced return man with 21 career kickoff returns. No returning player ever fielded a punt as Perceval was the team's single deep man in return formation. Olschefskie also holds for place kicks.
With 30 frosh and three sophomore transfers joining the squad, head coach Frank Hauser has some solid new talent to push the returnees and work into the lineup. Expecting a number of the newcomers to contribute to the success of the team in 2000, Coach Hauser calls the frosh a "better-than-average" crew, especially at the skill positions.
Now entering the ninth season of NESCAC competition, Wesleyan begins the regular season at Tufts. That game follows a pre-season scrimmage against Middlebury. The meat of the Cardinals' season takes place over the final half of the campaign when the team faces both Little Three rivals Amherst (week no. 5) and Williams (week no. 7) as well as intra-state rival Trinity (week no. 8). That meeting will be the 100th between Wesleyan and Trinity, dating back to 1885.