Coming off a 4-4 campaign in 2010 under new head coach Mike Whalen, the Cardinals will have a war cry under which to prepare, practice and play in 2011, according to Coach Whalen. That single word is "competition!"
"There is no question that we will rely on great leadership from our four captains and the rest of the senior class," Coach Whalen explained. "Matt Coyne '12 (#7, photo lower left), Justin Freres '11 (#46, photo lower right), Jordan Greene '12 (#24, photo upper right) and Cyprian Oyomba '12 (#28, photo upper left) did a fantastic job leading our team during the off-season. They are four very talented football players who I know will set the standard for our football team. It will be very important that our veteran players do a great job mentoring our younger players and show them what it takes to win in the NESCAC."
As for competition being the season's catch-phrase, Coach Whalen described it in this manner. "The theme for the 2011 preseason is COMPETITION! Everyone who shows up for preseason practice must be physically and mentally ready to compete each and every day. We have a number of players returning with varsity experience, however, that does not guarantee a starting spot for this season. Everyone who lines up game one against Middlebury will do so because they EARNED their starting job in preseason. Anyone who reports to camp expecting to play because of what happened in the past is in for a rude awakening."
Still, the Cardinals are fortunate to have a bevvy of veteran athletes returning to the field. While three of the quad-captains handle defensive assignments as LB Oyomba and DB Freres ranked first and second on the squad with 80 and 56 tackles, respectively, while DB Greene was fifth with 43 stops and a team-high seven PBs, Coyne is the veteran signal-caller. He completed 58.5 percent of his passes while throwing for eight TDs. Also a capable runner, Coyne had 50 runs for 226 yards when sacks were removed from his rushing stats in 2010. Also back as returning starters are linemen RJ Dabbar '12 and Matt Sheeks '12, receiver/punter Kyle Weiss '12 and FB Chris Russell '12. Supporting the defense are DT Mandela Kazi '12 and DT Nick Ferris '12, LB Brett Bandazian '12 and DBs Derrick Williams '12 and Cam Davila '12. Placekicker Sebastian Aquirre '14 also returns.
Other who saw considerable action in 2010 include LB Myers Beaird '14, TE/WR Kevin Hughes '14, WR Ernie Wingate '14, DT Morgan Hanson '13 and OL Tim Lee. The Cardinals welcome a large crop of newcomers to the stables with 34 freshman listed on the preseason roster. Many are expected to factor into the equation this season.
A majority of the 2011 squad had the advantage of learning Coach Whalen's system last year and the Cardinal coaching staff is virtually intact from 2010 with offensive coordinator Jack Siedlecki and defensive coordinator Dan DiCenzo making the calls. "One of the bright spots for this season is that we don’t have to install a new offense or defense," said Coach Whalen. "Our coaching staff returns and our players should have a much better handle on their assignments. There is no question that it was not until late in the 2010 season before our kids felt comfortable with the our system and the new terminology. With no spring practice and a short preseason it is almost impossible to make the type of changes we did last year. If you don’t know your assignments and can’t get lined up correctly, it makes it very difficult to be successful. In year number two, I hope to see a significant improvement from last season."
Wesleyan opens 2011 at home against Middlebury Sat., Sept. 24. Last year, the two teams battled down to the wire with the Panthers holding on for a 24-21 victory. Wesleyan will hope to reverse the fortunes on its visitor this season. The game will be webcast and can be viewed on game day by clicking < here >. Wesleyan went 3-1 during the first half of the season in 2010 against squads with a collective record of 11-21. The second half of the season presented itself as considerably more difficult as those four opponents posted a combined 24-8 mark. The Cardinals, though approaching the season with a "one-game-at-a-time" attitude, can't help by look at its Little Three meetings with Amherst and Williams, and its season finale vs. Trinity as opportunities to make a statement in the conference in 2011.
(photos of Oyomba and Greene courtesy of SteveMcLaughlinPhotography.com)