Wesleyan Football 2017 Season Preview

Photo by Steve McLaughlin
Photo by Steve McLaughlin

2017 SEASON OUTLOOK

The Wesleyan University football team, coming off a 6-2 campaign in which it won the Little Three Championship for the second time in the past four seasons (2016, 2013), looks poised to compete for a NESCAC title once again this year.

In the past five seasons, the Cardinals posted a 30-10 (.750) record while going 11-5 in Head Coach Dan DiCenzo's first two years at the helm of the program. Last year, Wesleyan excelled on both sides of the ball, but it's defense ranked among the best in all of Division III. Aside from leading the NESCAC, the Cardinals also ranked fourth in the country in total defense (220.6 yds/game), seventh in scoring (13.1 pts/game), and 12th in both rushing (77.6) and passing (143.0) yards allowed. Additionally, Wesleyan finished second in first downs allowed (94), third in third-down conversion (23.9%), and fourth in red zone defense (47.6%).

< COACHES CORNER WITH DAN DICENZO >

DiCenzo returns seven of 12 All-NESCAC honorees from a year ago – three on offense (WR Mike Breuler '18, QB Mark Piccirillo '19 and OL Joe Wilson '19), and four on defense (DB Nate Taylor '18, DB Elias Camacho '18, LB Shayne Kaminski '18 and DL Grant Williams '19)

The 2017 season will be the first nine-game schedule in NESCAC history, as the Cardinals open the season on the road against Middlebury on Saturday, Sept. 16 at 1 p.m. The remaining schedule features home games against Tufts (9/23), Colby (10/7), Bates (10/14) and Williams (11/4), and away contests at Hamilton (9/30), Amherst (10/21), Bowdoin (10/28) and Trinity (11/11). 

OFFENSE:

  • Headlining the offensive unit will be junior quarterback Mark Piccirillo, who was named Second Team Offense in his first season starting under center. As a sophomore, he led the league in completion percentage (62.3%), finished second in passing yards per game (202.3), and third in passing touchdowns (10). He went seven games without an interception, and also led the team in rushing, averaging 52.0 yards per game.
  • Junior offensive lineman Joe Wilson – a two-time All-NESCAC selection and First Team Offense a year ago – is a force up front and provides veteran leadership in his third season with the program. He'll be joined by another three-year starter in senior Beau Butler. Together, Wilson and Butler helped Wesleyan amass 416.0 yards per game in 2016 (third-best in the conference), while scoring 31.5 points per contest.
  • Senior wide receiver Mike Breuler was a main reason behind the offensive success last year. A two-time All-NESCAC recipient and First Team selection in 2016, Brueler finished third in the conference in receiving touchdowns (7), sixth in receiving yards (512), and seventh in receiving yards per game (64.0). He'll be joined alongside senior captain and dual-sport athlete, Eric Meyreles. Meyreles helped guide the men's lacrosse team to a Final Four appearance in the spring, and will step on the football field this fall looking to replicate a historic season. As a junior, he finished third on the team in receptions (21).
  • The rushing attack will feature Middletown native, sophomore Dario Highsmith. In his first season with the program, after transferring from Army, Highsmith rushed 60 times for 265 yards and two touchdowns, while averaging 4.4 yards per carry.

DEFENSE:

  • The top defense in the NESCAC in 2016 looks primed to disrupt opposing backfields once again this fall. Headlining the unit are senior captains Shayne Kaminski and Nate Taylor.
  • Kaminski – a Second Team All-NESCAC selection as a junior – finished tied for a team-high 61 tackles (31 solo; 25 assists) a year ago, which ranked eighth in the conference. He also finished 11th in the league in sacks (4). The linebacker core returns all three starters from last season, as Cole Harris '18 and Brandon Morris '19 return to the gridiron. Morris tied for the team-lead in tackles alongside Kaminski, while Harris finished third on the team with 40.
  • Wesleyan's secondary returns two senior all-conference selections in Taylor (First Team) and Elias Camacho '18 (Second Team). Taylor finished third in the league, and first on the team, in interceptions (3) last year, while Camacho recorded two pics and three break-ups. They'll be joined by sophomores Eli Blair-May and Ben Thaw.
  • Up front, defensive lineman Grant Williams '19 looks to build off an impressive sophomore campaign in which he picked up Second Team All-NESCAC after recording 3.5 sacks and 21 tackles. Junior defensive lineman Jude Lindberg also returns to the line and will start for the third consecutive season. He has 4.5 sacks, 10 tackles for a loss and 36 total tackles in his first two years with the program.

SPECIAL TEAMS:

  • Wesleyan will have some new faces on its special teams unit this year, as they lost three-year placekicker Ike Fuchs '17 and All-NESCAC punt returner Devon Carrillo '17 to graduation.
  • Corey Phillips '17 will kick field goals this fall for the first time in his collegiate career, and Sam Han '20 will handle punts for the first time in his career as well.

HEAD COACH DAN DICENZO:

  • "Our players came back from the summer in great shape. They have been working hard in camp, and are very focused. I am excited to see them compete this fall. We have a tough opening schedule are excited for the challenge.
  • "Our captains and seniors have done an outstanding job leading our team. It is a special group and I know they are excited to play this weekend."