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2018 Football Season Preview

Photo by Jonas Powell '18
Photo by Jonas Powell '18

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SEASON OUTLOOK:

The Wesleyan University football team is coming off a historic 2017 campaign in which the Cardinals set 18 program records offensively en route to a 6-3 record—the program's sixth consecutive winning season.

Despite losing the reigning NESCAC Offensive Player of the Year Mike Breuler '18 to graduation, Wesleyan looks poised for a successful 2018 season as it returns three First Team All-NESCAC selections and two second team honorees from a year ago.

Head Coach Dan DiCenzo begins his fourth season at the helm of the program and ninth on the coaching staff overall. He boasts a 17-8 record in his first three years leading the team, which was highlighted by a Little Three Championship in 2016 as the Cardinals cruised past their rivals, Amherst (20-0) and Williams (59-14), to claim their 14th title all-time.


MEET THE OFFENSE:

Wesleyan displayed one of the NESCAC's most prolific offenses in 2017 in which it ranked first in time of possession (34:06/game) and first downs (209), second in total offense (3,760 yards), passing (303.0 yards/game), passing touchdowns (22), third down conversions (42%), fourth down conversions (56%) and red zone scores (82%), and fourth in scoring (26.7/game). The Cardinals welcome back six starters from last year's squad.

  • QB – Highlighting the offensive unit is three-year starter and senior co-captain, Mark Piccirillo. A second team all-conference selection as a sophomore, Piccirillo was named first team a year ago after an incredible season in which he broke 11 program records and became the program's all-time leading scorer with 252 career points and 42 career touchdowns. In 2017, he led the league in passing (295.2 yards/game), passing touchdowns (20), completions (233) and completion % (70.4).
  • RB - Piccirrillo is a dual-threat quarterback who also led the team in rushing a year ago and ranked sixth in the conference, averaging 52.7 yards per game. However, the running back committee will feature a young core of Mike Maggipinto '20, Sean Penney '21 and Glenn Smith '21.
  • WR - At the wide receiver position, senior co-captain Evan Hull and junior Hallvard Lundevall will look to fill the void left by Breuler. Hull ranked second on the team in receiving yards last season (340/game), while hauling in two touchdowns, and Lundevall, standing at 6-5, figures to have a bigger impact entering his junior year. Joe Scancarella '21 should also see more action this fall after a strong preseason, and junior Dario Highsmith has made the transition from running back to wide receiver and looks to play a significant role this season. Highsmith is a Middletown native who transferred from Army.
  • OL - Wesleyan's offensive line brings back plenty of experience with returning starters Terence Norton '19, Joe Wilson '19, Ryan Schutta '20 and Bryce Jenkins '21. Norton was a First Team All-NESCAC selection a year ago, while Wilson was named all-conference in 2016 and 2017. Additionally, dual-sport athlete and senior TE Ryan Earle returns to the starting lineup. Earle is also a standout pitcher on the Cardinals' baseball team.

MEET THE DEFENSE:

Wesleyan had one of the league's top defenses a year ago in which it ranked second in points (16.1/game), third in total yards (305.1/game) and passing yards (186.1/game), and fourth in rushing yards (119.0) and sacks (23). The Cardinals welcome back seven starters from last season.

  • LB - Headlining the unit is First Team All-NESCAC and senior co-captain, Brandon Morris. Morris has led the team in tackles the past two seasons and finished his junior campaign as the leading tackler in the conference (95). As a sophomore, he averaged 7.6 tackles per game and bumped that up to 10.6 his junior year. Morris also finished last season with four sacks, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery and two pass break-ups. Joining Morris on the linebacker unit is graduate student Cole Harris who started last year and finished third on the team with 47 tackles.
  • DL - The Cardinals are loaded with talent and experience on the defensive line and are led by senior co-captain Grant Williams, a two-time All-NESCAC honoree. Williams finished his junior campaign with 26 tackles, three sacks and five tackles for a loss. He'll be joined once again by classmates Jude Lindberg, Bobby Nevin and Sam Green, all starters from a year ago. Additionally, junior Nick Richards and sophomore Taj Gooden have started on the line as well and provide quality depth up front.
  • DB - In the secondary, junior Ben Thaw leads the way and figures to have another strong season after a breakout sophomore campaign in which he led the conference in interceptions with four. He'll be joined once again by last year starters, Pat Leone '19 and Eli Blair-May '20, as well as senior and first-year starter, Zak Foster. Julian Ross '21 is also expected to play significant time this season, and DiCenzo welcomes newcomer Danny Banks '22 who will look to make an impact in his first year with the program.

SPECIAL TEAMS:

  • The Cardinals welcome back 2017 Second Team All-NESCAC punter, Sam Han '20. Han ranked second in the league in punting average (39.3/game) and touchbacks (4) a year ago.

COACHES' THOUGHTS:

  • "Our seniors did a great a job leading the team in the off season. It is the best off season our program has had. Our players came to camp in shape and we are excited to see them compete on September 15th."
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