Wed, Aug. 6, 2014 - [Football]
Kansas Wesleyan enters the 2014 football season with a new look, a new attitude and a new identity.
Former head coach Dave Dallas left the program in December after 17 years leading the Coyotes, opening the door for a new era of Coyote Football to begin.
First year head coach Matt Drinkall was hired at KWU in January, ushering the new era of Coyote Football. The changes so far have been drastic, and many say, much needed. Scrubbed from the top down, Wesleyan Football is ready to turn over a new leaf and begin the climb to the top of the KCAC again.
Spending time in the football offices, it's easy to notice the new culture throughout the program. Things are upbeat and a new energy resonates throughout the area.
"Coyote Football has a new identity," Drinkall said about the program. "New coaches, new uniforms, new players, just a completely new identity for us."
The offense returns just three starters from a year ago, but several newcomers look to fill many of the spots that were left open along with some returning players looking to fit into the mix.
At quarterback it appears that it will be a two-horse race heading into fall camp between returner Sam Vaughan (QB, Sr., 6-4, 205, Round Rock, Texas / Round Rock HS) and transfer Jake Curran (QB, Jr., 6-3, 200, Garden City, Kan. / Garden City CC (Kan.)).
"Sam Vaughan came out of the spring as the starter and has had an awesome summer of training," Drinkall said. "Jake has a chance to be very good as well, and you will see those two in a heated battle for the quarterback job."
Returner Michael Guerrero (ATH, So., 5-9, 180, Amarillo, Texas / Caprock HS) will be used in a variety of roles this season according to Drinkall including at running back, receiver and "a little bit of everything." Freshman Jacob Griese (QB, Fr., 5-11, 175, Houston, Texas / Mayde Creek HS) has a chance to come in and develop nicely through the program as well.
The Kansas Conference's leading rusher from 2013, Taylor Sachs (RB, Sr., 5-8, 195, Georgetown, Texas / Georgetown HS) returns in the backfield for the Coyotes in 2014 and will look to assert himself again as one of the top backs in the conference. Sachs was a preseason All-KCAC selection for this year.
What will be different will be Sachs' role on the field for the Coyotes. According to Drinkall, Sachs will be in a variety of roles on the field, outside of just the true tailback position.
"Taylor will play in a lot of different spots for us this year and that frees up spots for some other players to make an impact for us like Matt Jones (RB, So., 5-9, 195, Houston, Texas / Galena Park HS) and Devin Rizzo-Foden (RB, So., 5-6, 180, Laguna Niguel, Calif. / Dana Hills HS)," Drinkall said. "Jones is coming off an awesome spring and great summer and Devin is coming off a shoulder injury but is very versatile."
Fullback Colby Donohue (FB/LB, Jr., 5-10, 235, San Antonio, Texas / San Antonio College (Texas)) will also line up at tailback as well.
At receiver, the Coyotes do have to contend with replacing one of the all-time great ball catchers at KWU in Zach McClain who became the career leader in every receiving category last season. Drinkall is confident there are plenty of players to step up and fill the role.
"The receiver position was by far our thinnest group coming out of spring camp," Drinkall said. "We have a bunch of talented kids coming in that will help us out."
Returners Albert Geason (WR, Jr., 5-11, 180, Grand Prairie, Texas / South Grand Prairie HS) and Joe Vela (WR, Sr., 5-11, 190, Peyton, Colo. / Peyton HS) will lead the way, but look for local product Kaleb Whitehair (WR, Fr., 6-2, 190, Salina, Kan. / Ell-Saline HS) to fit into the mix as well. Whitehair is a transfer from Butler Community College, but will have four years of eligibility left at KWU.
"Geason and Vela will be out there for us, but Kaleb Whitehair has a chance to be an impact player as well," Drinkall said. "His big advantage is he is a 6-3 possession type receiver who can catch the ball and you don't always have a lot of those type of players."
John Lewis (WR, Fr., 6-0, 165, Collinsville, Texas / Collinsville HS) who was No. 2 in scoring in the state of Texas last year will also fit into the receiver mix as well.
"Lewis is a fantastic athlete who can make an impact for us at a lot of positions," Drinkall said. "He also has a chance to be a positive for us in the return game."
At tight end, two players have really stood out, including returner Mitch Kufaul (TE, So., 6-0, 185, Wheaton, Kan. / Onaga HS) who made the switch to tight end this year and Robert Cowan (TE, Sr., 6-4, 215, Goodland, Kan. / Goodland HS), who joined the football team in the spring after playing basketball at KWU the last two years.
"Mitch came in and had an awesome spring with us and Cowan has improved dramatically," Drinkall said. "He's put on a bunch of weight and is much more explosive and powerful."
The offensive line will be very young for the Coyotes in 2014. The lone starter returning will be All-KCAC performer Maverick Beissner (OL, Jr., 6-1, 295, Waller, Texas / Royal HS), but several newcomers, many of them freshmen are going to have to step up and prove themselves early.
"The o-line will be the group that has the most to prove," Drinkall said. "We are going to have to rely on some new faces up front."
Returner Bryan Resa (OL, So., 6-1, 260, Cedar Park, Texas / Leander HS) will fit into the mix along with another local product in transfer Aden Olson (OL, Jr., 6-2, 240, Salina, Kan. / Butler CC (Kan.)) and two freshmen – Mario Soto (OL, Fr., 6-0, 270, Santa Paula, Calif. / Santa Paula HS) and Nathan Vaughn (OL, Fr., 6-2, 270, Humble, Texas / Atascocita HS) will have a chance to earn a spot in the lineup.
It will be a new look on the defensive side of the ball for the Coyotes this season, but few familiar faces return in the defensive lineup.
Daniel Moss (DL, Sr., 6-3, 260, Lakeside, Calif. / Grossmont College (Calif.)) is the lone returner on the defensive line for the Coyotes this season, but will be in a new role as a defensive tackle instead of playing at the defensive end position where he had 49 tackles, ten of those for loss and two sacks last season.
Garett Walker (DL, So., 6-3, 225, Hugoton, Kan. / Hugoton HS) made the switch to defense this season and will see some action on the defensive line, and John Meketuk (DL, So., 6-1, 240, Lockbuie, Colo. / Weld Central HS) will fit into the mix well.
"Garett has done a tremendous job of preparing for his new role," Drinkall said. "He has put on a lot of weight and increased his strength dramatically and will be an asset for us on the defensive line."
Drinkall also points out that returner Sung An (DL, Sr., 6-0, 280, Concord, Calif. / Los Medanos College (Calif.)) will have to step up and newcomer Garen Chobanian (DL, So., 6-2, 270, San Rafael, Calif. / Santa Barbara City College (Calif.)) will be looked upon to be an impact player on the defensive line. Kretien Webb (DL, Fr., 6-0, 235, Menifee, Calif. / Paloma Valley HS) will also be looked upon to step up at that position as well.
The linebacker position perhaps took the biggest hit on the defensive side of the ball when talking about key losses with the loss of Brady Harwell to graduation. Harwell finished his career as Wesleyan's all-time leading tackler with 367 stops.
Returner Tanner Ranieri (LB, So., 6-0, 205, Seneca, Kan. / Nemaha Valley HS) will be counted upon to step up at the linebacker position and Matt Myers (LB, Sr., 5-10, 215, Sr., Salina, Kan. / Southeast of Saline HS) returns after only playing two games last season before a season-ending injury after not playing football for six years.
"Tanner has a chance to be really, really special for us this season as a sophomore, and Matt Myers comes back to the program in the best shape of his life," Drinkall said. "Both have a chance to be very good for us this year."
Kendrick Marshall (LB, So., 6-1, 200, Irving, Texas / MacArthur HS) will also see time at the linebacker position but will play more of a rushbacker role, lining up on the defensive line.
"Linebacker is another position like receiver, that we have added a lot of depth at," Drinkall said. "We didn't have a lot of guys coming out of spring camp, but there will be a lot of competition at that position now."
At defensive back is where Drinkall feels the Coyotes are the deepest and most talented heading into the season. Braxton Peck (DB, Sr., 5-8, 170, Leander, Texas / Vista Ridge HS), who made the switch from receiver, has emerged as an early leader of the group at free safety, and Kenny Diaz (DB, Jr., 5-7, 150, Hurst, Texas / LD Bell HS) will move from safety to corner and had a strong spring at that position.
"Along with Braxton and Kenny there's a bunch of players that have a chance to step up and be impact kids for us," Drinkall said. "Blake Harris (DB, So., 5-11, 185, Copperas Cove, Texas / Copperas Cove HS) and Eric Reed (DB, Jr., 5-7, 160, Denver, Colo. / Manual HS), both of whom did not play last season, and Julio Perez (DB, So., 5-10, 170, Rosenberg, Texas / B.F. Terry HS) who made the switch from receiver can all help us out at corner."
Colton Spresser (DB, So., 5-11, 160, Hoxie, Kan., Hoxie HS) also returns for the Coyotes after a season's absence as he went to Fort Hays State last season to run track and will fit in the mix at safety, and newcomer Tyler Welch (DB, Fr., 5-9, 180, Goleta, Calif. / Dos Pueblos HS) has a chance to be a very good player for the Coyotes this season. Welch's father Herb played six seasons in the NFL and won a Super Bowl with Bill Parcells as a member of the New York Giants.
"Welch is a guy to keep an eye on," Drinkall said. "He is very good and will be an impact player for us right away."
Senior kicker Terry Stecker returns (K, Sr., 5-8, 190, Copperas Cove, Texas / Copperas Cove HS) to handle the kicking duties and punter Logan Matthews (P, So., 6-0, 185, Murrieta, Calif. / Murrieta Valley HS) returns to handle punting duties on special teams.
"Look for us to do some different things on special teams this year," Drinkall said. "We will do some things that are kind of unconventional, but they will benefit us in the end."
The Coyotes open the season at home against Hastings College at 7 p.m. on September 6 at Salina Stadium. Wesleyan then heads to Fayette, Mo., to play Central Methodist on September 13 in the KCAC/HAAC Challenge Series game.
The Coyotes then open up conference play on September 20 at home against Southwestern.
Drinkall is looking forward to his first trip through the KCAC gauntlet.
"This league has proven itself on a national level the last few years," Drinkall said. "Friends, Ottawa, Tabor and Sterling will all again be very strong teams, and I think we will fit into the mix nicely as well."
September 27 sees the Coyotes head to McPherson for a 7 p.m. kick, followed by an October 4 trip to Wichita to take on Friends at Adair-Austin Stadium at 3 p.m.
The next two weeks the Coyotes are at home against Tabor at 1:30 p.m. on October 11, followed by the Homecoming game on October 18 when KWU hosts the archrival Bethany Swedes in the 102nd meeting between the teams at 7 p.m.
Wesleyan will play three of its final four games on the road starting on October 25 at Bethel College at 1:30 p.m. in North Newton. The final home game of the season will be on November 1 when KWU hosts Ottawa University at 1:30 p.m. in Salina. The final two games of the year will be on the road at Saint Mary on November 8 and the regular season wraps on November 15 against defending conference champion Sterling at 1:30 p.m. at Smisor Stadium in Sterling.