Quakers look to build upon experience

WC opens season at Mt. St. Joseph

July 17, 2012

Kyle Blakeman (at left) and the Quakers open the 2012 season Sept. 1 at Mount St. Joseph.

Kyle Blakeman (at left) and the Quakers open the 2012 season Sept. 1 at Mount St. Joseph.

Wilmington head coach Ken Minor is counting on last year’s growing pains leading to positive results in 2012.

“We had 17 senior starters in 2010, so we knew we were going to play a lot of young people last season. At one time, we had 13 freshmen that were starting. That may have not been good for last year, but we have a lot of returning experience this season,” Minor said.

First-year offensive coordinator Jay Niswonger has brought the run-and-shoot offense to Quakerland, with the primary theme centered around putting the ball in players’ hands where they can be most dangerous.

“We felt real good about how our offense picked up coach Niswonger’s run-and-shoot offense in spring ball. We feel that we should be much better this year,” Minor said.

Junior Brandon Arehart returns to lead the Quakers’ offense for the third straight season. Arehart has thrown his way into the WC all-time top-10 list for passing yards and touchdown passes. He also has proven to be rugged and durable.

“Brandon has not only never missed a play in games, but he has never missed a practice,” Minor said. “He takes a licking, but he just keeps on working. His work ethic makes him a great role model for the rest of the team."

Junior Brandon Minor and a group of newcomers will provide backup for Arehart.

Senior Tyrell Richardson (shown at right) will be a key go-to player out of the backfield and from the slot. The slashing tailback led Wilmington in rushing yardage the past two seasons and pulled down career-high 14 receptions in 2011.

“Tyrell will be utilized more than he has been the last three seasons. If we can get him the ball in space, he will be somebody that every defense will have to contend with. That should also help us get the ball to other people,” Minor said.

Also back is sophomore Ryan Smith, who played well in limited time last season and had a strong spring campaign.

Juniors Kyle Blakeman and Kyle Akers are back after combining for 51 catches and seven touchdowns a year ago.

“Kyle Blakeman was among the conference leaders in all the categories when he was injured last season. We expect him to have an outstanding year. Kyle Akers came out of nowhere. He goes full tilt all the time and wants to be successful,” Minor said.

Sophomore tight end Matt Stooksbury is a solid blocker and receiver who has the ability to get downfield.

Senior tackle Andrew Fisher will anchor an offensive line that received experience under fire last season.

“We played a lot of freshmen on the offensive line. We are really depending on Andrew to set a good example for all these guys. We also have guards Scott Duncan and Tyler DeVore, tackle Brandon Krugh and center Jeremy Welch coming back,” Minor said.

Wilmington’s defense will again be focused on flying to the ball and making plays. Some familiar faces will be seen in new places.

“We’re still trying to find a few positions for people. We have moved some people to new positions, and we think those changes will benefit our overall defensive performance,” Minor said.

Junior nose guard Donnie Ary will be at the heart of Wilmington’s 3-4 defense. Ary earned All-OAC honors in 2011 despite being the target of non-stop double-team blocking schemes.

“Donnie just takes away so much of the potential blocking on our linebackers. He is very quick. If they don’t double team him, he will be on top of the running back or quarterback in no time,” Minor said.

Down linemen Gabe Smith and Aaron Day are back after strong 2011 seasons.

A talented group of linebackers will be looked upon to lead Wilmington’s defense. Junior Matt McFadden (shown at left) and senior Ben Dunahue had more than 130 combined stops last season. Added to the linebacker corps this year is sophomore Devon Burton, who had 74 tackles from his safety position in 2011.

“Devon was so good in coming up to make tackles, and we want to get him closer to the action,” Minor said. “Matt is our top returning tackler. He was so impressive what how he played and how he approached the game. Ben is such a hard worker. He handles himself so well. He should have a great senior year.”

Senior LaVonte’ Darby brings speed and experience to his cornerback position. On the other side will be Joe Joe Knecht. Safeties Jamar Roberts and Trevor Hooker will provide both deep coverage and support against opposing running games.

“We’ve got those four, and we feel good about that. The key for us, though, will be if we can get some depth behind them. The way everybody throws in our league, you need at least six or seven solid defensive backs,” Minor said.

Senior Max Gabbard will handle the placekicking duties while Arehart will likely be punting the ball away. Austin Kleinhans will be vying for long-kicking responsibilities.

“We feel good about our kicking game. As always, we will try to put good athletes on the field for kick returns and coverage,” Minor said.

Wilmington opens the season at Mount St. Joseph on Sept. 1. Following a bye week, the Quakers will begin the arduous nine-game OAC schedule at home versus Otterbein on Sept. 15.

“This is as tough a conference as you will find in Division III football,” Minor said. “We need to improve physically and mentally. We have played some close games against great teams. The difference between winning and losing those games was confidence, or lack of it. We need to find that confidence and build on it.”