Experienced Cardinal Gridmen Set to Start the Whalen Era With Visit to Middlebury For 2010 Opener

Returning 46 letterwinners and 19 starters from a 2009 squad that went 3-5 and came within a whisker of knocking off Trinity to end the year, Wesleyan has high hopes for the 2010 campaign.  Under the tutelage of first-year head coach Mike Whalen ’83 (photo lower left), the Cardinals have their most veteran team in quite some time.  Coach Whalen led Little Three rival Williams to a 38-10 mark from 2004-09 and a 6-0 record vs. Wesleyan before taking over at Wesleyan this season.

            Wesleyan held the lead in six of its eight contests during the 2009 season, coming away with wins over Tufts, Bates and Bowdoin.  Each of the wins had a personality of its own as the Cardinal defense came up big in the late stages to preserve a 7-3 season-opening win over Tufts.  In a 28-20 win over Bates, Wesleyan rallied from a 14-0 deficit to take a 21-20 edge in the third period and locked up the triumph with a 54-yard interception return for a TD by Cyprian Oyomba ’12.  At Bowdoin, Wesleyan rolled out to a sizeable 27-6 lead only to fall behind 39-36 with 1:36 left.  Not to be denied, the Cardinals got a game-winning TD connection from QB Blake DuBois to receiver Paulie Lowther ’13 with :34 remaining in the 43-39 win.  Wesleyan also held leads over Hamilton (14-0), Colby (13-0) and Trinity (20-13) before coming away on the short end of the final result, the latter two in overtime.  Wesleyan also lost to Little Three foes Amherst and Williams.

Back as seasoned starters on offense for Wesleyan in 2010 are running back Shea Dwyer ’10, DuBois, linemen Nick Seara ’11 (tri-captain, #60, photo upper right), Tim Lee ’13, Zach Sadler ’11 and Matt Sheeks ’12, and receivers Steve Hauser ’11, Mike Dudley ’13 and Pete Modera ’11.  Dwyer paced the Cardinal running attack in 2009 with 328 yards (a 4.2-yard average) and three TDs while DuBois completed 48 percent of his tosses for 1247 yards and nine TDs.  DuBois also had positive rushing yards (53) despite being sacked 18 times for a loss of 81 yards.  Seara earned second-team all-NESCAC laurels from his spot at center.  Among the receivers, Modera led the way with 30 receptions for 326 yards and a pair of TDs.  Dudley had 22 catches for 197 yards and Hauser hauled in 16 for 134 yards and three scores, all of the TDs coming in the win over Bates.  Dwyer also made 22 receptions coming out of the backfield.

Other top returnees on offense include tri-captain quarterback-turned-tight-end Joe Giaimo ’11 (#14, photo upper left), running back Vince Miller ’12, linemen Andrew Knowlton ’13 and Ryan Coffey ’11 and receiver Lowther.  After missing much of the last two years due to injury, Bobby Rosenthal ’10 will be back in camp as a talent on the line.  Modera also handled the bulk of the Cardinals’ punt-returning duties with 14 returns for 109 yards.  Reserve running back Te’Rhon O’Neal ’13 was the top kick returner with 29 for 518 yards.

Wesleyan returns the full complement of its linebacking corps and defensive backfield as 10 of 12 starters, including punter Kyle Weiss ’12, are back.  Weiss also sees duty as a receiver.  Wesleyan had four players see considerable action at linebacker a year ago, led by tri-captain Justin Freres ’11 (#46, photo lower right), who ranked seventh in the NESCAC in total tackles with 76 and earned second-team all-NESCAC honors.  Joining him are Brett Bandazian ’12, Oyomba and Andrew McKeon ’13.  Veterans in the secondary feature returning second-team all-NESCAC choice Derrick Williams ’12, Jordan Greene ’12, Cam Davila ’12 and Larry Belotta ’12.  At tackles and ends, Wesleyan will have the experience of AJ Chan ’11, Nick Ferris ’12 and Colin Harwig ’12 to build upon.  Additional support is expected from linemen Matt Maloney ’11, Bo Brown ’10, Mandela Kazi ‘12 and Adam Schwartz ’11 ; linebacker Tim Morley ’11 ; and defensive back Joe Byous ’12.

"In order for us to become a more competitive football program this year, it is very important that we have an outstanding 'pre-season," Coach Whalen explained.   "We have stressed to our players the importance of reporting to camp in the best physical condition possible.  There are a couple of positions that we do not have great depth, so we must keep guys healthy and on the practice field.  We will be implementing new systems on both sides of the ball, so those players who are competing daily in practice have the best chance to win starting jobs.  Everyone starts at square one and we will find out who are our best 22 football players before we open on September 25th.  Before our players left for the summer they were working very hard and there was a lot of excitement about the 2010 season.  I am curious to see if our players were able to sustain that level of intensity while at home over the summer.

"Having to play three of our first four games on the road is really going to be a huge challenge for our football team.  We open at Middlebury which has a veteran team returning and is led by a senior quarterback who was the player of the year in our conference.  The NESCAC is a very competitive league and if you don’t prepare properly during the week, you will get beat on Saturday.  We must take it one game at a time and do our best to get our players ready to play on game day."

Wesleyan is expecting 26 new faces on the gridiron for the inauguration of preseason practice in late August, adding significantly to the Cardinals’ pool of talent.  In 2009, 16 first-year players earned varsity letters at Wesleyan.  One of the newcomers will be Williams transfer quarterback Matt Coyne '12, who saw considerable action for the Ephs in 2009, accounting for 10 TDs, five passing and five rushing.  He will contend for the starting spot at Wesleyan.

As previously mentioned, the Cardinals inaugurate the 2010 season by traveling to Middlebury  Sat., Sept. 25 for the first meeting with the Panthers since 2007.  The overall series stands slightly in Wesleyan’s favor at 21-19-2.  Middlebury offers video (for a $6 charge), audio and Livestat online coverage of the game with a 1 pm kickoff.  To access the array of Middlebury offerings, clock < here >.