Moving into his third season at the helm of Cardinal football, Head Coach Mike Whalen and his staff will be relying on the leadership of team tri-captains Jon Lis '13 (#16, photo insert upper right), Andy McKeon '13 (#54, photo insert lower right) and Jake Sheffer '14 (#62, main photo) to carry the squad into another highly competitive season.
"We're going to be young in 2012," said Coach Whalen, "but we're excited and looking forward to the work ahead. We have three really good players who are going to lead our team this year. Jon does everything at a high level and leads by example. Andy was a linebacker converted to a defensive end and did some great things in 2011. He, too, has a great work ethic and is a tremendous leader. Jake was a first-team all-NESCAC player for us at center last year as a sophomore. We feel very good about the three players we have leading our team this fall."
Wesleyan returns 15 starters from a year ago after posting a 3-5 mark. With only games against undefeated Amherst and 7-1 Trinity decided by more than a touchdown in 2011, the Cardinals had three quarters of their games go right down to the wire with a one-point win over Middlebury and seven-point victories over Colby and Bates. Wesleyan fell by a point to Hamilton, by two points to Williams and by six points to Bowdoin.
Four returning Cardinals earned all-NESCAC recognition in 2011 with Sheffer a first-team pick from his center position and Jake Bussani '14 also a first-team choice as a DB. He collected 36 tackles, a team-high four interceptions and a team-best eight PBs. Returning as a second-team pick is RB LaDarius Drew '15, who paced the team with 173 carries for 726 yards and seven TDs. This performance also earned him NESCAC Rookie of the Year accolades. Punter Jesse Warren '15 had 43 boots for a 38.0-yard average and was a second-teamer as well. Other offensive starters returning include linemen Jeremy Edelberg '14, Jim Curley '13 and Pat DiMase '15 ; receivers Jay Fabien '15, Dan D'Arcy '14 and Kevin Hughes '14 ; and tight end Jon Day '15. On defense, the Cardinals have the services of lineman Morgan Hanson '13 and linebacker Myers Beaird '14 in addition to McKeon and Bussani as 2011 starters.
Among the remaining 19 returning lettermen, good things are expected from the likes of RB Te'Rhon O'Neal '13 ; LB Prince Emanalo '13 ; WRs Mike Dudley '13, Steve Moran '13, David Knorr '13, Josh Hurwitz '15 and Ernie Wingate '14 ; OL Austin Frank '15 ; DLs Nik Powers '15, Ibraheem Khadar '15 and Mitch Godfrey '15 ; DBs Donnie Cimino '15 and Mike Conrad '13 ; and kicker Sebastian Aguirre '14. The Cardinals have more than 30 newcomers listed on the preseason roster and much is expected from this group as 11 freshmen earned a varsity letter at Wesleyan in 2011.
The 2012 campaign kicks off Sat., Sept. 22 with a visit to Tufts, followed by the opening home game Sat., Sept. 29 against Hamilton.