Reigning conference champs look to improve
By JARYD CLINE, staff reporter
As evident from the annual spring game, the hinges of the upcoming Wildcat football season rests in the throwing hand of one of six quarterbacks vying for the starting job.
Starting spots on the reigning Great Northwest Athletic Conference champions are up for grabs after the 22 graduating seniors from last year’s team cleaned out their lockers and hung up their jerseys; none of those spots bigger than the traditional leader of the team, the man under center, the quarterback.
“I don’t think they [quarterbacks] did stand out [during the spring game],” head coach Blaine Bennett said.
Quarterbacks from both Central teams (White: number one offense number two defense, Crimson: number two offense number one defense) combined to connect on only 12 of 40 total pass attempts. On the day, the Wildcat signal callers had just as easy of a time completing passes to those donning the opposite color jerseys as their own, or the defense, throwing a combined six interceptions.
“I thought I did alright we were down on our receivers a little bit,” quarterback Justin Lane said. “All spring we were down on a couple guys so we were limited and had to throw a couple new guys in.”
Bennett hopes to come into summer practice with three quarterbacks ready to compete for the starting job.
The task of replacing former 1000 yard rusher and workhorse running back Demetrius Sumler got a lot easier with the emergence of soon-to-be sophomore running back Jordan Todd. Todd, who didn’t start a game his freshman season, rushed for just under 600-yards backing up the first team all-conference performer in Sumler. Todd finished the 2012 season off with a bang, rushing for 192 total yards along with three touchdowns in the GNAC Championship clinching game.
“Jordan Todd is the real deal, he really is,” Bennett said. “”He carried the load for us this fall and towards the end of [last] season.”
Along with replacing the second leading rusher in the GNAC last season (Sumler), Bennett is faced with the challenge of replacing the top three leading receivers on the team from last year. Receivers Anthony Spain, Tavoy Moore, and Robert Akeo-Orr combined for 1,321 combined yards on the season to go along with seven touchdowns. Of the seven wide receivers to catch a pass during the spring game, none of them had a catch the previous season.
After losing the top five offensive weapons from last season it may take some time for them to create the chemistry that last year’s team had and gel into the GNAC championship contending teams from years past. The defense, on the other hand, will be asked to carry the load while the offense works out the kinks.
Reigning GNAC defensive player of the year Stan Langlow returns at safety after his exceptional 2012 season. Langlow led the Wildcats in tackles (81) and also had one interception after totaling nine picks the previous two years. Langlow also recorded nine tackles for loss and blocked one kick in his award winning year.
Bennett has had nothing but praise about the Wildcat defensive secondary so far this year. After losing two senior defensive backs to graduation, two soon-to-be sophomores will step in and be asked to carry the load for the defense. Cornerback Cedrique Chaney and Isaiah Davis both earned all-GNAC defensive team honors in 2012 after a combined five interceptions and 25 pass deflections; Chaney also forced two fumbles on the year.
“I thought our defensive backs had an amazing [spring game],” Bennett said. “Our defensive backs continue to be one of the premier positions in this program right now and I feel the defensive line is also one of our strengths.”
The Wildcats also return two more all-GNAC defensive players in senior linebacker Riley Wall, who was third on the Wildcats in tackles last year, and senior defensive lineman Donnie Johnson, who tied for the team lead in sacks last season.
The spring game marked the end Wildcat football until summer practices start up on August 14th.
“Take a couple weeks off, rest the body and then hit it hard again, come back and hit it harder and get ready for fall,” Todd said.