BEREA, OHIO -- The 2010 Baldwin-Wallace College football team returns 29 lettermen, including a number of key starters on offense, defense and special teams as it hopes to compete for both an Ohio Athletic Conference title and a berth into the NCAA Division III Playoffs. Head Coach John Snell enters his ninth season at the helm of the Yellow Jacket program with a career record of 49-33 (.598).
"Our goals never change at B-W," said Snell. "Each year we set out to win championships. "We're definitely not satisfied with where we have finished the last few years but that in no way changes our expectations for the upcoming year. We are motivated and feel like we have the right team and staff in place to return B-W football to where it belongs."
Offensively, the Yellow Jackets will be led by the running back trio of fifth-year senior Kyrell Crook (Columbus/ St. Francis DeSales), senior John McGraw (North Ridgeville) and junior Tim Miker (Parma/Senior).
Crook was the leading rusher in 2009 with 559 yards on 134 carries. He added six touchdowns on the ground and also caught 14 passes out of the backfield. Miker rushed for 543 yards and four touchdowns, despite missing four games due to injury. McGraw led the team with nine rushing touchdowns and accumulated 486 yards on the ground. Miker also returned nine kickoffs for an average of 22.9 yards.
"Our trio of running backs should be one of the most productive in the conference," said Snell. "Each guy is experienced in carrying the load and brings a different skillset to our offensive attack."
The receiving corps will be led by junior Devon Jennings (Euclid), who was the team's leading receiver in 2009, despite playing in only five games due to injury. Jennings caught 43 passes (8.6 receptions per game) for 419 yards and three touchdowns.
In addition to Jennings, B-W has a host of other weapons back in the passing game, including senior WR John Myers (Macedonia/Nordonia), junior WRs Anthony Fairhurst (Ashland/Senior) and Dan Turner (Youngstown/Ursuline) and junior WR/TE Aaron Hurd (Tiffin/Columbian). Hurd tied for third on the team with 17 catches for 151 yards and two touchdowns. Myers caught 10 passes for 152 yards and two scores.Fairhurst caught seven passes (two for touchdowns) and Turner added nine receptions. Fullback/tight end Danny Reineck (Woodstock, Ga./Etowah) also lettered last year.
"Our receiving corps is deep and talented," noted Snell. "We have a good mix of size and speed at the position.
With the graduation of All-OAC signal caller Anthony Gardner, the quarterback position is open for competition. B-W welcomes transfer sophomore Ryan O'Rourke (Avon) from Slippery Rock (Pa.) University to the mix of returning quarterbacks that will compete for the job. O'Rourke appears to be the front-runner but also look for sophomores Josh Masters (Akron/Archbishop Hoban) and Andrew Dziak (Maple Heights/Parma Padua Franciscan) to push for the starting role.
The offensive line returns three players with veteran experience. Senior Dan Paterline (Reynoldsburg) and junior Travis Barnhill (Findlay/Senior) were both starters last year at multiple positions along the line and junior Jimmy Basar (Parma/Senior) returns after starting six games at center. All three helped open holes for the B-W rushing attack, which ranked third in the OAC last year at 200.5 yards per game.
"Any success our offense has this season will have to start up front," said Snell. "We have a solid group of veterans that we need to stay healthy and help work our younger guys into the mix. Any successful offense needs to have stability on the O-Line."
Defensively, B-W will once again have a sound linebacking corps, paced by All-OAC senior Ryan Kish (Amherst/Marion Steele). Kish led the team in tackles with 90, including a team-high of 21 in the season finale at Capital, and had four tackles for loss. He enters his senior year with 190 career stops. Joining Kishare juniors J.J. Laseak (Mentor) and Brett Thompson (Shelby). Thompson was third on the team with 66 tackles and tied for the team lead with 10.0 tackles for loss. Laseak added 26 tackles. In addition, B-W returns lettermen in senior Ben Pahl (Miami, Fla./Gulliver Prep) and junior Brian Ellis (Fort Mitchell, Ky./Dayton) at linebacker.
"Our linebackers are our most experienced unit and we're expecting them to set the tone for the defense," noted Snell. "We have sound tacklers at the position but we also have guys who have a knack for forcing turnovers and getting pressure on the quarterback."
The defensive line also returns three starters including senior defensive tackle Kevin Phipps (Pataskala/Watkins Memorial), junior DT Max Wagner (Mentor) and senior DE Keith Darbut (Miami, Fla./Palmetto Senior). Darbut had a team-high five sacks with 25 tackles and seven QB hurries. Phippsrecorded 26 tackles and Wagner added 19.
The secondary will be led by two-year starter and senior All-OAC safety Ryan Dugan (Mentor). Dugan led the OAC with six interceptions last year, made 49 stops and had six pass break-ups after switching from the cornerback position. Junior Corey Hildreth (Massillon/Washington) returns at safety, where he made 31 tackles and had an interception in 2009. Junior Matt Bowen (Tiffin/Columbian) and senior Ryan Wallace (Uniontown/Lake) also return after seeing playing time in the secondary last year. Also expect senior Nick Clemons (Oak Harbor) and sophomore Brandon Russo (Olmsted Falls) to make an impact in 2010.
"Both our D-Line and secondary return all-conference caliber players," said Snell. "Both units have the ability to make impact plays and we are expecting them to do more of that this season."
On special teams, B-W returns senior placekicker Brad Pollock (Broadview Heights/Brecksville-Broadview Heights) and junior kickoff specialist David Cantu (Lorain/Amherst Marion Steele). Pollock was five-of-six on field goals last year with a long of 28 yards and 25-of-30 on extra point attempts. Cantu averaged 57.0 yards per kickoff and had four touchbacks. Snell expects to resolve the battle for the open punter position during preseason camp. Reineck also is back as the long snapper.
The 2010 schedule features six home games, including the season opener on Thursday, September 2 when B-W hosts The College of Wooster on Tressel Field at The George Finnie Stadium in Berea at 7:00 p.m. It marks the beginning of a two-year home and home series between BW and Wooster and the first meeting between the two schools since 1983.
B-W then begins play in the always tough OAC, which has three teams ranked in the top 25 nationally in all major Division III preseason polls.
Week Two marks the OAC opener on Community & Family Night against Capital University on September 11 at 6:30 p.m. After a bye week, B-W hosts Marietta College on October 2 and Otterbein University on October 9 for Homecoming.
Wilmington College comes to Berea on October 23, which is designated as Professor Appreciation Day. The home finale pits B-W against the University of Mount Union on Seniors' Day in Berea on November 6 at 1:30 p.m.
The regular season wraps up with the "Battle for the Cuyahoga Gold Bowl Trophy" as B-W plays at rival John Carroll University in University Heights on November 13 at 1:30 p.m.
"We prepare for a tough schedule year in and year out", said Snell. "As a team in the OAC, you know you had better bring your best every week if expect to have a chance to win. No different than any season, we also know we have to get off to a good start to set the tone for the remainder of the year."
FOR MORE B-W Sports Information, please contact Sports Information Director Kevin Ruple by telephone at 440-826-2327 and e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or Assistant SID Nick Minerd by phone at 440-826-2780 and e-mail at email@example.com. Fans can access the latest B-W athletics information at www.bw.edu/athletics and we invite you to join us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/bwyellowjackets and Twitter athttp://twitter.com/bwathletics.