BEREA, Ohio – Four years ago, current Baldwin Wallace University senior quarterback Robbie Plagens (Rocky River) was just beginning his first collegiate preseason training camp at NCAA Division I Miami of Ohio in Oxford. On August 9, Plagens will come to Berea as the heir-apparent to be the quarterback for the BW Yellow Jackets. And, Plagens is happy to have that opportunity.
"I am 100 percent happy with my decision to join BW from Miami," said Plagens. "I made some great, lifelong friends from my time in Oxford, and I am still in touch with some of them. The same and more is true of BW and the friends I have made here. Being at BW for me has been an unbelievable experience, and I am looking forward to having a great senior season.
"My confidence level is high," continued Plagens, who backed up and split time the past two seasons with 2015 All-Ohio Athletic Conference signal-caller Tyler Moeglin '16 (Louisville). "Being able to learn from a guy like Tyler Moeglin and watch some of the things he was able to do on and off the field really gave me an appreciation for the quarterback position and football in general"
Heading into the 2016 season, Plagens, who completed 30 of 49 passes for 427 yards with two touchdowns and one interception last season and was 22 of 30 for 272 yards with two TD's and three interceptions in 2014, is confident he can lead BW this fall.
"When I first got to Miami, I was a wide-eyed kid just looking for a shot to lead a team to the Mid-American Conference title," said Plagens, a business major who would like to work in the field of sales and who left Miami of Ohio after his freshman season. "I was the third quarterback behind a guy who currently plays for the Miami Dolphins and another who led Miami to the MAC title when the top QB suffered a serious injury.
"Once I earned the third string spot, I became complacent," said Plagens. "I made some mistakes by taking my opportunity for granted. That led to a demotion. I knew I needed another chance, and by the grace of god, Coach Snell [BW 15-year Head Coach John Snell] was happy to give me another shot."
Of course having the top eight receivers return from last year's team has Plagens both happy and excited. A year ago, BW averaged 31.5 points and 420.6 yards of offense per game. In addition, in last year's season-finale, a 44-31 win versus OAC rival Heidelberg University, Plagens started for the injured Moeglin and had his best game as a collegian. He completed 23 of 37 passes for 300 yards and a pair of TD's. He also ran for 33 more yards.
"I can't say enough good things about the job our receivers coach Ron Lewis does with our wideouts," said Plagens, who also compliments a number of the other Yellow Jacket coaches for their innovations and dedication. "He's instilled a great attitudinal approach and I know he gets them to work hard day-in and day-out He's an outstanding coach and motivator.
"We're lucky to have some of the most hard-working and talented receivers in the OAC returning this fall," continued Plagens. "Guys like Mike Waggoner (Stow/ Stow-Munroe Falls), Bryon Cook (Tallmadge), Tommy Fuller (Lakewood), Trevor George (Aliquippa, Pa./ Carlyton) and Tyler Wolf (Fremont/ Ross) are outstanding veterans, and our younger guys like Jordan Leverette (Cleveland/ John Adams), Ty Ramsier (Rittman) and Chad Steinwachs (Buffalo, N.Y./ Williamsville North) are game-breakers who all saw valuable laying time last season."
When you combine the eight returning receivers to the two returning running backs Austin Smith (North Royalton) and Adam Blake (Alliance/ Marlington), the group of 10 combined to catch 157 of the 171 pass completions a year ago for a combined 1,971 yards and 14 TD's. Smith and Blake also combined for 714 yards and seven TD's on the ground. That gives both Snell and Plagens a strong group of runners and receivers that they can depend on this fall.
Yellow Jacket 15-year Head Coach John Snell is confident in Plagens ability to lead his offense in 2016, but also feels that he must earn the job outright during camp.
"Robbie is an outstanding young man, student and football player," said Snell, who is 89-53 during his first 14 seasons at his alma mater. "He comes into camp having the most experience of any of our quarterbacks who return or are new to the program. He is very talented and knows our offense. The past two years he has grown in confidence individually, and we have grown more confidence in his ability as a staff.
"But it is a case of solidifying his status as the starter," continued Snell. "Robbie will receive some stiff competition for the job in camp and we are looking forward to watching the battle."
Undaunted, Plagens is ready for the season.
"Our ultimate team goal is to always win the NCAA Division III national championship again," said Plagens [BW won the Division III national title in 1978]. "In addition, the team goals include winning the OAC regular season title and making the national playoffs.
"More importantly, we want to reach our full potential. If we can go out and give our best at every practice and in every game, we feel that we have a shot to do something special, and have a lot of fun doing it.
"My individual goals are very similar to our team goals," said a humble Plagens. "I want to reach my full potential as a college student-athlete and best leader I can, especially for the young guns who might need some direction from time to time. The stats and awards and all go with that will take care of itself."
Plagens is grateful for his opportunity to lead the Yellow Jackets. He also knows that much of his success is due to having great role models at home.
"My two big role models for me are my dad, Bill, and my brother," said Plagens. "They have always showed me the right way to do things and I can't thank them enough for everything that they've done for me up to this point in my life."
BW opens its 2016 season on Thursday, September 1 versus non-conference foe Defiance College at 7 p.m. on Tressel Field at The George Finnie Stadium on Shriners' Night/ the annual Lee Tressel Shrine Classic Game. The OAC schedule begins on Saturday, Sept. 17 when BW travels to University Heights to play OAC and cross-town rival John Carroll University in the 28th Annual Battle for the Cuyahoga Gold Bowl Trophy at Don Shula Stadium at 7 p.m.