After two successful seasons under the direction of third-year Head Coach Jim Hilvert, the Baldwin Wallace University football team will count on 10 starters and 41 returning letterwinners to continue its goal of an Ohio Athletic Conference title and NCAA Division III playoff appearance.
For the first time in three seasons, there will be a new a signal caller for the BW offense in 2019. Senior A.J. Miller and sophomore Jack Gibbons enter the season as the favorites to take over the helm but neither have yet to attempt a pass in a varsity game. Look for a group of upperclassmen and newcomers to push Miller and Gibbons for reps early in camp.
The rushing attack will serve as the foothold of the offense as it returns a top five OAC back and two others that carried the ball in 2018. Sophomore All-OAC running back Jon Murray, Jr. returns as the leading rusher with 723 yards and a nine touchdowns. Murray, Jr is also a threat out of the backfield as he caught nine passes for 91 yards. Junior Q'Darr Robinson will look to handle the ball more this season after just carrying it 13 times a season ago. Seniors Anfernee Jackson and Carter Rudy and junior Brandon Mounts will look to find their way into the backfield.
The tight end position returns key veterans in seniors Pat Orsini and Mitchell Yehl along with sophomore Michael Campbell. Orsini is the main pass catcher of the group as he has hauled in six receptions for 80 yards and two touchdowns in two seasons. Yehl and Campbell were mainly featured in the run game but can release out for another target one offense. Senior Reggie Lander, junior Jakob Schneider and sophomore Desmond Lowery will provide added depth.
The receiving corps took a big hit with the graduation of three of its top four pass catchers. Senior Deion Greer returns as the top target after catching a career-high 40 passes for a career-best 414 yards and four touchdowns. The versatile Greer is also threat in the rushing attack as he carried the ball 14 times for 125 yards and three touchdowns. Seniors Darion Greer and Schnyder Boucard are the only two other wide outs to catch a pass a season ago. Greer, who missed the final five games, reeled in 12 catches for 144 yards with one score while Boucard caught just one pass in seven games.. Look for senior Michael Carbon, juniors Cody Kobielus, Iyan Mitchell, Tommy Richmond and sophomore Richie Nock to make a splash this fall.
The offensive line is the focal point of the offensive squad with three starters returning. Senior Clayton Stanton junior Patrick Simon and sophomore Jivan Meguerditchian anchored and offensive line that helped the Yellow Jackets total 456.6 yards and 38.8 points per game. Simon started every game, including playing every position. Meguerditchian was the every game starter at center and Stanton returns as the starter at right tackle after missing the final two games. Look for senior Ryan Sympson, juniors Jacob Liberati and Austin Vest and sophomores Liam Leveto, Nathan Parker and Austin Stafford to provide depth.
The defensive line took a big hit with the graduation of backfield disrupter Wezlee Spence but at the same time gets a jump start with the return of senior Sekou Imani from an injury that sidelined him in 2018. Junior Taino Arocho is the lone every day starter to play upfront after recording 32 tackles and 1.5 sacks. Senior Eric Metz and sophomore Seth Schrock took advantage of playing time last season and will be counted on to play a major role up front. Seniors Ahja Dean Phillips, Noah Jackson, who played linebacker last season, and Jake Schrock and sophomores Cole Lavorini and Devon Slocum bring added experience.
The linebacking unit returns both of its starters and two of its three top tacklers. Senior Josh Liberati will be the captain of the defense for the second straight season. Liberati led the squad with a career-high 59 tackles, including a 5.5 for a loss and three quarterback sacks. Junior Brenton Miller will lineup next to Liberati for the second straight season after finishing tied for second on the squad with 54 tackles and second on the team with five sacks. Junior Chris Burnside and sophomores Nick Pankow , Jason Utegg along with a host of newcomers will push for playing time behind the Jackets best stoppers in the middle of the field.
The secondary will once again be an exciting group to watch with a lot of speed and experience returning. Seniors Jack Bauer, Jordyn Johnson, Kyle Kelly all return as starters along with sophomores Dominick Bowman and Anthony Kendall, who both saw considerable playing time a season ago. Bauer and Bowman will be the starters at safety while Johnson and Kendall will handle the corner duties. In the biggest switch, Kelly will move up from the safety spot to play the rover position. Bringing experience and depth to this unit are seniors Nick Barhorst, Matt Dunning, Elijah Green and Raheem Wilson, juniors Trevor Hawks and DJ Issac. Wilson will play havoc on an aerial attack after posting a career-high in tackles and interceptions last campaign.
Senior Jimmy Marshall is the lone specialist to return this season as he will once again handle the place kicking duties. Marshall had a breakout season as he recorded a career-highs in points, point-after-attempts and field goals, including nailing a career-long and game-winning 40-yard field goal in week eight. Camp will open with an open competition for the kickoff and punting duties after the graduation of Riley Jones and Rob Wolfington.
The biggest question mark of the 2019 campaign for the Yellow Jackets will come in the return game as all but three players that returned a kick a season ago are gone from the roster. Deion Greer comes back as the top kick off returner as he returned two kicks for 28 yards. Deion Greer, DJ Isaac and Anthony Kendall are the only returning players to return a punt as each only had one last year. Look for Iyan Mitchell and group of upperclassmen and newcomers to compete for the openings this season.
For the second straight season, BW will not have their bye week in the first two weeks of the season but instead will take a Saturday off during week six.
The 2019 season also features the Yellow Jackets playing on the road for the first three weeks. BW opens the campaign with its lone non-conference game on Saturday, September 7 against Alma (Mich.) College. What would have been the normal bye week, the Yellow Jackets will remain on the road when it plays Otterbein University in the OAC opener on September 14. BW ends it season opening road trip on September 21 when it takes on defending OAC Champion and NCAA Division III runner-up Mount Union.
The Yellow Jackets close out September action and return to the friendly confines of The George Finnie Stadium with its home opener on September 28 against hosts Heidelberg in the 42nd Lee Tressel Shrine Classic.
As the season rolls into October, BW will host Capital in a Community and Family Day and Homecoming game on October 5. After a week off, the Yellow Jackets return to the road with an OAC game against Muskingum on October 19. BW closes out the month with an OAC and Hall of Fame Day game against Wilmington on October 26.
As the calendar flips into November, the Yellow Jackets host preseason nationally ranked Marietta on November 2. BW hits the road for the final time on November 9 for an OAC game against Ohio Northern. The regular season comes to an end on November 16 when BW hosts an OAC game against crosstown rival John Carroll in the 31st Battle for the Cuyahoga County Gold Bowl Trophy.