Preview video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?
2015 record: 7-4 (3-2 Heart, T-2nd)
Starters returning/lost: 9/17 (including special teams)
Letterwinners returning/lost: 29/42
Hunter Barry Sr. Morris, Ill.
(First-team all-Heart, 27 tackles, 2 sacks)
Jake Baptiste Jr. Salt Lake City, Utah
(Letterwinner, 80 tackles, 3 fumble recoveries)
Nate VanVeldhuizen So. Oskaloosa, Iowa
(Letterwinner, 608 rushing yards, 4 TDs)
Van Parker Jr. Muskegon, Mich.
(Letterwinner, 4 receptions, 74 yards)
LeeAndre Fisher Jr.
Sage Ehresman Fr. Lynnville, Iowa
Talent looks to trump inexperience as the Statesmen football team prepares for the 2016 season.
William Penn is coming off a solid debut in the Heart of America Athletic Conference, going 7-4 overall (3-2 North) last year. A large group of gridiron stars have since graduated, but Head Coach Todd Hafner is excited to see which of his young talents will step up and win those open spots this fall.
Senior defensive lineman Hunter Barry (Sr., Morris, Ill., Physical Education) is the most decorated member of the navy and gold posse with two first-team all-league honors and is poised to lead WPU.
No matter who takes over the role behind center for the August 27 season opener at home against Missouri Valley, that individual will be taking his first collegiate snap. Van Parker (Jr., Muskegon, Mich., Physical Education) moves over from wide receiver to face off with fellow newcomer Eric Cooper (Jr., Aguanga, Calif., Human Services). While he has not trained as a collegiate quarterback until recently, Parker is not at all foreign to the option attack as he was the QB of his high school’s option offense.
A quartet of newcomers will vie for time as well.
The most polished positions on offense will be behind the signal caller as returners Jonathan Ward (Sr., Terry, Miss., Undecided) and Carl Sivels (Jr., Washington, Iowa, Physical Education) lead the slot crew.
Sivels rushed for 221 yards and a score, while Ward ran the ball for 68 yards (also one TD).
Loads of depth will also come from new Statesmen.
The 1-2 punch of Nate Van Veldhuizen (So., Oskaloosa, Iowa, Mechanical Engineering) and Amos Johnson (Jr., Rock Island, Ill., Mechanical Engineering) also returns to bolster the William Penn running game.
Van Veldhuizen gobbled up 608 yards (most of all returners) and four touchdowns, while Johnson managed 519 yards and five TDs (tops for returners).
2015 redshirt Lyle Jennings (Jr., Toronto, Ohio, Exercise Science) is also deep in the mix at fullback.
Another returner, Brandon Polito (Sr., St. Louis, Mo., Psychology), will bunch in with several more capable young men, including 2015 redshirt Jake De Hamer (Sr., Des Moines, Iowa, Physical Education) to produce incredible strength at fullback.
While not utilized much in the Statesmen offense, the receiving corps has the ability to be a stout one with Desmond Douglas (Sr., Decatur, Ala., Physical Education) headlining. The senior hauled in 10 catches for 117 yards and two scores a year ago.
Hunter Anfinsen (So., Farmington, Utah, Undecided), who is transitioning from quarterback, is part of a sizeable group who may get their numbers called from time to time as well. Topping that list is Tyler Wood (Fr., Newton, Iowa, Education), Tyler Phillips (So., Altus, Okla., Physical Education), and Jeremiah Benson (Fr., Kansas City, Mo., Physical Education).
Cory Fitzjarrell (Jr., Anderson, Calif., Industrial Technology) hits the turf as the incumbent at tight end, but is expected to get a push from newcomer Tanner Krieg.
Two-time All-American Hea Tuifua is gone as is the rest of the 2015 line, but WPU’s coaching staff is pleased with the individuals who have been waiting in the wings.
Sione Mafua is ready to take over at center, while the likes of Nick Jackson (So., Broken Arrow, Okla., Biology), Beau Picard (So., Ozark, Mo., Biology), Michael Ott (So., Broken Arrow, Okla., History/Government), Hunter Dailey (So., Texarkana, Texas, Biology), Haydn Stender, and Joe Reschman (Jr., Poteet, Texas, History/Government) are busy battling for the other starting roles.
While Barry will undoubtedly receive a lot of attention, his fellow defensive linemen should also make life difficult for opposing offenses. Barry stopped 27 ball carriers and sacked two quarterbacks.
Malik Young (Sr., Peoria, Ill., Physical Education) is on the mend and the ETA for his return is unknown, but Marcus Bell (Jr., River Rouge, Mich., Business Management) andAzia Seei (So., West Valley City, Utah, Undecided) are available to pick up the slack in the middle. Seei is moving across the line from a fullback spot last season.
Cooper Gosch (So., Reeds Springs, Okla., Education) is slated to be the class leader on the outside, while Resean Coleman (So., River Rouge, Mich., Exercise Science),Dalton Haddock (So., Reeds Springs, Mo., Education), Anthony Jackson (So., Detroit, Mich., Physical Education), and others will also compete for snaps.
Jake Baptiste (Jr., Salt Lake City, Utah, Psychology) enters 2016 as the best tackler on the squad with 80 stops a year ago. Mason Rohr (Jr., Nixa, Mo., Biology) (48 tackles) and Mason Wisse (Jr., Oskaloosa, Iowa, Physical Education) (11 tackles) have waited and are also ready to finally put their own stamps on the Statesmen program.
Aaron Allen (Sr., Bolivar, Mo., Secondary Education), Justin Beener (So., Prairie City, Iowa, Physical Education), and newcomer LeeAndre Fisher have also made the short list of those will should make big impacts in 2016.
Depth may be a bit of a concern early on for the navy and gold secondary, but a lack of talent is not. Antonio Brown (Sr., Midwest City, Okla., Undecided) (41 tackles, four interceptions) and Dajon Shaw (So., Highland Park, Mich., Undecided) (27 tackles) both return from last year as do safeties Walter Eastwood (Sr., Garden City, Mo., Computer Science) (56 tackles, four interceptions) and Kyle Baldassarre (Jr., Webb City, Mo., Industrial Technology) (41 tackles).
Newcomer Winston Green is on the radar for playing time as well.
Samson Tamijani (So., Houston, Texas, Communications) will be lifted by a big 2015 campaign (48 extra points, four field goals), but newbie Hunter Behm is bringing in a big foot that should, at the very least, improve the Statesmen’s kickoff coverage.
Aaron Allen will partner up with Tyler Wood to return WPU to a two-punter formation. Limited to just one punter hamstringed the coverage team a year ago, so Hafner is pleased to put a second rugby-style kicker back into play.
Delivering the ball to his team’s kickers will once again be longsnapper Cody Brigham (Sr., Spencer, Iowa, Elementary Education).
With a schedule identical to last year (only the locations have switched), William Penn opens with six North-South crossover games within the Heart. The Statesmen finally play a ‘league’ game on October 15 when they host Peru State for Homecoming. Navy and gold fans will get to see their gridiron stars at home six times this year.
Defending North champion Grand View has the preseason nod from the coaches, but WPU figures to be in the thick of it at season’s end.
Story provided by Wade Steinlage