Michigan Coaching Connection Games Labor Day Weekend

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Fergodsakes.com previews the college football games on Labor Day Weekend involving a Michigan coaching connection. Roaming the sidelines as coaches of various college programs are former Michigan players, former Michigan assistant coaches, and former Coach Hoke assistant coaches. Here are their schedules for this weekend:

Thursday Games, August 30

Eastern Michigan, with former Michigan Defensive Coordinator Ron English as Head Coach, former Michigan running back Mike Hart as Running Backs Coach, and former Michigan offensive lineman Kurt Anderson as Offensive Line Coach, travel to Muncie, Indiana to take on the Ball State Cardinals. The game is at 7:00pm ET on ESPN3. Also at 7:00pm ET Northern Michigan University, with former Wolverine wide receiver Marcus Knight as Wide Receivers Coach, hosts Findlay in the season opener for both teams. Brady Hoke’s Running Backs Coach for two seasons at Ball State, Trent Boykin, now holds the same position for Akron, and the Zips will host Central Florida at 7:00pm ET on ESPN3. Tennessee Tech and Secondary Coach, Sidney Powell (Secondary Coach for three seasons for Hoke at Ball State), will host Hampton.

Friday Games, August 31

Only one game on Friday with Michigan coaching ties. Chuck Heater, Michigan running back from 1971-74, is now the Defensive Coordinator for the Temple Owls. Temple hosts Villanova in the season opener for both teams. The game will be on ESPN3 at 7:00pm ET.

Saturday Games, September 1

At noon ET on the Big Ten Network, the Miami University Redhawks take on the Buckeyes in Columbus. Among those getting the first look at Urban Meyer’s new team will be Don Treadwell and Ed Stults. Treadwell was Hoke’s first Offensive Coordinator at Ball State in 2003 and is now Miami’s Head Coach. Stults is Offensive Line Coach for the Redhawks. He succeeded Treadwell as Hoke’s Offensive Coordinator in 2004 and 2005 and held a variety of coaching positions under Hoke from 2003 – 2008 at Ball State. Wonder if any phone calls will be made from Miami to Ann Arbor after that game?

Former Wolverines Tyrone Wheatley and Steve Morrison are now coaching for Syracuse. Also on the Orange staff as Defensive Coordinator is former Wolverine Defensive Coordinator Scott Shafer. Syracuse will host Northwestern at noon on ESPN2.

Jim Lyall, defensive lineman at Michigan in the early 1970’s, is currently Head Coach at Siena Heights University in Adrian, Michigan. His Saints will travel to Iowa to take on Iowa Wesleyan at 2:00pm. The Saints are 1-0 on the young season, and also have former Wolverine Rob Thornbladh as Outside Linebackers Coach.

At 3:30pm ET, from Soldier Field in Chicago, current Iowa Wide Receivers Coach (and former Michigan wide receiver and Wide Receivers Coach) Erik Campbell and the Hawkeyes take on Northern Illinois on ESPNU. Another game at 3:30pm ET, on the Big Ten Network, has Wisconsin hosting Northern Iowa. Eddie Faulkner, Running Backs Coach for Hoke at Ball State (2005-08) is now Tight Ends Coach for the Badgers.

Anthony Thomas, the A-Train himself, currently Special Teams Coordinator at West Virginia Wesleyan, and the Bobcats travel to Millersville to kick off their season at 6:00pm ET.

Auburn will take on Clemson at 7:00pm ET in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game in Atlanta. In his first game as Auburn’s Offensive Coordinator is former Michigan quarterback and Quarterbacks Coach Scot Loeffler. The game will be televised on ESPN.

Preseason Number Three team in the country LSU and former Wolverine player and Offensive Line Coach Les Miles will take on North Texas State on ESPNU at 7:00pm ET. Also at 7:00pm ET, former Wolverine quarterback Nick Sheridan makes his debut as Quarterbacks Coach for Western Kentucky, as the Hilltoppers take on Austin Peay. The game is scheduled to be on ESPN3. At the same time in Shreveport, Louisiana, former Michigan Linebackers Coach (2008-09) Jay Hopson makes his debut as Head Coach for Alcorn State as the Braves take on Grambling State in a SWAC matchup. Finally at 7:00pm ET, former Wolverine Safeties Coach (2010) Adam Braithwaite and the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga Mocs head to Florida to take on the University of South Florida. Braithwaite is now the Safeties Coach for the Mocs. The game will be on ESPN3.

At 8:00pm Eastern Time, while former Wolverine player and current Secondary Coach Curt Mallory and Michigan take on the Alabama Crimson Tide, his brother Doug Mallory and the Indiana Hoosiers will host Indiana State. Doug is co-Defensive Coordinator for the Hoosiers, and the game against the Sycamores will be broadcast on the Big Ten Network.

The Arizona Wildcats contingent – Rich Rodriguez, Calvin McGee, Tony Dews, Tony Gibson, and Rod Smith – open their season at home against the Toledo Rockets at 10:30pm ET on ESPNU. Interestingly, a former Michigan defensive back under Rodriguez and company, Vladimir Emilien, now plays for the Rockets. Also at 10:30pm ET, the San Diego State Aztecs travel to Washington to take on the Huskies. Former Hoke assistant coaches Rocky Long, Brian Sipe, Tony White, and LeCharls McDaniel remain with San Diego State. The game will be televised on the Pac-12 Network.

At 11:00pm ET, Weber State visits Fresno State. Former Hoke Defensive Backs Coach at Ball State Eric Lewis is in his first season as Cornerbacks Coach at Weber State.

Sunday Games, September 2

At noon ET on ESPN, Bethune-Cookman plays Alabama State in the MEAC/SWAC Challenge in Orlando’s Florida Citrus Bowl. Offensive Line Coach for Bethune-Cookman is John Powers, who coached for Brady Hoke at Ball State from 2006-08.

In the final game of the holiday weekend involving a Michigan coaching connection, the Louisville Cardinals take on the Kentucky Wildcats in an intra-state rivalry game at 3:30pm ET on ESPN. Vance Bedford, Michigan Defensive Backs Coach from 1995-98, and again in 2007, is now Defensive Coordinator for Louisville.

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Season Preview Intriguing Games Part Two

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Fergodsakes.com is taking a look at the 2012 football season’s intriguing games in college and the NFL – intriguing because of who is coaching on the sidelines. Former Michigan players, former Michigan assistant coaches, and former Coach Hoke assistant coaches, face off against each other throughout the season. This is Part Two, covering college games in November. Part One covered college games through the end of October. Part Three, NFL games, will be published next week.

On November 3, Erik “Soup” Campbell, Wide Receivers Coach for Iowa, and the Hawkeyes will travel to Indiana to face the Hoosiers. On the Hoosiers staff is Doug Mallory, a Wolverine teammate of Campbell’s for four years in the mid-1980’s. They won a Big 10 title together, and played in the Rose Bowl together. In this matchup, Campbell’s wide receivers will be matched up against Mallory’s defense (Mallory is co-Defensive Coordinator and Safeties Coach).

November 3 has a matchup of defenses in Louisville – defenses from the Michigan fan’s perspective. Chuck Heater, who played for the Wolverines from 1971-74, is currently Defensive Coordinator for the Temple Owls. On the opposing sideline is Vance Bedford, Defensive Coordinator for Louisville. Bedford had two stints as Defensive Backs Coach at Michigan (1995-98, and again in 2007). Heater and Bedford share more than Michigan ties – the two were on the defensive staff of the Florida Gators in their 2008 National Championship season. Heater will also say hello to his former Defensive Coordinator at Florida, Charlie Strong, who is now the Head Coach for the Cardinals.

Also on November 3, up the road a little bit from Louisville will be a matchup of running backs. The Orange of Syracuse, with Running Backs Coach Tyrone Wheatley (Michigan running back 1991-94), visit the Bearcats of Cincinnati, with Running Backs Coach Roy Manning (Michigan linebacker 2000-04). Joining Wheatley on the Syracuse sideline is his former teammate, Orange Linebacker Coach Steve Morrison (Michigan linebacker 1990-94), as well as Syracuse Defensive Coordinator Scott Shafer (Michigan Defensive Coordinator 2008). Joining Manning on the Bearcat sideline is former Michigan Defensive Line Coach Steve Stripling (2005-07) who holds the same position with Cincinnati.

One week later, on November 10, Louisville, Temple, Cincinnati, and Syracuse all swap opponents. Heater and the Temple Owls will host Cincinnati with Manning and Stripling, while Bedford and Louisville will head to Syracuse to take on Wheatley, Morrison, Shafer, and the Orange.

Eddie Faulkner, former Hoke Running Backs Coach at Ball State, is now Tight Ends Coach with Wisconsin. On November 10 the Badgers host Indiana, with co-Defensive Coordinator Doug Mallory (Captain of Michigan’s 1987 squad, Team 108) and Offensive Line Coach Greg Frey (Michigan Offensive Line Coach under Rich Rodriguez).

On November 17 Erik Campbell will make a return trip to Ann Arbor. The former long time Michigan Wide Receivers Coach, and former Michigan player (1984-87) is now Iowa’s Wide Receivers Coach. He will have a chance to say hello to Brady Hoke, Greg Mattison, and Fred Jackson, among others. Campbell was on the 1997 National Championship staff with Hoke and Jackson, and coached alongside Mattison for the Wolverines in 1995 and 1996.

The day after Thanksgiving, November 23, has Chuck Heater and the Temple Owls hosting Syracuse, with Tyrone Wheatley, Steve Morrison, and Scott Shafer on the coaching staff. Also on this date, former Hoke assistants at Ball State, Don Treadwell (Head Coach) and Ed Stults (Offensive Line) of the Miami Redhawks, will face their former school, the Ball State Cardinals.

Part Three of the Season Preview will be published next week. It will cover intriguing NFL games from a coaching and Michigan perspective.

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2012 Season Preview Intriguing Games, Part One

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Fergodsakes.com is taking a look at the 2012 football season’s intriguing games in college and the NFL – intriguing because of who is coaching on the sidelines. Former Michigan players, former Michigan assistant coaches, and former Coach Hoke assistant coaches, face off as coaches against each other throughout the season. The preview of the 2012 season will be in three parts: Part One, college games through the end of October. Part Two, college games in November. Part Three, NFL games.

Don Treadwell was Brady Hoke’s first Offensive Coordinator at Ball State in 2003. Treadwell is now the Head Coach of the Miami University Redhawks. Ed Stults, who succeeded Treadwell as Hoke’s Offensive Coordinator in 2004 and 2005 (and held a variety of coaching positions under Hoke from 2003 – 2008 at Ball State) has joined Treadwell on the Redhawks staff. Miami travels to Columbus to take on the Buckeyes in the snakepit on September 1 and will get the first look at Urban Meyer’s new team. Wonder if any phone calls will be made from Miami to Ann Arbor after that game?

Among those studying game film of the Michigan-Alabama showdown on Sept 1 will be none other than former Wolverine quarterback Nick Sheridan. Sheridan is now the Quarterbacks Coach at Western Kentucky, and the Hilltoppers will travel to Tuscaloosa to take on the Crimson Tide on Sept 8. Also on September 8, the Indiana Hoosiers will travel to Massachusetts to take on the Minutemen. While this game may not register high on the national radar, Michigan does play UMass the following week. On the coaching staff of the Hoosiers is co-Defensive Coordinator Doug Mallory. Doug’s brother, Curt, is the Secondary Coach at Michigan. Curt may be calling his older brother a little more often than usual after the Indiana-UMass game to get a scouting report on the UMass offense. Also on Indiana’s staff is Offensive Line Coach Greg Frey, who faced UMass in 2010 when he was Michigan’s Offensive Line Coach. That was a game the Wolverines narrowly won, 42-37. Incidentally, while Frey was Offensive Line Coach at Michigan, a running back for the Wolverines was Michael Cox. Cox is now playing for UMass.

For Michigan fans, there may be no more intriguing game this season than the September 22 Eastern Michigan at Michigan State matchup. Mike Hart, former Michigan running back who coined the phrase “Little Brother”, visits East Lansing with the Eagles. Doubt that he and Coach Mark Dantonio will reminisce about old times. Of course leading the Eagles is Head Coach Ron English, former Michigan Defensive Coordinator. The third coach on EMU’s staff with Michigan ties is former Wolverine offensive lineman Kurt Anderson, whose final season was with Team 122 in 2001 (remember clock-gate and Spartan Bob?). Anderson is now the Offensive Line Coach with Eastern Michigan. Those three coaches who have Michigan as part of their background, as well as all Eastern Michigan players, coaches, and fans, would no doubt like to surprise a few folks when the Eagles visit East Lansing.

An SEC clash on September 22 will generate a fair amount of national attention, as Auburn plays host to LSU. Former Michigan quarterback and Quarterbacks Coach Scot Loeffler is in his first season as Offensive Coordinator for Auburn. Leading the way for LSU’s Tigers is former Michigan offensive lineman and Offensive Line Coach, Les Miles. Loeffler and Miles did cross paths on Teams 114 and 115 – Miles was Offensive Line Coach while Loeffler was quarterback in 1993 and 1994.

Studying game film of the Michigan-UMass game will be the Miami Redhawks, who face UMass on September 22, the week after Michigan takes on the Minutemen. As mentioned above, the Redhawks are coached by Brady Hoke’s first Offensive Coordinator, Don Treadwell. Also on Treadwell’s staff is Ed Stults, who was on Hoke’s staff the entire time Hoke was at Ball State.

On September 29, Miami will take on Akron in a Mid American Conference clash. On Akron’s staff is Trent Boykin, in his first season as Running Backs Coach for the Zips. Boykin was Running Backs Coach on Hoke’s Ball State staff in 2003 and 2004, coaching with Treadwell in 2003 and with Stults in both 2003 and 2004. With Michigan having a bye week on September 29, maybe Coach Hoke will head to Akron to watch the Zips and Redhawks.

The Miami Redhawks show up on the Fergodsakes radar again the following week, traveling to Cincinnati to take on the Bearcats October 6. On Cincinnati’s staff is former Michigan linebacker Roy Manning. Manning the player and Hoke the Defensive Line Coach were at Michigan together on Teams 121, 122, and 123 in 2000, 2001, and 2002. Manning redshirted in 2000, and wrapped up his career in 2004 on Team 125. Manning, now the Running Backs coach at Cincinnati, and the Bearcats will go up against former Hoke coaches Treadwell and Stults. Former Michigan Defensive Line Coach Steve Stripling (2005 – 2007) now holds the same position with Cincinnati.

Moving ahead to October 26, Cincinnati travels into Kentucky to take on Louisville in a Friday night affair. Louisville’s Defensive Coordinator is former Michigan Defensive Backs Coach Vance Bedford. As we just mentioned, Cincinnati’s Defensive Line Coach is Steve Stripling. Bedford and Stripling were together on Lloyd Carr’s last staff at Michigan in 2007, Team 128.

Part Two of the Season Preview will be published Wednesday. It will cover intriguing college games in the month November, including a pair of former Wolverine defensive backs who played together now facing each other on opposite sidelines.

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Siena Heights 2012 Season Preview with Jim Lyall, Team 94

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Jim Lyall, University of Michigan defensive lineman under Bo Schembechler from 1970-73, is currently the Head Coach of the Siena Heights University Saints, a National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) program in Adrian, Michigan. Also on staff at Siena Heights is Rob Thornbladh, a player on the 2006 Michigan squad. Fergodsakes.com spoke with Coach Lyall regarding his team and his time at Michigan.

The first season of Siena Heights Saints football was 2011, and Michigan Man Jim Lyall led the way. Lyall, who spent 20 years as Head Coach at Adrian College, was tapped to bring the Siena Heights program to fruition. The only Catholic University in the state of Michigan to offer football, the Saints in 2011 went 8-1 against a mixture of varsity, junior varisty and club football teams. The new 2012 season will mark Siena Heights’ first full year of varsity status, and the schedule is certainly a few steps up in competition from 2011. Playing in the top NAIA conference in the nation (The Mid States Football Assocation), the Saints are slated to face the NAIA number 1, 3, 6, and 11 teams in the country.

“There was never a more intense man than Bo Schembechler, and there will never be another Bo Schembechler.” Coach Lyall calls Schembechler and his position coach at Michigan, Frank Maloney, “the two biggest influences on me.” Those influences permeate his Siena Heights program. “We are building the program based on what Bo taught us – Character and Integrity. We have recruited as many high school captains as we could. We provide an education and a chance to be a part of history. We sell kids on the fact that it’s ‘our’ team. Everything we do adds or subtracts to our tradition. Hopefully that transcends sport and permeates their lives.”

Coach Lyall says, “I have a great coaching staff, which allows me to develop relationships with young men and develop something special with these kids.” As for style and playcalling, the Saints use aspects of the spread offense. “We think in terms of players first, formations second, and then we call plays.” As an NAIA program, Siena Heights is able to combine athletic and academic scholarships, and the Saints recruit to the system. “We want the best linemen we can find, the best quarterback we can find, and the most speed at every position that we can find.”

In talking about the 1973 Michigan team, Team 94, the team on which he was a senior, the pride in Lyall is evident. The Wolverines went 10-0-1, with the one tie of course being the 10-10 game against the Buckeyes. The next day the Big Ten Athletic Directors voted to send the Buckeyes to Pasadena to play in the Rose Bowl, even though they were Big 10 representatives in Pasadena the year before. Big Ten rules at that time prevented Michigan from going to a bowl game. How did Lyall find out about the vote? “I was pulling into the library, and was listening to CKLW. Ewan McGregor said that Michigan’s season was over. It was just a shock. Very difficult to put into words the emotions that were felt. For me personally, my career was over. I wasn’t going to play in the pros.” How big of a shock was it? “As we walked off the field after the game, the players from OSU congratulated us, wished us luck in Pasadena. Our entire feeling in the locker room after the game was celebration – we were going to California. I was sitting on Bo’s lap!”

“Bo talked to us at every reunion about how he never forgot what happened.” In large part because of that 1973 team, and Schembechler’s lobbying, the rules were changed to allow more than one Big Ten team to go to a bowl game in a given season. The 1975 team was the first Michigan team to benefit from the change, playing in the Orange Bowl against Oklahoma at the conclusion of the season. But for Lyall, part of what would end up the number 6 team in the country according to UPI, he sat home on New Years Day, 1974.

The Siena Heights University Saints open their season this Saturday, August 25 with a home game at 7:00pm against Robert Morris at O’Laughlin Stadium in Adrian, Michigan. Other home games are September 8 against Marian, September 29 against Taylor, October 6 against Olivet Nazarene, and on October 13 Siena Heights will host the preseason number 1 NAIA team in the country, St. Xavier. Road games are September 1 at Iowa Wesleyan, September 15 at Concordia (in Ann Arbor), October 20 at Grand View, October 27 at Saint Francis, and November 3 at Waldorf.

The Siena Heights Saints football website can be found here. Follow the Saints on twitter @SienaHeightsFB.

Where are former Michigan players and coaches coaching today? Fergodsakes.com will have 2012 season previews on some of the teams that have a former Wolverine player or coach as part of their staff.

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Catching Up With Marcus Knight

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Marcus Knight, 1997 National Champion, 2-time Big 10 Champion, Rose Bowl Champion, and 3-1 against the Buckeyes during his career (1996-99) with Michigan, is presently the Wide Receivers Coach at Northern Michigan University. Fergodsakes.com caught up with Marcus recently to discuss his coaching career and more.

“Ever since I was a young boy, I wanted to inspire young kids,” says Marcus Knight. Watching his older brother Dameian Jefferies win a National Title with Alabama in 1992 left an impression. “It let me know the effects sports and success could have on a young person.”

Knight ended up at Northern Michigan by the “grace of God. I am truly blessed to be here.” 2012 will be his first season with the Wildcats after spending the prior 4 years with Valparaiso, where he earned his Masters in Sports Administration.

The preparation Knight puts in for a game, for a season, is altogether different than when he was a player. As he says, former players such as himself wish they knew then what they know now in terms of how to play the game. “As a coach I have had an awesome experience learning the ins and the outs of the game. The game is really simple when you get right down to it, even though the so-called experts will try to make you think it is difficult. The preparation that you put in as a coach, the hours that you put in, are well worth it when the results turn out the way you want.”

His goals for his coaching career are very structured, taking one thing into account at a time. His first goal is to have one of the best receiving cores in the nation. He wants to have good players who are willing to play hard and work hard. Following that, he would like to move up to Offensive Coordinator one day, and if things work out, move up the ladder to be a Head Coach “at some level.”

How does he get his players prepared to play? Coach Knight talks about his philosophy: “If you ask too much of your players too soon, they may not be ready. You groom the type of players in your group, you try to figure out as fast as you can what the players can do, how they learn, and how they can be pushed. It all starts in recruiting – I recruit what I feel can best help the group. I want a young man who is highly coachable, who is a leader. Being a leader is a big part of it. I want someone who wants to be better, who knows that he doesn’t know everything.”

As a coach, Knight has taken bits of all of his coaches, from the high school level on up. “They all had a different style,” he says of his high school coach, of Coach Lloyd Carr, of Coach John Gruden. He absorbed information from each of them, and molded it into his own. He appreciated how Carr was a father figure, and says that his position coach, Erik Campbell, was the same way. And as he says, his Michigan Brothers during the time he played had as good a feeling as you could have playing with each other – that family feeling is something he took from his Michigan days.

Coach Brady Hoke was Defensive Line Coach at Michigan during the years that Knight played for the Wolverines. Even though Hoke was on the opposite side of the ball, Knight had a good feeling about him back then. “He always had a smile on his face, always took the time to speak with you. You appreciate that. Sometimes in this business famous people don’t have time for you – Coach Hoke is not like that at all. He is a gentleman and always had a kind word to say. Everyone would see his name in a positive light.” Knight views it as the “Tom Brady effect” – in Brady’s case, despite some ups and downs at Michigan, “you knew that he had potential to do great things in his career.” He saw the same thing with Hoke, and that feeling became solidified when Hoke had success at Ball State and San Diego State. Knight was excited when Hoke got the Michigan Head Coaching job – he knows that Hoke is a Michigan Man and understands how to be successful in the program. This is exemplified in recruiting – “every parent is looking for someone to trust with their young man. Parents feel safe with Coach Hoke.”

As for recruiting in general, Knight says that parents need to feel that you, as a coach, are going to take care of their young man. In coaching 18-22 year olds, 60 percent of Knight’s effort is geared towards helping the young men off the field, in “developing young men to make right decisions.” Not only do you want them to make right decisions off the field, but those decision-making skills are vital for on-field success. “Every play involves many decisions that need to be made. If you make the right decisions most of the time, you will be successful. If you don’t, you will struggle. It comes down to having a grasp of the young men in your group and on your team, and being able to trust them.”

Knight ended our talk by saying, “Let everyone know I am Go Blue on September 1 against Alabama. Even though all my family is from there, and my brother won a National Championship there, there is no doubt that I am Michigan through and through. I am predicting a Michigan win comfortably.”

Keep up with Marcus Knight on Facebook.

Follow Northern Michigan University football on the web; and NMU Athletics on Twitter @NMUAthletics; and on Facebook.

Where are former Michigan players and coaches coaching today? Fergodsakes.com will have occasional features on those men who have graced the sideline representing the maize and blue.

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Season Preview – West Virginia Wesleyan (Asst. Coach Anthony Thomas)

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Anthony Thomas, 1997 National Champion, three-time Rose Bowl participant, Big Ten Champion, 2000 Michigan Team Captain, and 3-1 against the Buckeyes in his career, is entering his second season as Special Teams Coordinator with Division II West Virginia Wesleyan College (WVWC). Fergodsakes.com caught up with WVWC Sports Information Director Phiip Fetty to discuss the Bobcats.

The 2011 season for the West Virginia Wesleyan can be considered a success, even though it ended in rough fashion. Finishing 9-2, the Bobcats were undefeated at 9-0 heading into its game at Charleston. In position to secure a bid to the NCAA Division II playoffs, WVWC lost 28-17. All American quarterback Adam Neugebauer, who led Division II in passing yards and passing TD’s, had a tough day, throwing 5 interceptions. West Virginia Wesleyan then dropped its last game, 48-40, at Concord. If it’s possible to be disappointed with a 9-2 season, then WVWC was indeed disappointed.

Turning the page to 2012, WVWC is picked to finish third in the conference by the coaches of the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WVIAC). Besides Neugebauer, the Bobcats lost WR Jon Meadows to graduation – Meadows led Division II with a school record 99 receptions in 2011. Offensive Coordinator Matt Barnes left to take a Graduate Assistant position with the University of Florida, and Tommy Ziegler taking over in 2012.

With Anthony Thomas leading the charge as Special Teams Coordinator, the specialists at WVWC will have their hands full this season. Kasper Bernild is expected to take over the placekicking duties this fall, and Ricky Conner is expected to handle the punt returning. The Bobcats will have a tough time replacing the graduated PJ Benners, WVWC all-time leader in total return yardage and kick return yardage.

Looking at the offense for 2012, Nate Montana, son of Hall of Famer Joe Montana, transferred to WVWC and is eligible immediately. Standing 6’5″ and 220 pounds with a cannon for an arm, Montana is expected to be the starter in 2012. Also transferring in is WR Donte Boston. With WVWC’s offensive philosophy of throwing the football, the pieces may just be in place to create some excitement.

Despite the potential offensive firepower, Head Coach Jonas Jackson is a defensive-minded coach, having played defensive end at Eastern Michigan. The strength of the 2012 Bobcat defense is expected to be the defensive line, anchored by All American Defensive End Jonas Celian, who recorded 14 sacks in 2011. The defense does return 7 starters from 2011.

2012’s schedule includes the season opener on September 1 at Millersville, with other road games at West Liberty (Sept 15); at Shepherd (Oct 6); at Fairmount State (Oct 13); and at West Virginia State (Oct 27). The home slate includes games against Bentley (Sept 8); Seton Hall (Sept 22); Urbana (Sept 29); Glenville State (Oct 20); Charleston (Nov 3); and Concord (Nov 10).

One of the more interesting games for WVWC is the October 6 tilt at Shepherd. In last season’s game at WV Wesleyan, the Bobcats scored two touchdowns in the final six minutes to force overtime. WVWC then stopped Shepherd at the goal line when Shepherd opted to go for 2, preserving a wild 45-44 come from behind overtime victory. The atmosphere at the game was electric, and the amazing, truly special victory spurred large home crowds for the final two home games of the season for the Bobcats. Shepherd has won six WVIAC championships since 2004, went 9-2 last season, and is certainly looking to avenge last season’s stunning defeat.

How has Anthony Thomas fit in at West Virginia Wesleyan? According to Fetty, Thomas has had a very large impact with his mere presence: “Anthony is a great influence, and makes the guys better every time he walks through the door.” Fetty goes on to say that the players know what he is about and what he has accomplished on the football field. He shows them how to balance being a student-athlete, and helps them become the best they can be on and off the field. The way Anthony Thomas carries himself has been nothing but a plus for the Bobcats.

Changing the topic to basketball, Patrick Beilein, son of Michigan Head Coach John Beilein, was named Head Coach at WV Wesleyan in June. Fetty had more interest from more media outlets for the hiring of Patrick Beilein than he has had for anything else, by far. People in the state of West Virginia still love and respect the Beileins, and are very appreciative of what they have accomplished and who they are as people. Those in the community believe that Patrick, who has had success on his own as an assistant, will be a great head coach. They say Patrick is a very classy individual, says hi to everyone, and is considered a West Virginia native son. He will have a tough time on the court in his first season, as the Bobcats will be replacing 4 of 5 starters from a team that went to the Division II NCAA Tournament. Despite the challenges ahead on the court, those in West Virginia are incredibly excited about Patrick Beilein leading WVWC’s program.

Philip Fetty is Sports Information Director at West Virginia Wesleyan. Follow the West Virginia Wesleyan Bobcats on the web at WesleyanBobcats.com, on twitter @wvwcbobcats, and on facebook. See the fergodsakes.com sidebar as we add more links for other teams as well.

Where are former Michigan players and coaches coaching today? Fergodsakes.com will have 2012 season previews on some of the teams that have a former Wolverine player or coach as part of their staff.

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