MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The University football program finished last season 3-7 and while the team is still young, the Hawks bring back major experience this season.
The Hawks are led by nine seniors and return 19 out of 22 starters. But the experience the Hawks are returning may just be the touch they need.
University football head coach John Kelley recognizes a difference in this year’s team.
“They’re bigger and faster. Boy, we can see it I mean I’ve had some kids shoot up two, three inches and almost all of them have put on anywhere from 12 to 20 pounds on them. And that’s going to make a world of a difference along with the experience,” Kelley said.
Kelley’s crew returns to a spread offense led by sophomore quarterback Chase Edwards.
He’ll have plenty of weapons to get the ball to in the air, one of those players being senior Tracy Brooks who will be utilized as a slot receiver.
Brooks knows what it will take to improve on last season.
“We just have to capitalize. Last year we had a lot of mental errors, didn’t do exactly what the coaches told us to do and that resulted in our losses,” Brooks said.
The size and strength of the line will also be a plus for the Hawks.
Junior offensive guard Matt Evans is a returning starter and feels confident about his offense.
“We’ve got a lot of speed and our line is definitely a lot bigger than last year. We’ve got Jacob Stephens, he’s a returner too, he’s a sophomore. We’ve got Barb, he’s a senior, Corbin obviously he’s number 11 in the state,” Evans said.
University obviously looks to get more wins this season but they face three playoff teams in the first four weeks in Parkersburg South, Wheeling Park and Fairmont Senior. But Kelley says if they have to play them, it’s better to play them early.
“So the first half of our season is going to be rather brutal. It would be nice if we would pull one of those off. The second half I feel much better about. But they’re not going to be any further ahead than we are, I don’t think the first game is going to be what most of us are used to seeing because we’re all a little bit behind at least a week behind,” Kelley said.
The Hawks have had only two losing seasons in the past 25 years and Kelley hopes it makes his guys hungry to get back to the playoffs this time around.
The vast improvement Kelley has seen from last season is a good indication of where the Hawks can take themselves.