With spring practices beginning, West Chester University football head coach Bill Zwaan announced his football recruiting class of 2009 being brought in to continue building up the Golden Rams football program. Following their PSAC Eastern Division Championship season with a 9-4 overall record, Zwaan and his coaching staff brought players in who have the ability to step in and help guide the program for years to come.
With only nine graduating seniors from last year’s team, West Chester looked to add depth to certain positions and add players who could contribute right away.
“This might be the best class since my first class as far as the depth of talent,” Zwaan said.
Zwaan has a team with quality players coming back. On offense, D’Andre Webb and Lee Hopkins return from injury to form a very good one-two punch at running back. Steve Miller and Ryan Paulson return to hook up with quarterback Joe Wright through the air. The offensive line returns a group that gained a lot of experience throughout the season. They will miss center Kennis Jones, who was the leader who made all the calls for the line.
On defense, James Thorpe leads a talented line. Travis Ford-Bey will return to start at one end and Troy Wasserleben, Lucas Fickel and Carlos Navarro will battle for the other starting end job. At linebacker, Mike Dell and Sam Scott return to lead a very talented group that will lead this defense. In the secondary, a void will need to be filled by the departure of Tyler Downes at safety. Corey Rhood and Matt Colyar will continue to run rampant in the secondary. Kevin Garland will add speed and athletic ability to the secondary as he makes the switch from running back.
Zwaan is looking for players on his current roster and some of the recruits being brought in to help fill the void of graduating All-American wide receiver Mike Washington. Washington broke numerous school, conference and national records and will certainly be missed.
“You cannot expect to replace Mike Washington, he is a once in a lifetime player,” Zwaan said. “We will count on many guys to pick up the slack on offense, not just one guy. We have them in the program already; it is their time to step up.”
Players on the roster who are going to be counted on this season are Will Gardner and Jackson Fagan. Gardner, who suffered a shoulder injury late last season, will be paired with returning stars Miller and Paulson to pick up some of the slack. Fagan, who starred at running back for the Golden Rams after Hopkins and Webb were injured last season, will move to receiver and continue his progression within the offense.
A couple players being looked at to come in and possibly help fill some of the void left by Washington are Time Keyser (WR, Garnet Valley) and Rob Holloman (RB, West Catholic). Keyser was named a second-team AAAA all-state pick last season. He finished his high school career with over 2,500 rushing yards and 1,500 receiving yards.
Holloman was named first-team all-city, first-team all-Southeastern PA., first-team all-league and the Maxwell Club player of the year. Last season, Holloman rushed for 1,923 yards with 36 rushing touchdowns.
Other players who have a chance to contribute right away are Jared Bonacquisti (DB, Garnet Valley), Chris Mallory-Hughes (DB, Verona) and Kris Scott (DB, Stevens Tech). Bonacquisti is a three-time All-DELCO first team honoree. Mallory-Hughes is another first-team all-conference selection who will help out in the secondary. Scott was a first-team All-Seaboard Conference selection at defensive back with Stevens Tech a year ago.
“Probably the places where we might look for help from this class right away are in the secondary and maybe at defensive end,” Zwaan said. “One of the wide outs might help us in some situations. Most of this group will redshirt.”
Come this summer, this class will have the chance to show what they can contribute to the Golden Rams next season. For a chance to see what the current players on the roster have done throughout the off-season workout program, you can see them during the spring game which is set for April 17, 2009 at 7 p.m. at Farrell Stadium. The first game of the season is five short months away in August against Lock Haven.
LJ Harrell is a third-year student majoring in Business. He can be reached at LH639694@wcupa.edu.