Spring fever is in the air, finals are right around the corner and the conclusion of another semester awaits the student body of West Chester University. More importantly for Golden Rams football, the foundation is being set for the 2006 campaign. Last season’s first round playoff exit has the Golden Rams hungry for redemption come fall. The Golden Rams spring practices culminated with the annual Purple vs. Gold game at Farrell Stadium. With a strong cast of returning veterans being teamed with recruits at positions of need from last season, these Golden Rams appear destined for great things in the fall. If the spring game was any indication, Golden Rams fans will have plenty to be excited about next season.
Once again, the Golden Rams will employ a three-quarterback system with returning veterans Matt Burdalski, Bill Zwaan Jr., and incoming freshman Joe Wright. While all three quarterbacks seem capable of leading this offense, Burdalski looks to be the incumbent at this position. However, should he falter or suffer a setback from the shoulder injury he suffered last season, look for Zwaan to step in, much like he did in 2005.
The receivers will once again be the strength of this offense.
Last season both red shirt freshman Mike Washington and senior Brandon Simmons, caught their way into the record books by combining for 83 catches for 1,824 yards and 21 touchdowns. While Simmons leaves behind a stellar 120 receptions for 2,414 yards and 29 touchdowns in his college career, Washington looks more than capable to fill the void. Golden Ram fans grew accustomed to seeing number 85 leave defenders in his wake last season. Based on his performance in the spring game, Washington will not disappoint the faithful in 2006. There were several plays throughout the course of the game that saw Washington easily break the first wave of defenders en route to big gains through the air. While the Golden Rams will once again air it out throughout the course of the 2006 season, the best compliment to a good passing game is a solid ground attack. The Rams have just that.
Osagie Osunde began last season on a record breaking pace, rushing for 356 yards and three touchdowns in the first three weeks of the season, before his 2005 campaign was cut painfully short by a knee injury in week three. Many wondered who would shoulder the load left by Osunde’s absence, and those questions were answered quite emphatically by Brett Steinmetz. Steinmetz launched a campaign that will go down as one of the best in Golden Rams history. Not only did Steinmetz tote the rock 219 times for 1,188 yards and 14 touchdowns, he also ranked third among Golden Ram receivers with 22 catches for 252 yards and one touchdown. Now that both backs are healthy and running full speed ahead, defenses will certainly need to be on their toes when defending this multi-faceted offense in 2006.
Defensively, the Golden Rams gave quarterbacks fits last season, recording 34 sacks, 13 interceptions and surrendering just 173.8 passing yards per game. Led by sophomore linebackers Lateef Ferguson and Jimmy Lewis this defense looks to continue to cause opponents trouble. Look for defensive lineman Sam Scott to emerge as a playmaker in the opponents’ backfield next season.
There is still work to be done on both sides of the ball before judgement can be passed on this team. However, once the quarterbacks get their timing down with the receivers, the secondary continues to develop, and the kicking game improves over its performance in 2005, this team will once again be a force to be reckoned with in the PSAC this season. The Golden Rams open the 2006 season September 2 at home vs. Edinboro.