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William Paterson University 2016 Football Season Preview

HCfootball400Coming off a 2-8 record in 2015 and selected to finish in 9th place in the New Jersey Athletic Conference Preseason Poll, William Paterson University Pioneers head coach Jerry Flora knows he has a young team on his hands. With a number of transfers and players with experience under their belts, Flora believes this season can be different.

“We’re better than a 9th place finish. Two years ago 4-6 and with a freshmen quarterback who moved last year and didn’t come back,” Flora explained. “We went through growing pains last year trying to find a QB”.

“Look at the NFL and if you don’t have a QB it’s probably going to be a long season” Flora, who is in his 9th season with the Pioneers continued. “We have so many young guys with sophomores and juniors who are going to have a chip on their shoulder and a matter of keeping them calm so they don’t overdo it. No one is trying to be Superman out there”

“At the end of the day, if we do what we’re supposed to do it doesn’t matter who we are playing and we can’t afford to beat ourselves with turnovers and penalties. We are trying to limit them and that was the type of problems we had last year.”

Flora was particularly impressed with the Pioneers scrimmage against Western Connecticut. The team fell behind 18-0 early then scored 13 straight points. In the second half, the surge continued pouring on 15 additional points, ending with a 28-18 Pioneers victory.

“It showed a lot of character for the team in terms of fighting back and playing a scrimmage on the road and not at home. It’s good because we got that first road game out of the way” said Flora.

Seniors Malcolm Robinson and Anthony DiMarsico will be returning to the wide receiver position this season. According to Flora, this position is the strongest part of the squad, also with the most depth. Last season Robinson totaled 688 yards, earning the NJAC all-conference honors. Two years ago DiMarsico was also named a NJAC all-conference player. Flora is expecting big contributions from Junior Tyler Wilson, Sophomore Christian Maldonado and Freshman transfer Angel Fernandez.

Another strong position on the offensive side is at running back, where Sophomore Cahsim Henry will be getting the bulk of carries. Completing the position is Wagner College transfer Junior Aqueel Daniels-Lundy and Freshman James Lawrence and Jason Lee, according to Flora.

The starting quarterback position, currently between Junior Isaiah-Diaz Mays, a transfer from Wagner College and Junior James Waldron, has yet to be resolved. “James has been with the team for two years and played well in the scrimmage against Western Connecticut State and Isaiah did not” Flora explained. Behind Diaz-Mays and Waldron are two younger players, Sophomore Malik Mouzone and Freshman Mike Yarosz, whom Flora mentioned are steadily developing.

After eliminating the tight end position, the team plays 10 deep with four wide receivers and a running back. Senior Connor Thomson anchors the offensive line, which Flora stated seriously needed an upgrade in the off-season. The four-year starter will now move to the tackle position. Joining Thomson in the tackle position will be Senior Tyler Alvarez. The starting center will be Junior Mikal Gamble, a transfer from Delaware Valley. Teslim Bakarr, a true freshman will be the right guard. Flora said the left guard position is up in the air, which three juniors are competing for it.

On the defensive side, Flora was very forthright saying between the defensive line and linebackers there are absolutely no seniors. However, the group does go nine deep, consisting mostly of freshmen.

Returning is Junior Omar Mahmoud, an all-conference player last season and Junior Olajuwon Salako will be starting nose tackle. Leading the linebacker group is Junior Charles Faulkner, who is also the captain on the team. Sophomore Donte Dean is the starting outside linebacker along with Senior Nick Freeman, who is a converted safety, and Sophomore Tyler Gross.

With only seven or eight seniors, Flora said the bulk of them are in the secondary with Craig Kimbrough, Haneef Jennings, Pat Moran who will be playing strong safety and captain alongside freshmen Ra’Keem Bennett. Also Darius Flowers, who is out for the season opener due to a suspension for breaking team rules.

Handling the kicking duties on special teams is sophomore Nick DeAngelis. Flora is expecting big things from DeAngelis, who started off strong but tailed off as the 2015 season wore on due to fatigue and the college football schedule. In charge of punting assignments is Pat Moran.

The Pioneers open up the 2016 regular season against Alfred State College on Saturday September 3rd at 12:00 p.m. at Wightman Stadium in Wayne, New Jersey. Last year William Paterson defeated Alfred State in the season opener 41-20.

“Last year we got out of the gate with a touchdown and thought the game was over after one play and then we made a bunch of mistakes,” said Flora. “We got down 20-6 and fortunately we were able to come back and win 41-20 but don’t think anyone wants to revisit that this year considering type of competition we are playing this year in our conference”

Flora knows this is a highly anticipated game for many players and it has been a long training camp, one of the hotter ones in recent years with only a day and a half off. “The guys are itching to get out there and play someone else.”

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Sunil Sunder Raj

Since July of 2014 Sunil Sunder Raj has been with In The Zone. Sunil has experience covering minor league baseball, high school and college sports. A beat writer for the Rockland Boulders for six years, Ramapo College men’s basketball for four years, NJIT men’s basketball and Seton Hall women’s basketball. Now focusing on feature articles about athletes, coaches and sports media professionals. A graduate of Ramapo College of New Jersey with a bachelor of arts degree in journalism.
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