August 15, 2011
2011 Bethany Season Preview
Although he is entering his sixth year as the head football
coach at Bethany College, Tim Weaver, who led the Bison to a 5-5
record last year for its first .500 season since 2001, is getting
to experience a lot of firsts as his team begins preparations for
its 2011 season opener at Allegheny Sept. 3.
Bethany, who finished third in the PAC last season with a 4-3
conference mark, tied for fourth in this year's preseason poll with
Grove City and behind only three-time defending champion Thomas
More, Washington & Jefferson and Waynesburg. It was the highest
BC has been picked to finish in Weaver's tenure, but it's not the
only milestone he is enjoying after taking over a program that
posted three straight 1-9 records prior to his arrival.
"There are a whole bunch of benchmarks you need to hit when you
rebuild a program like we've done here," said Weaver, who is 19-31
in his five seasons. "One is to have more returning veterans than
newcomers, which we have for the first time this year. That takes
time to do, but it changes the whole demeanor of the program
because we have so many guys who know what we're doing at the start
"In addition, we were also able to put together a special teams'
two-deep with no freshmen," said Weaver. "We also have proven game
experience at every spot on the field. And not just people who have
played, but they have played well when they've had an opportunity,
so we finally have pretty good depth nearly everywhere on the
Last year's finish, which came on the heels of two straight 3-7
campaigns, has built up a lot of momentum for the Bison entering
2011 and after a bit of a philosophy change prior to 2010, the
success of last fall has changed the way the Bethany program is
looking ahead to this year's slate of games.
"Prior to last year, we always talked about winning championships,
but we changed our goals because we were not good enough to win
it," said Weaver. "It takes time to rebuild the way we've been
doing it here with mostly freshmen instead of transfers and while
we could see a light at the end of the tunnel, we still had to
change the mindset. So coming off back-to-back three-win years, we
set the goal of getting to four wins as quickly as possible and
building from there.
"Now that we accomplished that, we are changing the way we are
approaching the season again," said Weaver. "Now we openly talk
about being one of those teams in contention every week and having
a chance to win every game. We talk about playing in the postseason
and getting to play that 11th game. And whether it's
somehow winning the league or going 9-1 and getting a bid to the
NCAA playoffs, or winning seven or eight games and having a chance
to play in an ECAC Bowl, we would be ecstatic either way. We don't
have to win a championship to have a very good season. If we can
get to six, seven, eight wins, it will be another step in this
process for us."
A total of 19 starters will be back on the field this spring for
Bethany, highlighted on offense by the entire backfield and 80
percent of the offensive line. In the backfield, sophomore QB Matt
Grimard is back after throwing for 1,490 yards and 10 scores as a
freshman, while also rushing for 882 yards and 11 TDs, both Bethany
records for a quarterback, on his way to Honorable Mention All-PAC.
Fighting for the back-up position are a pair of freshmen in Jarrett
Mitchell and Tony Moran.
"Matt has a year of growth under his belt and he needs to throw
the ball better this year, which he knows," said Weaver. "He stayed
here over the summer to lift and is in better shape. Now we just
need to continue his work on the fundamentals of throwing the
Bethany expects to have a dynamic 1-2 punch behind Grimard. Senior
captain Eric Walker continued his record-setting career last
season, as he rushed for 898 yards and 12 touchdowns. In addition
to earning Second Team All-PAC, he set new BC standards for career
rushing TDs (33) and total touchdowns (39) and with 456 more yards,
Walker (2,491) will surpass Will Anderson's Bison record of 2,946
rushing yards. As a freshman, Nico Irizarry totaled 184 yards and a
score and his work in the spring has the Bison staff trying to
devise ways to get both backs touches, not only to keep Walker
fresher but to take advantage of Irizarry's skills.
"We feel really good about having both Eric and Nico back," said
Weaver. "We spent part of the off-season talking about ways to get
Nico more touches because we think he has a lot of ability. We
thought we wore Eric down two years ago but he was better prepared
last year. He's a horse who doesn't get hurt and is always in great
shape. And while trying to get Nico more touches will help down the
stretch of the season, it's more because of the work Nico has done
that we want to give him more chances."
The Bison bring back a lot of wide receivers and a junior tight
end in Fletcher Coffman who have seen a good deal of action.
Injuries cut the season short for junior captain Johnathan Foster,
who caught four passes in just two games, and junior Marcus
D'Aguiar-Alexander, who made 11 grabs in five games. But this unit,
which includes returners in senior Alex Evans and junior Ed Holmes,
needs to step up in productivity according to Weaver.
"The last couple years, our receivers and tight ends have shown
flashes of being good, but no one has developed into our go-to or
#1 guy we turn to when we need a play," said Weaver. "We are going
to see a lot more one-safety looks because of our running game and
we have to be able to throw and catch to take advantage of those
situations. We have an abundance of talent there, but haven't shown
the consistency needed yet and as a group and as a coaching staff,
we have to figure out a way to get more production."
Perhaps the most complete unit on the offense is the line, which
led the way for Bethany to rank second in the PAC in rushing
offense (202.4). Senior center and captain Cory Potter is a
two-time All-PAC selection and is flanked at one guard by junior
Doug Murray. Both tackles return as well, with junior Bryan
Benzinger, an Honorable Mention All-PAC pick last year, on the left
side and junior Nick Gore on the right end.
"We are really excited to have four starters back on the line and
they are all juniors and seniors, which we've never had at that
position," said Weaver. "Last year, we played well up front and
were able to run the ball well, we still had trouble with bigger,
physical front lines. But all of our guys made a commitment and
came back significantly stronger, which will only make them
The Bison already proved last season their running game is enough
to carry the team to wins, but for the unit to reach its full
potential, the passing game will have to take major strides this
season to keep defenses from loading up at the line of
"A lot of our game planning this year will depend on Matt's
progress as a passer and the level of trust we have in the
receivers to make plays," said Weaver. "We really liked some of the
things we did in the running game last year in reading different
people on defense, but we have to take advantage when teams gear up
to stop the run. We can win 5-6-7 games running like we did, but to
win championships, you have to be balanced."
On the defensive side of the ball, Bethany made drastic
improvements against the run, lowering the yards per game by more
than 91. The spotlight this year will be on the BC passing defense,
which ranked eighth in the league a season ago. The action will
start up front in the Bison's 4-3 look, where three starters
return. Senior DE Kasib Taalib-Din was third in the PAC with 8.5
sacks, including one to secure the Waynesburg victory, and
sophomore Prince Aguzie had 1.5 sacks, including one to force a
fumble and clinch the Saint Vincent win in the finale.
Inside, Bethany brings back junior Blake DeBord, who started all
10 games and made 29 tackles, with sophomores Zach Burton and Seth
Cawoski ready to man the other tackle spot.
"We are excited about our two starters back at defensive end in
Kasib and Prince," said Weaver. "They are explosive, fast, athletic
players who made game-clinching plays for us last year. We hope
they continue to develop and it will be fun to see the competition
between them to see who our sack producer will be.
"At the tackle spots, we bring back Blake, who is the anchor of
our front," said Weaver. "We'd like to see him make a couple more
plays this year but he is rock solid, knows his job and executes
his job. Zach played a lot for us last year and gained a lot from
that experience and we expect a big step forward from Seth, who
played well in JV games last year and had a good off-season. Depth
on the ends and inside on the line is a concern and is a place
where freshmen may have a chance to contribute this year."
The linebackers feature a pair of juniors who started all 10 games
in Kyle Arrington and Gage Lotozo. Arrington ranked third in the
PAC with 97 tackles to bring home Honorable Mention All-PAC honors
and Lotozo was sixth on the team with 51 tackles. Weaver is looking
for big things from sophomore Tyrell Scott on the strong side, with
depth coming from sophomores Duante Mayes, Josh Moody and Michael
"We have some familiar faces back at linebacker in Kyle, who has
started all 20 games in his career, and Gage, who bounced back from
an injury as a freshman to start all 10 last year," said Weaver.
"Kyle overcompensated from his freshman year by coming in a little
heavy last year, but he is in great shape this year and is
stronger, leaner and running well. Gage played really well last
year. He's a naturally instinctive guy and will play in the
"Our strong side linebacker will be Tyrell, who had a fantastic JV
season and is one of our better athletes," said Weaver. "He is
football smart, fast and physical. Behind them we have a group of
guys in Michael, Josh and Duante, who missed last year with an
injury but had a really good spring, that developed while playing
JV and will move into solid back-up roles."
If Bethany is to make a step up against the pass this year, the
secondary will play a big part in that with three starters
returning. Junior CB Jeff Joyce was second on the team with 63
tackles while sophomore younger brother Jordan Joyce was right
behind him with 62 hits. Sophomore Jamaan Webb scored Honorable
Mention All-PAC laurels with 49 tackles and also back is junior
Tremayne Ford and sophomores Raphael McGee and Michael Howcott, who
both missed last year.
"We should be way better in the secondary than we've been in my
time here," said Weaver. "With both Joyces and Jamaan back after
starting all of last year, they have a year of experience under
their belts, which will make them more comfortable this year.
Tremayne has played a lot for us and Raphael and Michael, who both
missed last year but played well in '09, return as well. We believe
we can make a similar jump in the passing game this year as we made
last year in the running game. If we eliminate the blown coverages
that happen with freshmen and first-year players in the secondary,
we win two more games."
The strength of the Bethany special teams will be a lengthy list
of potential game-breakers in the return game, including Jeff
Joyce, who was Honorable Mention All-PAC as a returner last year,
Evans, who was third in the PAC in kick return yardage (23.9),
Jordan Joyce, D'Aguiar-Alexander and Holmes. Senior Matt Landowski
returns as the long snapper and is one of the better players on the
coverage units, while both kicking jobs are open heading into camp,
although freshman Stephen Amic could have the inside track on both
"We feel great about our return game with Alex, both Joyces,
Marcus and Ed back," said Weaver. "They have all hit for 40-50 yard
plays in their careers, so we are deep and talented in those areas.
Matt is back for another year as our long snapper and has done a
great job. The kicker and punter jobs are both open coming into
camp. It's still very early but Stephen looked good and hit it
consistently and Matt (Grimard) has shown some ability as a punter,
so it looks like we are in good shape."
Since Weaver has taken over the Bison program, there are normally
tons of questions heading into camp as his staff has worked to
rebuild. But with so many starters back and a good amount of
experienced depth returning as well, many of the personnel
questions have been answered. Weaver feels another question was
answered last year, but it brings up another heading into this
"Our main goal is to continue to improve and build on last year,"
said Weaver. "The question we've had to try to answer the past
couple years is can we become a good team. I think we finally
answered that last year. We weren't great, but we were good. Now
that we've reached that step, now the question becomes can we
consistently compete to finish in the top three or four in the
league and give ourselves a chance to win a championship."
The Bison begin the quest for an answer Sept. 3 at Allegheny in a
7 p.m. kickoff. Bethany's home schedule opens up Sept. 10 against
King's in the PAC-MAC Challenge and the conference slate starts up
Sept. 17 in a 7 p.m. kickoff against Washington & Jefferson at