After scoring 174 points in the team's final three wins of last season, the University of Redlands football team enters the 2013 campaign with plenty of desire, determination, and depth to pick up right where it left off. Under the direction of Head Coach Mike Maynard, who begins his 26th year at the helm, the Bulldogs hold high expectations for unlimited opportunities as the program moves into the next chapter of "going from good to great."
The first step in the process is taking on a challenging slate of opponents in its nine-game schedule. Beyond the seven Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) games, the Bulldogs fill in the remaining two dates with foes that truly strengthen their schedule.
"It's important to play against quality opponents. We've been fortunate to schedule two ranked opponents in our non-conference games," Maynard commented. "We strive to be in a position to compete and come out with positive results."
Redlands kicks off the campaign with consecutive rematches against the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor (TX) and Pacific Lutheran University (WA). On Sept. 7, the Maroon and Gray hosts its first-round opponent from the 2011 NCAA Division III Championships, before heading up to Tacoma, Wash., to face the Lutes with hopes of avenging last year's loss.
Furthermore, the Maroon and Gray clashes with a third, ranked opponent, when it heads to Thousand Oaks on Oct. 12 to face SCIAC rival Cal Lutheran University.
With these exciting challenges in front of them, the Bulldogs count on their depth at nearly every position, allowing them to train in game-like situations while minimizing injuries.
However, one position in particular demands immediate attention after the graduation of D3football.com All-West Region quarterback Chad Hurst.
"The quarterback position is our greatest concern, but it's also a great opportunity for young men to step up and earn a starting role," Maynard stated.
It might surprise some that the likely choice from a year ago has moved to another position. After earning the quarterback start against Pacific Lutheran in 2012, senior Will King (Scottsdale, AZ) now takes on a new experience as a tight end during his final season.
"In the big picture, we felt that it was in the program's best interest to go with some of our younger quarterbacks. We asked Will to redefine his role as a tight end. He unselfishly made the sacrifice. Will's exceptional team-first leadership and positive character qualities will continue to bolster our program, both now and in the future," explained Maynard.
Young but talented frontrunners include sophomores Mitch Samson (Orangevale, CA) and Alex Bridgford (Mission Viejo, CA). Both offer their own unique abilities for a new look as the Bulldogs' quarterback. Samson gained key experience as a reserve play-caller during his rookie season, while Bridgford sat out due to injury but showed great potential during preseason camp.
Sophomore Michael Finkelstein (Denver, CO) is a determined contender whose running ability complements that phase of the offense.
In addition, Redlands welcomes junior transfer Kevin Russell (Lacey, WA) from the team's second opponent of the season, Pacific Lutheran. Count on him to push the returnees for minutes during his first campaign with the Maroon and Gray.
Once the Bulldogs identify their quarterback, they offer plenty of versatile targets among the wide receiver corps as well as myriad running backs who significantly bolster the attack.
"We have a strong contingent of inside receivers. We're really loaded in this position," stated Maynard.
While looking to build upon his D3football.com All-West Region nod, senior captain Taylor Irwin (Rocklin, CA) heads up a talented trio of returning starters with seniors Daniel Davis (Seattle, WA) and Tyler Bassler (San Diego, CA). But a host of others, including junior James Ramirez (La Verne, CA), and sophomores Stephen Rodriguez (Brentwood, CA) and Kyle Bauer (San Juan Capistrano, CA), offers incredible options for this versatile and talented group.
Furthermore, the outside receivers sit in position to cultivate a slew of newcomers while raising the bar on their own success to better the Bulldogs as a whole. Contending for starting roles, seniors Sam Angelo (Woodinville, WA) and Aaron Atkins (Fallbrook, CA) look forward to making the most of their final seasons. After a solid spring of preparation, senior Kyle Brown (Covina, CA) serves as a fast, strong, and tall target for Redlands' chosen quarterback. Furthermore, junior Connor Waitkus (Henderson, NV) returns to action after a summer in China. Count on him to utilize his athleticism and knowledge for solid success in 2013. In addition, sophomore Steven Herber (Rancho Cucamonga, CA), and seniorsDerek de Vera (Hercules, CA) and Kenny DesJardin (Granite Bay, CA) add to the mix of hungry returnees. Finally, senior Andrell Hardaway(Plymouth, MA) elevates the speed of the position group as the fastest of the crew. Working his way up the depth chart, junior David Nwagbara(Santa Rosa, CA) raises the effort-bar each day of practice.
Complementing the offensive options through the air, Redlands boasts a multi-faceted ground-game that impresses on a variety of levels.
"The running back position is probably one of the deepest, most talented positions on our team," Maynard commented. "We have some very talented guys vying for the starting job."
Due to his power and speed, sophomore Curtis Tanquary (San Jose, CA) looks to increase his ball-carrying responsibilities after an outstanding rookie campaign. In addition, senior Bobby Brown (Rancho Santa Margarita, CA) brings incredible talent and speed, along with an unmatched desire to finish his career with a bang. Furthermore, look for numerous freshmen to be ready to perform when their number is called.
Senior Tyrel Lenard (Rifle, CO) leads the halfback unit that is complemented by sophomore Andre Ramirez (Corcoran, CA). In addition, count on King to reveal his versatility by making contributions to this position group.
Adding diversity to the offense, Redlands boasts great talent at the tight-end position, with senior USA Preseason All-American Daryl Andersen(Grand Terrace, CA) setting the tone. However, sophomore Tanner Berry (Paso Robles, CA) brings added skill to the area of blocking, while sophomore Taylor Moore (San Bernardino, CA) vies for in-game chances. In addition, King, with his size and athleticism, fits the mold of this versatile group. Finally, the squad offers equal excitement for a new addition to the tight ends.
With a multitude of scoring weapons in place, the Bulldogs count on the persistence and strength of the offensive line to create opportunities for the team. Redlands welcomes back junior starters Zachary Alford (Redding, CA) and Aaron Hinkle (Lodi, CA) to anchor the crew.
At offensive guard, the Bulldogs are in position to benefit from senior Matt Ashman's (Cypress, CA) fantastic spring of preparation, while seniorJorge Cervantes (Indio, CA) works to build upon his significant playing time from a year ago. Furthermore, sophomore Paul Governale (La Habra, CA) and senior Robert Hamilton (Scottsdale, AZ) work to push their teammates by raising the bar on the standard of excellence.
Like the quarterback question, the Bulldogs remain hopeful for a new standout to shine at center. The team boasts three contenders among the veterans, with each supplying a unique characteristic to the battle. Sophomore Adam Brissey (Dublin, CA) offers an aggressive style, juniorMason Marino (Reno, NV) brings the most knowledge of the position, and senior Gilbert Navarro (Chula Vista, CA) boasts outstanding potential for success.
When the opponents have the ball, Redlands relies on its stingy and tenacious defense to halt their forward progress while creating scoring opportunities of its own. The Bulldogs return eight of the 11-man starting corps, revealing excellent veteran leadership and experience.
Last season, the Maroon and Gray led the conference in scoring defense with 21.8 points per game, thanks in part to its ability to snag interceptions. While grabbing a SCIAC-best 21 picks, Redlands gained big plays from the cornerbacks, a position of obvious strength again in 2013. Senior All-SCIAC Second-Team selection Brandon Morris (Mission Viejo, CA) returns for his final season after tying for first among the conference with six interceptions. Senior Zach Roberts (Oregon City, OR) also enters his final campaign as a viable starter, while senior Stephen Reyes (Kingsburg, CA) works to take on a bigger role. The Bulldogs also hold high hopes for sophomore Connor Hoffman (Tustin, CA), who missed last season due to injury. After making the switch from running back to corner, senior David Woolbert (Irvine, CA) stands as a contender for serious playing time, while junior Gabriel Lemus (Rancho Bernardo, CA) and sophomore Trevor Glaser (Yucaipa, CA) provide additional options for the Bulldogs.
At free safety, the Bulldogs boast a pair of very capable seniors in two-year starter and captain Nick Kido (Honolulu, HI) and Michael Dariano(Morgan Hill, CA) to lead this crew. Redlands also welcomes back the athletic contributions of junior Emeka Anigbogu (Temecula, CA) as he takes on a new position following a year off from injury.
Although the team must replace the talented, now graduated Scott Payton at strong safety, Redlands looks forward to reaping the benefits of a competitive contingent. Dariano reveals his versatility by mixing into the options of both safety positions, while senior Jessie Hobbs III (San Diego, CA) offers solid experience and ability. Furthermore, the Bulldogs look to former linebacker Clayton Dobbs (Oakland, CA) to make the most of opportunity in his senior season. After gaining quality minutes during his rookie season, sophomore Bentley Tran (Olympia, WA) returns to action as a viable contributor. In addition, senior Corey Farley (Lake Arrowhead, CA) and junior DJ Dawson Jr. (Atwater, CA) bring important depth to the position.
Among the talented linebacker corps, the Maroon and Gray also faces the challenge of replacing the 2012 SCIAC Defensive Player of the Year Jordan Garcia. However, the Bulldogs are more than ready to take on this tall task.
"We feel really good about a number of players at both the outside and inside linebacker positions." Maynard said.
A surprise addition among the contenders is junior Michael Tootle (Las Vegas, NV), who made the switch from fullback and now sits as the top inside linebacker. He is pushed by senior Tyler Ewing (Sacramento, CA), while junior Caleb Lenard (Rifle, CO) provides ample skill. The Bulldogs also hold high hopes for up-and-coming linebacker, sophomore Conner Schultz (Olympia, WA).
At outside linebacker, the team excitedly welcomes back senior Justin Butler (Poway, CA) after being sidelined by injury in 2012.
"He is a very good player. He's versatile and fast. We're all anxious to see how he does," commented Maynard.
Look for senior Trevor Manly (Diamond Bar, CA) and returning starter junior Griffin Lord (Upland, CA) to be solid as they hold down the outside linebacker positions. Following a year hiatus, Manly returns to action as a determined competitor. Lord earned a starting role in the second half of the 2012 campaign and works to build upon that experience in the coming year. Finally, senior Alec Goodman (Fontana, CA) and junior Luke Simpson (Seattle, WA) also push for playing time at one of the outside linebacker positions.
At defensive end, the Bulldogs expect big plays from senior USA Preseason All-American Steven Locke Jr. (Barstow, CA). In addition, Redlands possesses a strong defensive weapon in senior Sean Woods (Victorville, CA), as he puts the exclamation point on a solid career. Junior Jordan Bixler (Redlands, CA) and sophomore Mike Khoury (Moreno Valley, CA) look to rotate into the lineup, while junior Cody Warning (Santa Ynez, CA) and sophomore TJ Piwowarski (Somis, CA) add depth to the position. Finally, Casey Busch (Chino Hills, CA) returns for his senior season with the Maroon and Gray.
Senior First-Team All-SCIAC selection Daniel Kane (Covina, CA), who also serves as a captain, guides the defensive tackles with his exemplary and relentless contributions. Last season, Jack Rulon (Huntington Beach, CA) rotated with Kane as a rookie and looks to build upon that experience in the coming season. Juniors Denver Rogers (Montclair, CA) and Miles Tillman (Antioch, CA) also work to vie for minutes.
Among the kicking game, Redlands expects senior All-American kicker Kevin Grady (Seattle, WA) to have big, critical role in 2013. However, various newcomers as well as sophomore Brandon Rominger (Santa Paula, CA) are creating a sense of competition within the crew, which betters the squad as a whole.
With the personnel in place and the schedule looming in front of them, the Bulldogs rely on their veterans to set the tone. However, the incoming class of contributors provides necessary depth and skill in order to complete the recipe for success.
"This is one of our best recruiting classes we've had in a long time, which provides a real strength to the team and predicts good success for the future," Maynard stated.
As the Bulldogs work to advance to the next level, the Redlands football team looks forward to executing its plays and attacking its goals throughout the coming season. With their sights set on the next game on the schedule, the Bulldogs embark upon yet another exciting campaign in 2013.