West Chester Golden Rams (5-6, 4-3 PSAC East)
Season Opener: Thursday, August 30 @ Delaware (Division 1-AA)
Offensive/Defensive Starters Returning: 5/7
Key Returnees: QB Sean McCartney (Jr.), RB Rondell White (Jr.), LB Ronell Williams (Soph.), S John O’Donnell (Sr.)
West Chester’s 2011 season could be best described as one of lost opportunities. The Golden Rams’ 90th season as a varsity football program saw the loss of linebacker Mike Pereira to a season-ending concussion at LIU-Post turn the run defense into a sieve, culminating in blowing a 35 point lead on Homecoming weekend to Bloomsburg.
As a result, the Golden Rams will switch to a 4-3/4-2-5 defensive formation, with the third linebacker position acting as a “hybrid” linebacker/defensive back, which is expected to be filled by Matt Carroll, who had seen time at quarterback last season. Carroll, who transferred from Northeastern last season, will supplement sophomore linebackers Ronell Williams, West Chester’s leading tackler last season, and Mike Labor.
Senior safeties John O’Donnell and Carl Barnes are expected to anchor a pass defense, with seniors Bob Sabol and Nate Pagan along with sophomores Dante Devine and Al-Hajj Shabazz expected to see time at cornerback. Senior defensive end Lew Esposito anchors the Golden Rams’ defensive front four.
The game of musical quarterbacks should end as junior Sean McCartney out-dueled senior Mike Mattei as starting quarterback. The Golden Rams hope for a consistent season from McCartney, who will have plenty of support at the skill positions.
Junior running back Rondell White is joined by a pair of All-PSAC East recievers in LaRonn Lee and Tim Keyser, with sophomore Erick Brundidge, who also competes for West Chester’s track team, senior co-captain Sean Behean and senior Jim Kelly are also expected to provide McCartney more offensive weapons.
One concern is on the offensive line, which sports only one returning starter in senior Eric Pratt. Pratt’s new line mates, however, are experienced players whom head coach Bill Zwann expects to have an impact this season.
PREDICTION: West Chester opens the season with their last ever meeting with long-time regional rival Delaware. A pair of early season road games at Kutztown and California (Pa.) will likely set the tone for the 2012 season. If the Golden Rams expect to contend in the PSAC East this season, the run defense has to improve dramatically. Also, having an injury prone O’Donnell healthy for a full season will help. If McCartney has a season much like his nationally televised debut two years ago at home against Shippensburg, then the Golden Rams could surprise a lot of teams this season.