|Let's do it!|
Your 2015 Linfield Wildcats are getting geared up to play a very good Chapman Panther team this Saturday at noon and Linfield has a number of questions to answer as the ‘Cats head into the season. Yes, Linfield has some high profile players back, and is a sexy pick to play a major role on the national scene, but there are some KEY contributors from the 2014 roster that have departed. Linfield has major unknowns in a number of positions. A large group of players are getting major opportunities to step into larger roles this season. It doesn’t make me nervous but rather excited to see what new faces will explode on the scene and become known commodities in the NWC and D3 universe. Let’s talk about what we know about the 2015 Linfield roster and what we don’t know.
QB: Not to hype Riddle up too much but he has a chance to be exceptional. Tommy Knecht will be a great second option.
RB: Great core of backs with Payne, Willis, Cassill, Yanai, and Nelson.
TE/H: Levi Altringer had a great 2014 post-season and expect for that to carry over this year.
OL: Off Guard Eric Pitassi is an All-American caliber player and offensive tackle Jacob Hanke will have a monster season at left tackle.
Receivers: Brian Balsiger is back and healthy and will be a great target and Erick Douglas III is poised for a breakout junior season. Sam Robinson will also be a great weapon as well.
Defensive End: Alex Hoff is poised for another great season and Asa Schwartz is a stud.
Linebackers: Eli Biondine should be an anchor and leader at Mike backer.
Corners: You would be hard pressed to find a better starting two with Kyle Belcher and Kennedy Johnson on the outside
Rover: Keanu Yamamoto will be a 1st team All-NWC player. Book it.
Safety: Mikey Arkans and Dylan Lewis are fantastic athletes and should be outstanding in the 'Cats defensive secondary.
Kickers: Linfield returns kicker Michael Metter, kicker Cayman Conley, and punter Kevin McClean. It’s an exceptional trio of talent that should be a weapon for the ‘Cats.
Offensive Line: Three new starters will be lining up next to Pitassi and Hanke and that’s a big deal. Thad Cox, Stephen Nnabue, Kela Grace, Matt Matteo, and Austin Lee are all going to play a major role in how far this offense can fly.
WR: Linfield lost two outstanding receivers in Charlie Poppen and Evan Peterson. Those two dominated teams at time and will be missed. We do have Balsiger, EDIII, and Robinson back but other guys like Eric Igbinoba, Reed Peterson, John Carroll, are all talented and will get a shot to make an impact in 2015.
Linebacker: Mike Nardoni flew under the radar last year but besides Alex Hoff, Nardoni was probably the most important defender on the team in 2014. His role at the Will linebacker was huge with his ability to cover and find the ball. His departure is a big hole but look for Jake Reimer to be a breakout player for Linfield this year. Other linebackers you’re going to see a lot of this year are Jason Farlow, Kyle Chandler, and Mitch Kekel. A huge upside with this group of linebackers.
Defensive End: Linfield has two excellent starters in Hoff and Schwartz but look for Marcus McGovern to make waves this year as well.
Defensive Tackle: Easily the biggest unknown for Linfield this season. The ‘Cats are young at defensive tackle but have talent. It’s a matter of how quickly these guys can get their legs under them and be effective. If we struggle at this spot the ‘Cats defense could have some uneven play while they gain experience.
So there you go. I know there are guys that I didn’t name that will have a big impact as the season develops and there will be freshman that will be impact players as well. But Linfield has a chance to be a top tier team this year but has earn it first.
The first question of the year is how Linfield is going to handle the defending SCIAC champions in the Chapman Panthers. Linfield saw Chapman twice last season and narrowly defeated the Panthers in the 2014 season opener, 21-14, and had an emotionally decisive victory 55-24 in the 1st round of the playoffs. The Panthers are riding high after their 1st SCIAC championship and are returning a number of key contributors to last season’s success. Chapman returns six all-SCIAC performers from last year’s roster and 28 players who played in the playoff game in McMinnville.
Chapman’s offensive line should be a big strength of this year’s team as they return three starters including 1st team right tackle Hunter Peterson, and 2nd team All-SCIAC Center Jacob Speer. I’m expecting the Panthers to attack the inexperienced middle of the ‘Cats defense will their all-star running back Jeremiah McKibbins (142 rushes, 919 yards, 16 TDs, 6.5 yard per carry).
On the other side of the coin, the Panthers return 5 starters from last season, including 3 1st-team All-SCIAC players. Look for Connor Larkin to anchor the Panther D from his safety position, and Garrett Frediani is a force at Linebacker. Alex Rorie, 1st team All-SCIAC, returns to anchor the Panther’s defensive line.
Overall, Chapman is a well-coached and dangerous football team. This group has been to the ‘Catdome before so some of that air is out of the balloon and I expect them to be more than “happy to be here” as they look to rock the D3 landscape to start the season.
Get To Know A Wildcat
|Photo Courtesy of Rusty Rae: View Rusty's Photos Here.|
#6 Kennedy Johnson, Corner, Junior
Hometown: Gresham, OR, High School: Barlow
Favorite place to eat in Mac: Tequila Grill
Favorite Movie: Django Unchained
Favorite Music: Rap and Reggae
Favorite TV show: True Detective
Favorite Book: A Long Way Gone
Class I Most Look Forward to: Foundations of Education
Iphone or Android: Iphone
CPU Homepage: Google.com
Personal Mantra: “Nothing worth having comes easy.”
Social Media of choice: Twitter
Car or Truck: Bicycle
Xbox, PS3, or Wii: Xbox
What first inspired you to play football: Growing up around football and watching my older brother play
Favorite Coach Smith Saying: “It never went to 40!”
Favorite part of playing at Linfield: There’s a really strong bond between all of us that is just amazing. It makes the grind of the season a little bit easier knowing we can count on the guy next to us.
Post Linfield aspirations: Coaching Football at either the high school or college level.
Wildcat11’s Keys To Victory
Manage the ups and downs: Linfield has to do what this program does well and that’s not get too high when things are going well or too low when mistakes happen. There has to be a stead and consistent effort from the opening kickoff all the way to the final horn at the end of the game.
Establish the run game: Critical for the ‘Cats offensive line to establish the rushing attack to help open up the passing game. If Linfield can run the ball effectively, the ‘Cats will be able to score points. Linfield’s offense can’t be one-dimensional.
Limit Chapman big plays: The Panthers have a big play offense that can rip off 20+ yard plays at will with their quick hitting zone read plays. If the ‘Cats defense can force Chapman to sustain drives instead of breaking off big chunks, Linfield should be able to limit the Panther offense.
Excellent Special Teams: Special teams was huge last year in the playoff game and has to get again. Last season, it took about half way through the season before the Linfield special teams grew into a force. If we can get a quicker start this season, it will bode well for the ‘Cats.
Play Assignment Football: Do your job. When you are new to a role, sometimes you feel like you need to do more to earn your place. Not true. Do your assignments right every time and trust the guy next to you will do the same. If you make a mistake, flush it, and do it right next time.
Attack the Quarterback: Chapman is excited about their new starting QB, Andrew Chavez. He seems to be a poised thrower so the ‘Cats should have opportunities to get after him. If Linfield can put the heat on it would go a long ways in disrupting Chapman’s offense.
‘Cats by 10. You never know about season openers. Each season a team has to forge their own identity and this year is no different. There is a TON of hype for the ‘Cats this year but let’s be real. That all goes out the window if they come out an lay an egg against Chapman. This Saturday is the only thing that matters and if this group comes together, I’m expecting a hard fought victory against a very good Panther program.