2016 Record: 6-2
Projected 2017 Record: 8-1
Projected Starters: Offense (*Returning)
QB: Mark Piccarillo ‘19*
RB: Dario Highsmith ‘20
WR: Mike Breuler ‘18*
WR: Eric Meyreles ‘18*
OL: Beau Butler ‘18 *
OL: Terrance Norton ‘19 *
OL: Ryan Shutta ‘20
Projected Starters: Defense (*Returning)
LB: Shane Kaminski ‘18 *
LB: Brandon Morris ‘19*
CB: Jason Mitzner ‘18*
S: Elias Comacho ‘18*
CB: Ben Thaw ‘20/Eli Blair-May ‘20
DE: Jude Lindberg ‘19
DT: Grant Williams ‘19
DT: Bobby Nevin ‘19
Projected Starters: Special Teams (*Returning)
KR: Eric Meyreles ‘18*
PR: Eric Meyreles ‘18*
Wesleyan finished last season at 6-2, very much in the mix as one of the top teams in the league. They did it with a dynamic, powerful defense that was complemented by a run based offense that very rarely turned the ball over. This is usually a pretty solid and sustainable formula for success. However, the Cardinals lost a lot of the pieces that made that formula work in the offseason. They are that rare team that could go either way this season. They could rely on their depth and have young players step up to help them make the leap to the true top tier, or they could fall to the middle of the pack.
On offense, most of their losses affect that crucial running game. Lead back Lou Stevens is gone, as is, of course, versatile threat Devin Carrillo. Carrillo’s loss particularly stings,as he was a factor in every part of Wesleyan’s offense. He had 12 rushing touchdowns, and was also their leading receiver. To replace that kind of production, senior QB Mark Piccarillo will have to become elite. He is close to that level already, accounting for 15 total touchdowns last season, but without Stevens and Carillo to fall back on he will be asked to make more difficult throws and to run the ball with more authority. Luckily for the Cardinals, they are still very deep at receiver, with Eric Meyreles ‘18 and Mike Breuler ‘18 forming one of the better duos in the league.
Defensively, they lost two of their standouts in DT Jordan Stone and DB Justin Sanchez. They were both all-league level players, but more than that they, along with Coach DiCenzo and his staff, were responsible for forming the tough as nails defensive identity for which Wesleyan has become known. Luckily, that identity has seeped into the pores of the other players. LB Shayne Kaminski ‘18 is more than ready to take over that leadership mantle, and Wesleyan boasts a trio of junior DT’s that stop opposing rushing attacks where they stand. Defense has never been a worry for the Cardinals, and it won’t be this year.
Depth is what the Cardinals hope will keep them afloat despite all these losses, and that leads to position battles. There are two major ones that we’re keeping an eye on. On offense, tight end is up in the air. Senior Jake Cronin ‘18 would appear to have an inside track due to his experience, but freshman Patterson ‘21 adds a receiving dimension to their offense. And on defense, that final LB spot is still open, although sophomore Will Kearney ‘20 has made an impressive push in camp and might be set as the starter. Wesleyan lost a great deal, but they also keep a great deal and look poised to make a leap.
Offensive MVP: WR Eric Meyreles ‘18
One of the strengths of Wesleyan’s offense is their versatility. Last season they used Devin Carrillo ‘17 as a weapon from pretty much everywhere on the field. Carrillo had 12 rushing touchdowns, as well as 29 receptions as a receiver. His departure leaves them with a hole in that receiver hybrid spot that is so popular in today’s game. Meyreles is the logical choice to fill that void. He was their third-leading receiver last year with 21 receptions, and also uses his speed to be one of the most dangerous return men in the league. Wesleyan could well give some of Carillo’s rushing sets to Meyreles, making him an even more versatile threat.
Defensive MVP: LB Shayne Kaminski ‘18
This choice is pretty straightforward. Kaminski was one of the best linebackers in the league last year as a junior, putting up 61 tackles and four sacks. Wesleyan as a team was one of the best defenses in the country, ranking towards the top in yards allowed for most of the season.Clearly, defense is Wesleyan’s identity. Unfortunately for them, they lost elite defensive back Justin Sanchez. This leaves a void at a leadership position for that elite defense, a void that Kaminski is more than ready to fill. Look for him at the end of the season as First Team and DPOY candidate.
Player to Watch: RB Dario Highsmith ‘20
Wesleyan has long relied on a strong rushing attack to complement their stellar defense. Last season they averaged nearly 180 yards per game on the ground, and scored 21 rushing touchdowns. However, between Carillo and fellow graduated senior back Lou Stevens, the Cardinals have lost a large chunk of those yards and touchdowns. Enter Dario. Highsmith put up an impressive first year last season, fitting in seamlessly to Wesleyan’s vaunted rushing attack, averaging 4.4 yards per carry and, most importantly, not fumbling once all season. Highsmith is poised to combine with Piccarillo, an excellent threat to run from the QB spot, to form a dynamic duo out of the backfield.
Biggest Game: @Trinity, November 11th
Wesleyan has their sights set on the top this season, and on paper they certainly have the talent to get their. Of course, the games aren’t played on paper, but say for the sake of this section of the preview that they and the Bantams run the table leading up to this match-up. Imagine iow exciting that game would be. Even if that hypothetical doesn’t come true, this game could very well serve as a de facto NESCAC championship. And aside from that, it’s a classic offense versus defense matchup, and those are always fun.
Post practice yoga / pool workout ☑️ pic.twitter.com/DbszR2bMXY
— Wesleyan Football (@Wes_Football) September 2, 2017