Andrew Woodley, Sports Information Director
LATROBE, Pa. (Aug. 2) - Bethany College sixth-year Head Coach Bill Garvey and senior defensive back John Lee (Worthington, Ohio/Thomas Worthington) represented the Bison at the annual Presidents' Athletic Conference (PAC) Football Media Day at the Sis & Herman Dupre Science Pavilion on the campus of Saint Vincent College Thursday afternoon.
The team was picked to finish eighth by the Presidents Athletic Conference (PAC) coaches and sports information directors and media at the league's annual football media day. Washington & Jefferson was selected as the league-favorite, while Case Western Reserve and Westminster rounded out the top-three.
The Bison open the season on Saturday, September 1 when they host Ursinus for a non-conference game at Bison Stadium at 12 p.m.
For the third-straight season, the Bethany College football team entered the off-season with victories in its final two contests. Unfortunately, last season the Bison dropped their first eight games before wins over Grove City and Saint Vincent in the final two weeks. The Bison, under sixth-year Head Coach Bill Garvey, would like to turn the page on a 2-8 campaign in 2017 and trend back towards their 2014 season when they earned an Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) postseason bowl berth.
It would appear on paper that junior Carlin Bason (Gaithersburg, Md./Gaithersburg) is the favorite to take over the reins of the offense, but a large incoming class will push him for the job when camp opens in August.
Bason has been the primary backup in each of his first two seasons and is the only quarterback on the roster with in-game experience. The Maryland native started games against co-PAC Champions Case Western Reserve and Washington & Jefferson after an injury sidelined then-starting quarterback Chase Kinemond.
Bason's passing numbers did not jump off the stat sheet in those starts (18 of 40 for 181 yards), but his athleticism and ability to break off big plays – like his 60-yard touchdown run versus Grove City – will make it hard for Garvey to keep the junior off of the field.
"He's one of the fastest guys on our team," said Garvey. "He is a guy who can take a quarterback run and go 80 (yards) with it without a problem."
Several newcomers will enter the fold and Garvey believes it will be an open competition despite the early edge that Bason should enjoy due to his experience. The team's play-making ability certainly increases with him on the field, but Garvey insists that Bason needs to "do what he needs to do" to win the job out of camp.
Junior Raekwon Wright (Baltimore, Md./Patterson) is the "X-factor" on offense. He was the team's most explosive player last season and earned Second Team All-PAC honors as an all-purpose back. He accounted for six of Bethany's 15 plays of 30 yards or more and is also the team's leading returner in receptions.
Garvey believes that all four running backs behind Wright, including senior Byron Mayers (Brownsville, Pa./Brownsville), juniors James Thomas (McKees Rocks, Pa./Sto-Rox) and Gregory Avent (Glen Burnie, Md./Glen Burnie), and sophomore Remynte Turner (Fort Worth, Texas/Hudson (Fla.)) have the ability to contribute. But he also cautions that all of them need to build off of their work in the spring and be ready to go in the fall when a group of freshmen tailbacks add to the running back competition.
WIDE RECEIVER / TIGHT END
For the first-time since 2011, a Bethany receiver did not haul in 70 receptions or more last season. The Bison were young at wide receiver and Garvey hopes that one of those underclassmen will emerge from the group. Juniors Darius Taylor (Leesburg, Va./Loudoun County), Abe Lyles (Fort Washington, Md./Friendly) and Hunter Klein (Leonardstown, Md./Leonardstown) all caught more than 10 passes last year and will be looked upon to take the next step in their development. Taylor is the team's top-returning receiver (20 receptions for 243 yards) from a year ago.
Senior Johnathan Woodbury (Mingo Junction, Ohio/Indian Creek) is the team's lone returner at tight end and should get the first opportunity at the position. Sophomore Kevin Claxton-Jones (Upper Marlboro, Md./Wise) moved from tackle to tight end in the spring and Garvey believes he is athletic enough to make the switch and contribute.
The offensive line is Garvey's most experienced unit on offense. The Bison return six offensive linemen with substantial playing experience, including senior guard Jaymier Scarbrough (Pittsburgh, Pa./Woodland Hills). Scarbrough is a two-time All-PAC Honorable Mention and three-year starter up-front. Garvey hopes senior Anthony Martin (Monongahela, Pa./Ringgold), who suffered a season-ending injury in the team's sixth game, can return to form and anchor the left tackle position. Junior center Charles Meriweather (Macedonia, Ohio/Nordonia) and sophomore guard Braylon Sibley (McKinney, Texas/McKinney North) started all 10 games last season, while junior tackle Nathan Carter (St. Petersburg, Fla./Canterbury School) started nine.
The Bison also expect sophomore Mike Thompson (Marshallville, Ohio/Smithville), who started four games in 2017, and sophomore Nick Roark (Greenville, Tenn./South Greene), a transfer from NCAA Division II Carson-Newman, to compete for playing time.
All-PAC First Team selection Khallid Pierce's graduation leaves a hole at rush end, but Garvey believes that this is as good of a group as he's ever had at Bethany. Junior Chas Blango (Pittsburgh, Pa./Mt. Lebanon) ranked ninth in the PAC with 4.5 sacks on his way to a PAC Honorable Mention nod last season and will look to fill Pierce's void. Senior Daniel Gibson (Pittsburgh, Pa./Woodland Hills) missed the final seven games due to injury, but is a two-time All-PAC Honorable Mention selection and will be healthy heading into camp. Seniors Nate Daniels (Crooksville, Ohio/Crooksville) and Will Kanters (Massillon, Ohio/Jackson) have been two of the most consistent players on the team and are both returning starters.
Linebacker isn't the deepest group, but it is arguably the strongest unit on the team. All three starters return, including Second Team All-PAC senior Joseph Fiasco (Wilmerding, Pa./Penn-Trafford). Fiasco tied for the league-lead with 9.6 tackles per game and ranked seventh in the PAC with 11.0 tackles for loss. He will be joined by senior Will Gatling (Baltimore, Md./Northwestern) and junior Collin "Moose" Johnston (West Newton, Pa./Belle Vernon). Gatling finished third in the PAC with 9.0 tackles per game, while Johnston is a two-year starter and slotted third on the team with 5.4 tackles per game a season ago.
Injuries plagued the defensive backs last season, but as a result, built up a decent amount of depth at the position. Senior safety John Lee (Worthington, Ohio/Thomas Worthington) and senior cornerback George Reid (Columbus, Ohio/Linden-McKinley) are the leaders of the unit. Garvey believes that Lee, who is also the center fielder on the baseball team, is versatile enough to play both close to the line of scrimmage and deep on the back end effectively. In addition to Lee and Reid, the Bison have at least five other returners who have seen time in the secondary and played a lot of football.
The Bison will need to replace both their kicker and punter this season. Garvey said he has his "biggest class" of incoming kickers which should create competition. Sophomore Sean Cole (Charleroi, Pa./Charleroi) was a two-time all-conference kicker in high school and handled kickoff duties towards the end of the season, while junior Anthony Fiasco (Wilmerding, Pa./Penn-Trafford) is the only returner with any punting experience.
Wright handled both kickoff and punt return duties last season, but Garvey would like to get a young guy into the mix to help offset the load on his primary tailback.
PAC PRESEASON POLL (First-Place Votes)