The Purple and Gold game was not a exhibition of great football execution. If anything, it could be considered a tough defensive match-up.
Despite the many incomplete passes and missed blocking assignments, spectators got a first hand look at next year’s team. Looking past this game and moving into next year, the Cats look to be tough contenders in the conference and hope to find a way to win the close games that plagued the team last year.
The offense is returning ten players from last year’s starting team. The only offensive player missing from last year’s offense is David Rivers, and with his departure, he leaves a big gap in the offense. While the position is still up in the air, I would consider Brian Gather and junior college transfer Cilento to be the front runners for the position.
The quarterback next year should get a lot of help from the rest of the offense. Among those returning are running backs Fred Boetang, Donnie Bryant, and Walter Gary. Joining the backs will be the return of wide receivers Michale Banks and Lamont Seward. Last year the two became the first tandem at Western Carolina to gain 1,000 yards receiving.
In addition to the skilled positions, the Cats have their starting five offensive linemen returning for next season. These guys were good last year and will only get better next year.
The defense has a number of holes to fill from a squad that was the team’s weak link last year. They will have to replace both cornerbacks, the middle linebacker, a defensive lineman, and the strong safety. A couple of players who could lead the Cats defense next year are safety Justin Fryer and defensive lineman Jeff Chambers.
Other defenders to keep an eye on are defensive lineman John Brashears and a trio of defensive ends in Michael Spicerer, Pablo Abraham, and Nicky McNeil. The defensive line should be the foundation of next year’s defense.
So, you can see that the game on Saturday was more for fun and less for practice. I mean, they split up the starting units. Basically, this means that the Cats are not a bad team. They will be contenders in the fall. The key for the team will be winning the close games and winning on the road. Sounds easy, but my experience is that it is easier said than done.