The John Denver song “Country Roads, Take Me Home,” a famous ode to West Virginia, played over the loudspeaker at Edwards-Maurer Field as the Wittenberg Tigers warmed up for practice Wednesday.
Wittenberg coach Joe Fincham, a native of Williamstown, W.Va., heard it and claimed he had nothing to do with the playlist. That seemed true moments later as Drake’s “Big Rings” started to play.
Fincham has a much better handle on his roster than on the music selection at practice, and one interesting question every every season regarding his Tigers revolves around the simple questio: What freshmen are contributing?
The Tigers had 71 players in the 2018 class. Here’s a glance at who has seen action in the first two games:
Gunnar Doran, left guard: The West Jefferson grad, who measures 6-foot-3 and 315 pounds, has started both games. Fincham said he’s the first Wittenberg offensive linemen to start since 2002. Doran was a first-team All-Ohio selection in Division V last season.
“From a physical standpoint, he’s a big, strong guy,” Fincham said, “but it’s hard to be a freshman quarterback or a freshman offensive linemen and play just because you have to play with so many people around you. It’s not just about you. Athleticism isn’t the deciding factor in those two positions.”
Logan Jewsikow, linebacker: The Northmont grad made five tackles (four solo) in a 45-14 victory at Oberlin on Saturday.
Reid Allen, linebacker: The linebacker from Akron Archbishop Hoban has received playing time on special teams.
Donte Ashcraft, defensive line: The Hilliard Darby grad has three tackles in two games.
Adam McCardle, linebacker: The Hilliard Bradley grad appeared in the season-opening 34-21 victory against Westminster.
Zarek Porter, linebacker: The Columbus Eastmoor Academy graduate had one tackle against Westminster.
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Overall, Fincham likes the early returns on the freshman class.
“We have a number of young guys I like,” he said. “A lot of them right now are either swimming in the playbook, or some of them are swimming from a conditioning standpoint, which happens with young guys. Right now, they’re at a point in time academically that is pretty challenging for them, too. It’s mid-term time. A lot of papers are due.”
NOTES: Wittenberg (2-0, 1-0) remained No. 14 in the D3Football.com poll this week. It’s the only North Coast Athletic Conference team in the top 25. Wabash (3-0, 2-0) is receiving votes. The Tigers and Little Giants are the only teams above .500.