Wittenberg football runs during eighth preseason practice

Joe Fincham: Wittenberg developing good leaders in preseason

Coach expects to settle on starting quarterback next week

» PHOTOS: Wittenberg at practice Wednesday

Coach Joe Fincham’s players were not looking for their dogs on Wednesday, though that large open field isn’t a bad place to walk your dogs if you live nearby. They were motivating themselves during sprints at the end of practice.

Eight practices into the preseason, one week before the annual scrimmage against Muskingum and less than three weeks before the season opener at Washington & Jefferson on Sept. 7, the players knew they still had a long wait before the excitement of Saturday afternoons.

“They’ve worked hard,” Fincham said. “We’re developing some pretty good leaders. We have a long way to go. I think our guys like each other, which is important. I think they respect each other. But as a football team, after eight practices, you still have a lot more questions than answers.”

One question concerns the quarterback position. Who will replace graduated senior Jake Kennedy, a three-year starter who’s now with the coaching staff?

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Fincham said in the spring Bobby Froelich, who was the sophomore backup last season, and Lance Lambert and Blake King, who were freshmen last season, would compete for the job this month, and they were still splitting snaps with the first-team offense this week.

“It will still be ongoing for another week,” Fincham said. “Hopefully, somebody will separate themselves by the time we come back from the Muskingum scrimmage.”

Froelich looked like a team leader Wednesday, shouting to his teammates toward the end of the practice as they ran sprints.

“He’s the most veteran player in the group,” Fincham said. “Obviously, he’s going to feel a little more comfortable in that role. King and Lambert are sophomores and still developing. We’ve got a couple of freshmen who probably aren’t going to start, but they’re pretty good players.”

Fincham, who’s entering his 24th season, has his eyes on every other position as well. His team finished 9-1 last season, losing only to Wabash, and tied for the North Coast Athletic Conference champion with Wabash and Denison at 8-1.

“We have guys on both sides of the ball who have played a lot of football and played in some pretty big games and been successful,” he said. “I’d like to think those guys will be OK as long as they continue to progress and stay healthy. We also have a handful of guys on each side of the ball who have accomplished very little. We have a ways to go.”

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NCAC poll: Wittenberg received three of 10 first-place votes in the North Coast Athletic Conference preseason poll and was picked to finish second behind Wabash, which received six first-place votes. One coach voted for Denison to win the league, and the Big Red were picked third. Wittenberg, Wabash and Denison tied for first last season. Rounding out the poll were DePauw, Wooster, Ohio Wesleyan, Allegheny, Oberlin, Hiram and Kenyon.

National poll: Wittenberg ranked 18th in the D3Football.com preseason poll. Wabash was 23rd. Washington & Jefferson ranked 21st.

Preseason honor: Senior cornerback Troy Jones was named to the D3Football.com preseason All-America third team. He led the Tigers with five interceptions last season.

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