Wittenberg Tigers coach Joe Fincham hasn’t had to worry about naming a starting quarterback since 2016 when a sophomore named Jake Kennedy won the job.
Kennedy didn’t relinquish the job for the rest of his career and finished his playing days in November as the program’s all-time leader in passing yards (7,949) and touchdown passes (75). He was the first quarterback to start more than two years for the Tigers since Aaron Huffman, a four-year starter from 2006-09.
With Kennedy graduating and moving to Austria to play pro football, Wittenberg began the process of finding his replacement this spring. The team practiced 16 times, finishing April 28. It will head to the summer with the quarterback competition continuing between Bobby Froelich, who was the sophomore backup last season, and Lance Lambert and Blake King, who were freshmen last season.
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Froelich, a Cincinnati La Salle graduate, had a hamstring injury in the spring and missed about half of the practices, and Lambert, of West Jefferson, and King, of Milford, split most of the snaps.
“I’m 100 percent sure we don’t have a starter yet,” Fincham said. “It’s pretty wide open still.”
Fincham said there are things he likes about all three players.
“The good thing about coming out of spring, if you don’t know who your guy is, the competition stays squarely on everybody,” he said. “They go home for the summer, and they know the job’s wide open. If that’s the case, you’d like to think they’d come back in great shape and be ready to roll. The bad thing about Division III, even for the bigger schools, is you don’t have cookie-cutter guys. They all have strengths and weaknesses. As a coaching staff, you’ve got to stay somewhat vanilla or generic with your plan until you figure out who your guy’s going to be, and then you can tilt it to their strengths. We’ve got some work to do there.”
Staff news: Wittenberg finished 9-1 last season and shared the North Coast Athletic Conference title with Wabash and Denison, which won the tiebreaker and advanced to the Division III playoffs.
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Fincham enters his 24th season with a new defensive coordinator. It’s a familiar name, though. David Marquis returns to the program after two seasons at Dayton. He worked at Wittenberg in the 2015 and 2016 seasons and was the defensive coordinator in 2016.
Brannon Dunn left after two seasons at Wittenberg to become the defensive line coach and run game coordinator at Valporaiso.
Injury news: Running back DeShawn Sarley, who rushed for 1,650 yards and 14 touchdowns in his first three seasons, continues to recover from the torn Achilles tendon he suffered in the preseason a year ago. The injury came after he tore his ACL near the end of the 2017 season, missing the last two regular-season games and the playoffs.
“He’s been on the shelf for a while,” Fincham said. “He’s doing some straight-ahead things but not cutting or anything like that.”
Position battles: Asked what positions, aside from quarterback, were the focus in the spring, Fincham said, “We have some depth issues on the offensive line right now. We bring four guys back who started, but we’re really thin there. Our defensive line, we’ve had some graduation over the last couple of years. The only guy coming back who’s really played is Trevor Good.”
Facility update: The new $40 million indoor facility, the Steemer, continues to rise over Edwards-Maurer Field. It’s scheduled to open later this year and looks more finished every day.
“I told people when we started this project, when this thing’s done, it’s going to look like a UFO landed on campus,” Fincham said. “You can see it when you come into town. It’s ginormous. It slowly has had an effect on recruiting. The first year, when we just had backhoes and bulldozers, you’re selling pictures. It affected us a lot more this year when people could actually see the structure. By this time next year, when it’s in full-blown use, kids will be taking tours through it, and we’ll get bang for our buck.”
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