Wittenberg Tigers open practice with positions up for grabs

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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Wittenberg opened practice for the 2016 season on Thursday.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

The Wittenberg Tigers have so many football players that they split the first day of practices into two on Thursday.

An 82-man recruiting class brought the total number of Tigers to 153, though that number will dwindle, as it usually does, as the month progresses and the Sept. 3 season opener against Capital at Edwards-Maurer Field approaches.

Senior offensive lineman Kennedy Cook remembers his first practice three years ago and how crazy it was joining a team loaded with talented players. He said he would advise the new freshmen to “hustle everywhere and work hard. Study the playbook and make an impact somehow.”

Part of Kennedy couldn’t believe his senior year had arrived.

“It is a weird feeling,” he said, “but it’s a great feeling at the same time, getting after it with all the senior guys.”

The Tigers finished 8-2 last season and lost quarterback Zack Jenkins, who’s now on the coaching staff, to graduation plus their top two running backs, Sean Gary and Jimmy Dehnke, and two of their top three receivers, Zach Culvahouse and Corey Stump.

Finding a starting quarterback to replace Jenkins will be one of the keys of camp. Juniors Quinn Cook and Tanner Clarke and sophomore Jake Kennedy are competing for the job. Kennedy completed 9 of 10 passes in three appearances last season in relief of Jenkins. Cook also saw limited action, completing 2 of 4 passes in six games.

“It’s going to be really close,” said senior wide receiver Luke Landis, who ranked second on the team last seaosn with 57 catches and nine touchdowns. “We’ve got three good guys. They’ve been here all summer, throwing at 7-on-7s.”

DeShawn Sarley and Antonio McClain are among the candidates to start at running back, Cook said. Each saw action in three games in 2015.

“There’s a lot of competition,” Cook said, “and that’s what we like to have.”

This is the 21st season for coach Joe Fincham, who is 181-41 since taking over in 1996. Landis said Fincham’s theme this season is: “Want it more.”

“We’re always going to have athletes,” Landis said. “The desire and hunger to want it more than our opponent is the biggest thing this year.”

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