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College Football Preview: Widener Looks To Take Next Step in 2011

(Laquan Robinson runs the ball.  File photo)

(Laquan Robinson runs the ball. File photo)

Matt Leon Matt Leon
Coming on board at KYW was a homecoming for Matt Leon. Born and raised...
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CHESTER, Pa. (CBS) -- Last season was a bit of a transition year for Division III Widener University as they adjusted to life under new head coach Isaac Collins.   The Pride had an up-and-down campaign, finishing with a 5-5 record.

But they finished the season with a flourish, winning their final two games, including a thrilling last-second victory in the season finale over MAC Champion and rival Delaware Valley College.

“Winning the last two kind of set the tone for our guys,” says Collins.  “They worked hard in the weight room, worked hard in winter conditioning, and I think it carried over into the summer because way more guys passed our conditioning test this year than in year number one.  We feel like, from a standpoint of where we were a year ago at this time, we are further ahead.  But that’s to be expected in year number two,” Collins adds.

So, in this second year under Collins, what are the strengths of this team?

“It will start up front in our defensive line.   That’s probably where we have the most experience.  I think the quarterback position, Chris Haupt’s been doing this for a while.  He’s a few years removed from baseball (played in the minor leagues).  I think as he goes, our offense will go.”

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A junior, Haupt had a solid season in 2010, passing for 1,435 yards and nine touchdowns.

Collins says Haupt should have a good cast around him in 2011.

“I think we do have some exciting talented guys at the skill positions on offense, and I think we will be able to do some good things as we go forward,” Collins tells KYW Newsradio.

On defense, Widener also has a very special talent in the backfield in sophomore cornerback Laquan Robinson (photo).   He burst onto the scene as a freshman in 2010, not just in the secondary but on special teams.

The Chester, Pa. native returned four kicks (three punts, one kickoff) for touchdowns, while also intercepting a pair of passes.   He has been named a Preseason First Team All Division III in 2011.

But Collins thinks Robinson is more than that.

“The thing that is missed with him is he is such a great kid,” Collins says.  “A great person.  His mom did a great job raising him.   (Chester High School) coach (Charles) Crews did a tremendous job with him over there, and we are just blessed with the fortunes that we are catching him on an upswing.  There’s no doubt he’s a talent, but I think he loves to practice, he loves to compete.  Those things, with talent, the sky’s going to be the limit for him, and certainly we are excited looking forward to the next three years with him because there is no doubt he kind of surprised a lot of people.  I keep telling the coaches in the league, ‘That was just a fluke, keep kicking it to him!’ Let’s hope that keeps going.”

Chances are that opposing coaches aren’t going to fall for Collins’ plea, but he says the scary part about Robinson is that he continues to improve.

“He’s really kind of stepped his game up a little bit on the defensive side of the ball, and that’s really kind of where we challenged him.  I told him, ‘I don’t know how many balls you are going to get kicked to you, but they can’t go the whole game and not throw to your side, so you really need to step it up from a defensive standpoint.’ And that’s really what he’s been working on this offseason and throughout camp.”

Widener opens the season on Saturday against Moravian in Chester.

Reported by Matt Leon, KYW Newsradio 1060

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