By Matt Leon
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The 2013 season was an incredibly successful one for the West Chester University Golden Rams and they are hoping to build on it here in 2014.
West Chester went 13-2 last season, advancing all the way to the Division II National Semifinals before losing to Lenoir-Rhyne College.
Head coach Bill Zwaan says he is very happy with what he has seen here this spring.
“It’s been a real good spring so far,” Zwaan tells KYW Newsradio. “Some injuries, like most teams have in the spring, so we have a few guys who are not practicing. But, in general, we’ve got a lot of guys back from that team last year, so a lot of guys who are excited about going into next year. Good foundation to build on. And in the positions where the kids aren’t practicing, some of the younger guys are getting a lot more reps, so we’re really finding out who can play for us, even from a depth standpoint, who can be our back-ups at those spots, where we’re missing some guys.”
One big hole the Golden Rams have to fill in 2014 is at running back. Rondell White was an incredible performer for West Chester the last four seasons. He finished his career as West Chester’s all-time leading rusher (4,336 yards) and that is actually one of 21 school records White broke during his time on campus. Zwaan says he will really be missed, but he also likes what he has coming back in the backfield.
“I’d say we’re in pretty good shape,” Zwaan says. “Obviously, it’s going to be really tough to replace somebody who did as much as Rondell did for us. But we’ve got three guys right now who are working in the backfield in Eddie Elliott, Jarel Elder and Brandon Monk. Eddie and Brandon both played some (last season), Eddie more at wide receiver and Brandon as the back-up to (White), and Jarel Elder’s really a special talent as a red-shirt freshman, hasn’t played at all yet. Between the three of them, we think we’re going to be able to get a lot of that production made up. It won’t be the exact same as having (White) there, but I think we feel pretty good about that group.”
The Golden Rams look to be in good hands under center, as starter Sean McCartney is back.
“He’s had a great spring,” Zwaan says. “You can really see his confidence level. We’re replacing a couple of the wide receivers, with guys who played a lot, but you can just see the comfort level between the new guys in there at receiver and Sean. He has a good feel for what guys can do and who is going to get open on certain plays. He just looks like a different guy right now. He had a great playoff run and you can just see that confidence really spilling out.”
Zwaan says the spring has been important for the offensive and defensive lines, where they had some question marks coming into these workouts.
“We graduated three guys off of both those places,” Zwaan says. “I think the offensive line we feel pretty comfortable with right now. Even though we graduated three guys, we had two other guys who were rotating in. Those guys have played a lot of football, so at four of the five spots we feel pretty good. We’re still working on the fifth spot with a couple of young guys who are battling it out. As the spring has worn on, we feel pretty good about where we’re at on the offensive line. Defensive line is still up in the air. We’re trying some different things, moving some guys around. Probably our defensive tackle spot, right now, is probably the spot that we’re trying to work on the most. We have a couple guys who got some playing time there last year, that we’re rotating in and out. But I think some of the young guys are going to have to help us there.”
West Chester will play its spring game on Saturday.
The 2014 season begins on September 6th when the Golden Rams visit the University of New Haven.
You can follow Matt on Twitter @mattleonkyw.