By Matt Leon
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — For the third straight year, Division III Widener University is opening a football season with a new head coach.
Isaac Collins left for Division II Seton Hill after leading the Pride to the 2012 NCAA Tournament quarterfinals. Bobby Acosta spent one season as head coach in Chester before leaving after the 2013 season to become an assistant at Syracuse.
Mike Kelly is the new man in charge. Kelly’s football coaching career has taken him all over the continent at both the college and pro levels. He says the Pride’s training camp has gone well to this point.
“It’s been an awful lot of fun,” Kelly tells KYW Newsradio. “We have some absolutely terrific young men out here. We have over 130 players out there every single day and we’re getting through all the nuances of freshmen orientation, but I think we’ve got the football end of it pointed in the right direction.”
Widener’s top weapon is wide receiver Anthony Davis. The Chester High School product’s name is all over the Widener record books. He comes into his senior season second in program history with 187 catches, 5,035 all-purpose yards and 31 touchdown catches. He says the transition to life under Coach Kelly has been smooth.
“We have a great amount of experience with the staff,” Davis tells KYW Newsradio. “And they’re putting us in positions I didn’t see before, until we got these guys. It’s going to be a great season. The coaching staff is going to put us where we need to be and give us great opportunities to be great.”
Quarterback Seth Klein will be throwing the football to Davis. A sophomore, Klein threw for 2,809 yards and 17 touchdowns as a freshman.
“Seth is a rhythm thrower and we’ve tried to play on that,” Kelly says. “He’s done a nice job in terms of getting the ball out of his hands and he’s progressing as a reader of coverage and going through his progressions. You can’t lose sight of the fact that he is still a young player, he’s only got one year under his belt. And although it was a successful season for him, he still has a long way to go in terms of the maturation of being a quarterback.”
Davis says he enjoys playing with Klein under center and thinks they are poised for a big year.
“Our chemistry is good, you’ll see,” Davis says. “You’ll see, (laughs) that’s all I can say.”
On the other side of the ball, Kelly hired former Eagles’ assistant coach Bill Shuey as his defensive coordinator and he likes the look of that unit.
“I would say that our front seven is going to be about as salty as anybody around,” Kelly says. “We have athletes that demonstrate explosiveness, power, they’re intelligent players. Just as it is at any level, I worry about our depth a little bit, but we do have good rotation on the front line. But that front seven is a really good group. The secondary is coming along. We’re looking for guys with long arms (that) can push and pester. My hope is that the ball doesn’t get in the air, but I think we’ll have guys at the back end that can take care of that.”
Widener was picked to finish fourth in the Middle Atlantic Conference’s preseason poll.
Davis is looking forward to getting his senior season underway.
“It’s been a blessed four years,” Davis says. “I’m just happy to play football, and give everything that I’ve got. This year is going to a good year.”
Widener opens the 2014 season on the road. Friday night, September 5th, they will visit Rowan University.
You can follow Matt on Twitter @mattleonkyw.