By Matt Leon

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The West Chester University football program will open its 2017 season with a Thursday night home match-up against Bentley University.

The Golden Rams are coming off an 8-3 2016 season. After a 2-3 start, West Chester ran off six straight wins to end the campaign. West Chester ended up finishing second in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference’s East Division.

West Chester was picked to win the PSAC East here in 2017 in the preseason coaches’ poll. With the season opener quickly approaching, head coach Bill Zwaan is happy with what he has seen this summer.

“From a practice standpoint, we’ve had good practices,” Zwaan tells KYW Newsradio. “I like what I’m seeing for the most part. We’re going to find some things out Thursday night, obviously. But in most of the situations, most of the positions where I was hoping, where he had the questions marks and we could get some answers, I feel like we’re pretty close to getting those answers. So from an overall standpoint, I’m pretty happy with what’s going on.”

West Chester averaged about 36 points a game on offense last season. Zwaan breaks down who will be triggering the attack at quarterback this year.

“We’re going to start Paul Dooley, who’s a sophomore,” he says. “[He] played in our wildcat package last year for us, Chestnut Hill kid. He’s got a lot of talent, but obviously inexperienced so we’re going to have to live through some bumps I think as he gets comfortable out there. But we like what we’re seeing from him in camp. We also have A.J. Long, who is a transfer player (redshirt sophomore), transferred to us from Wagner, but originally had gone to Syracuse and A.J. has done some really good things in camp. He’s not quite caught up in the offense the way Paul is, so he’s a little bit behind, but we’re going to do some things with him, we’ve got a couple packages together for him that we want him to run, because we think he might be a special guy. So we’re going to play both of those guys.”

There is a lot of returning talent at the skill positions. Senior running back Jarel Elder is coming off a 1,013 yard and 11 touchdown season. Returning wide recievers Tyler Karpinski (senior) and Jordan Banks (junior) combined to catch 83 passes for 1391 yards and 16 touchdowns.

West Chester will start three players along the offensive line who were also starters last year.

On defense for West Chester, it starts up front with a talented and deep defensive line.

“We’re pretty big and physical at the tackle positions and those guys also have some decent speed in there,” Zwaan says. “And at the end spots, I think were going to get a really great pass rush from our ends. All of them can run, they are strong, they’re physical players. They’re not all really, really big, but they make up for it with their speed.”

Zwaan says they are in good shape at the linebacker position and as far as the back end of the defense is concerned…

“The only problem with our secondary is we don’t have a whole lot of depth yet,” he says. “A lot of young guys backing up those guys. So it’s a little bit inexperienced. As long as we stay healthy, we’re fine.”

West Chester’s season opener with Bentley kicks off at 6:00pm on Thursday night.