Football is looking to continue its success this season under new leadership. Along with graduating 15 seniors, the Ephs lost former Head Coach Mike Whalen to Wesleyan, where he will fill the positions of football head coach and assistant athletic director. Replacing Whalen is new Head Coach Aaron Kelton. Kelton served as the secondary coach at Columbia for two years before taking the position of defensive coordinator, which he held for two more years before his recent appointment to the College.
Wide receiver and tri-captain Bryce Bennett ’11 had nothing but praise for the way Kelton has handled himself during the transition period and into pre-season. “The coaching change could not have been smoother,” Bennett said. “From the start Coach Kelton has brought a renewed enthusiasm and swagger to the program. In the off-season, he instituted a rigorous conditioning program, and our players met the challenge wholeheartedly. As long as we continue to do this, we will have a successful season.”
The team is captained by Bennett, linebacker Dylan Schultz ’11 and tight end Jon Carroll ’11. The Ephs will return 18 of their 22 starters, including six All-NESCAC performers, and take on 22 first-years, one of the biggest rookie classes in recent years. These players will work to compensate for gaps left by offensive standout Nick Caro ’10 and the defensive mainstays that left in the spring, like defensive back Ikenna Iheoma ’10.
Bennett remains undaunted by the loss of last year’s seniors. He stressed that the team is ready for another championship run. “This has been our most productive preseason in my time here at Williams,” Bennett said. “Many of the younger guys have stepped up into starting roles, and we are beginning to see the results of the hard work put in during the offseason. We cannot wait to get on the field against Bowdoin and begin the season.”
Kelton has stressed that consistency will be a core value this year, as the Ephs have struggled in the past to maintain their offensive and defensive presences simultaneously. Kelton is aware of the difficulty of molding a team on both ends of the field in Div. III athletics and aims to combat this trend.
“The keys are taking the season one week at a time, playing together [and] doing it the right way,” he said. “Our focus on offense is about reading the defense and capitalizing on what the defense allows us to take. Most teams are able to pass and run effectively, so if our defense is able to shut down either one we can make the offense one-dimensional and capitalize on that. Special teams needs to be strong to help our field position. If we can be consistent in all three facets of the game, we can go out confident that we are going to win every game we play.”
If the Ephs are able to effectively replace the production of the Class of 2010, the men could well become favorites to win the NESCAC. Williams will open up its season at home on Saturday at noon against Bowdoin.