Over the next week prior to the kickoff of the 2019 football season, CatamountSports.com feature position-by-position previews of the 2019 Western Carolina football team. Each feature will contain the positional write-ups from the 2019 WCU Football Media Guide with video highlights from preseason fall camp.
Both season and single-game tickets for 2019 are on sale now through the Catamount Athletics Ticket Office, located on the first floor of the Ramsey Center, by phone at (800) 34-GOWCU, or online at CatamountSports.com. Lock-in your seat for all six exciting home dates with Catamount football season tickets today.
Tickets for the 2019 "Purple Out" opener against the Mercer Bears are going fast! WCU raises the curtain on 2019 in a big way with the pregame tailgating including the "Tailgate Town" (Ramsey Lot 9A) and a pregame concert by Joe Lasher, presented by Ingles; "Paws Playground" presented by Western Builder's just inside of Gate 1; the first on-field performance of the "Pride of the Mountains" Marching Band; the 9th-annual Freshmen Run; and capping the night will be a fireworks extravaganza, presented by Ingles and iHeartMedia partners, 99.9 Kiss Country and Star 104.3 FM.
Entering the 2019 season, the bulk of the specialists for Western Carolina return as all but one player from the 2018 roster is back this fall. However, the void created by the one individual lost is a very critical one.
First, the positives. Western Carolina returns its leading scorer from a season ago – and it might not be who you would first think of that claimed the crown in 2018. Junior placekicker Will Horton etched his name in the annuals with 87 combined points, averaging 7.9 of WCU’s 31.5 points per game over the 11-game season – the first WCU kicker to lead the team in scoring since Clark Sechrest back in 2011. Horton ranked second in the SoCon with 17 made field goals, adding 36 successful PATs.
Horton can’t rest on his laurels, though, as he’ll again be pushed by returners in redshirt sophomore Joel Poinsette and redshirt freshmen Richard McCollum and Julian Pletz. Horton (45 kickoffs) and McCollum (20 kickoffs) split kickoff duties last season, 2-to-1, with Horton registering 13 touchbacks with McCollum tallying two.
Now to address the void. For the first time in four seasons, WCU must find a new starting punter as the program’s all-time leader in the category – Ian Berryman – has since graduated and is trying to make the Pittsburgh Steelers’ NFL roster after being signed as an undrafted free agent. Berryman averaged a program-record 43.8 yards per punt over his four-year career with 56 punts of 50+ yards.
Competition between the above kickers who were in camp during the spring will also include two newcomers in the fall. Redshirt sophomore Samford transfer Jacob Enns (Tampa, Fla. / Cambridge Christian Academy) and true freshman Brandon Dickerson (Fort Mill, S.C. / Indian Land HS) will vie for the punting duties, while returning running back Caleb Ferguson representing the only other player on roster to have punting experience in a Catamount uniform – he punted six times in last year’s season-opener against Newberry, averaging 36.8 yards per kick with Berryman sidelined with injury. Poinsette has also looked good during preseason fall camp and has thrown his proverbial hat into the ring for a potential starting spot at the punter position.
A two-year starter at long-snapper, redshirt junior Charles McDonough is back and figures to have a hold on the starting snapping duties on punts and placekicks, though his back-up in redshirt sophomore Luke Hoggard could challenge during preseason camp with newcomer Kevin Thompson (Rock Hill, S.C. / Northwestern HS) adding depth at the often-overlooked important position.
Many of the usual suspects in the return game for the Catamounts are back for 2019 starting with both Daquan Patten and Nate Mullen on the punt return depth chart. Patten averaged 8.9 yards per return on 14 punt returns last season, while Mullen joins WCU tailbacks Connell Young and Donnavan Spencer as the predicted kickoff returners though Patten and Kenny Benton also dropped back deep several times a season ago. Redshirt freshman D.J. Atkins could also see time in the role as he returns from injury.
ADDITIONAL SPECIAL TEAMS NOTES:
• Ian Berryman became the seventh different Catamount punter since 1970 to lead WCU in seasonal punting average for four-consecutive seasons;
• Will Horton ranked FOURTH in the SoCon in scoring last year with his 87 combined points … His 7.9 points per game average ranked him second overall;
• Daquan Patten amassed the second-most punt return yards in the SoCon in 2018 with 124 while ranking third in average per return (8.9 yds/return).
Previous 2019 WCU Football Position Previews: