Catamounts Open Second Year Under Head Coach Mark Speir
Youth, new faces and potential are the key words for Western Carolina football entering 2013, the second year under head coach Mark Speir. With a roster chocked full of talented young players countered by a hungry group of upperclassmen, the 2013 Catamounts face a very challenging schedule amidst a year of landscape change both in the Southern Conference, but also at the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) level.
Western Carolina returns 61.4-percent of its all-purpose yards (2,905 of 4,735) from a season ago while also returning a combined 13 starters with six on offense and seven on the defensive side of the ball. Combined, though, WCU brings back 22 players that made an appearance in the starting lineup including 17 that made three-or-more starts.
Offensively, WCU returns a host of talented players and a bulk of its offensive line that begins its second season almost fully intact. The Catamounts also return their top rusher from 2012 in Darius Ramsey who rushed for 503 yards in his rookie campaign. WCU's wide receiving corps is deep, but young in terms of on-field playing experience with the top returning wide out - Karnorris Benson - ranked fourth on the team a season ago (19 catches for 349 yards).
Coming out of its annual spring practice redshirt junior transfer Eddie Sullivan and sophomore signal caller Troy Mitchell were neck-and-neck to earn the starting nod at quarterback. Sullivan made six starts including five-straight in the backfield a year ago while Mitchell started five times including the final three regular season games, seeing action in all 11 games on the year.
Defensively, the Catamounts return six of their Top 10 tacklers from a season ago including linebacker Courtland Carson, who ranked second on the squad, with 97 total hits and safety Sertonuse Harris, who was named to the all-freshman team, with 93 tackles. Adding depth in the secondary is redshirt junior Ace Clark and sophomore Jaleel Lorquet who combined for 132 stops and four interceptions in 2012.
WCU's defensive front will be anchored by a four seniors led by defensive end Brian Johnson (36 tackles in 2012).
Senior punter Clark Sechrest, was listed on the 2013 College Football Performance Awards (CFPA) preseason Punter Award Watch List, and junior placekicker Richard Sigmon highlight WCU's specialists who will key the third facet of the game for Speir and company.
Western Carolina's 2013 season opens prior to the Labor Day holiday and runs through mid-November with the opening round of the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) playoffs slated for Nov. 24. The 12-game schedule features four nonconference games in addition to the eight-game Southern Conference slate. A combined four opponents played in post-season a year ago including three in the FCS playoffs.