This is the final week that the Catamount Sports Network and CatamountSports.com will feature positional previews of the 2016 Catamount football team. Each feature contains the position write-ups from the 2016 Western Carolina media guide, and Catamount Sports Network All-Access video highlights and interviews with the position coach and student-athletes.
2016 Catamount Football Position Preview: the Quarterbacks
Coming out of the 2015 season and subsequent spring drills and entering 2016, the spotlight on the Catamount football team shown brightest on one major position – the quarterback. Surrounded by arguably some of the best offensive weapons in the Southern Conference – and perhaps all of NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) football – the quarterback question mark for WCU is one that loomed large entering fall camp.
Following the final snap of 2015, WCU started the task of replacing its all-time career leader in passing and total offense, graduated senior Troy Mitchell. Over his four-year career, Mitchell set school records for career passing yards (7,354), passing touchdowns (50), touchdowns accounted for (69), and total offense (9,397 yards) – ranking fourth in the Southern Conference records books with the latter.
What was anticipated to be a three-way battle for the top signal caller spot became a two-horse race just days before the start of the 2016 fall camp. Returning junior Wes Holcombe and redshirt freshman Tyrie Adams have gone head-to-head through fall camp, coining the term “co-opetition” – meaning cooperative competition – in reference to battling for the starting job.
Holcombe left spring drills as the preseason favorite, the only current Catamount quarterback with collegiate game experience. Though statistics show the Rabun Gap, Ga., product having seen action in 14 career games, only a handful have come at QB as Holcombe also served as the primary holder on placekicks in 2015. Catamount fans were given a glimpse of the potential future, though, in the home 24-21 come-from-behind victory over Mercer in mid-October. Playing the final two quarters for an injured Mitchell, Holcombe orchestrated a pair of fourth quarter scoring drives, completing a career-high 10 passes for a career-best 77 yards passing in helping guide the Catamounts to the victory.
Holcombe will be challenged by the uber talented Tyrie Adams (St. Petersburg, Fla.), who is cut from similar athletic cloth as former QB, Mitchell. Adams was a three-sport standout as a prep, accumulating 2,802 yards through the air and 30 touchdown passes as a senior. He had the most productive outing in WCU’s annual spring game scrimmage, leading five scoring drives with three TD passes on 15-of-21 passing for 146 yards.
Both of the aforementioned signal callers showed flashes of brilliance during the head-to-head competition through the spring. A starter for the 2016 season opener at East Carolina is not anticipated to be announced maybe as late as game day.
Off the gridiron, Adams had a busy season with the WCU track & field programs as he helped the Catamount men win both the 2016 SoCon Indoor and Outdoor Championships. He was the high jump champion at both the indoor and outdoor conference championships. Adams, who nearly broke the school record with a leap of 2.14 meters at the Catamount Classic held in Cullowhee, advanced to the NCAA East Preliminary in the high jump despite only competing in three meets in the spring.
Freshman Nolan Beasley (Charlotte, N.C. / North Mecklenburg HS) was in camp during spring practice and could add additional depth to the lineup in 2016. He is joined by rookie classmate Hunter Watson (Greenwood, S.C.).
ADDITIONAL QUARTERBACKS NOTES:
• Behind Troy Mitchell and his weapons in 2015, WCU ranked third in the Southern Conference in passing offense a season ago, averaging 234.6 yards per game through the air.
WCU Football 2016 Position-by-Position Preview (tentative schedule):
Offensive Line - WATCH
Defensive Line - WATCH
Tight Ends - WATCH
Linebackers - WATCH
Wide Receivers - WATCH
Special Teams - WATCH
Running Backs - WATCH
Defensive Backs - WATCH