2016 Tiger Football Team Preview
Part ten of a ten part series previewing the 2016 Saint Xavier Football Tigers: Team
How can one not be excited for the 2016 Tiger Football Season? The team returns thirteen starters, and almost everyone who is stepping up to fill in has game experience. It’s year four of the Wolford Era, which means this senior class is the first class to go through a full tenure under the head coach. After a sub-par 7-5 record the past season, the 2016 Tiger Football team is looking for a big jump this year.
The offense is going to ride the heels of the offensive line all year long. With Joe Lyons leading the pack, and his two partners in crime in G.J. Wellinghurst and Wyatt Smock, this group could turn out to be the best O-Line in recent memory. This group will be pretty solid in both run and pass protection, which is music to our ears, because if the O-Line gets the job done this year, this offense could be special. However, the signal-caller this year is going to be the one to watch. Dual-threat quarterback Desmond Ridder is poised to be the star of the show. With a cannon for an arm, and a pair of fleet-footed legs under him, it looks to be a great year for Ridder. He has already been put on Jason Frakes’ Top 10 Candidates for Mr. Football this year.
Behind Ridder is a two-headed dragon in runningback Sam Taylor and fullback Mack Blincoe. They both return as starters in the backfield. Taylor is going to be an absolute beast, taking most of the carries. The expression “football speed” is definitely seen in Taylor; once he gets a full head of steam, there’s no catching him on the way to end zone. If you’re in his way, look to be heading to the sideline for some medical attention. Blincoe on the other hand is going to be paving lanes for Taylor every single game. This two-way power backfield is going to be really fun to watch.
The Receiver Corps is going to help Ridder out big time this year. Blake Roshowski is battling back from his ACL injury, but only has a few more weeks until he is cleared. He’s already a proven star in Saint Xavier Athletics; so if he can come back strong from his injury, he can only add to his legacy here. Brewer Cahalan is an extremely shifty receiver, and when he gets the ball he’s looking to make a play. Max Masterson can take the top off of opposing secondaries with his speed. Also, in a completely unbiased opinion, some would say he’s extremely handsome. The Receiver group is rounded out by fellow seniors Matthew Smith and Addison Waddell. They are both big targets with great athletic ability, so look for them to score a lot when the offense gets into the redzone.
All in all, the offense is full of potential playmakers that could have breakout seasons. The biggest problem the group faces as a whole is consistency. At least, that was the case last year. But this is a new year, with new faces, and a new mindset. If they remain consistent the whole year, look for some huge numbers from the offense.
The Tiger Football Team has always been known for their stellar defensive play. This year is no different. Coach Bruner’s Defense is filled with great players and athletes, and with game-changers at each level.
Much like the offense, the defensive unit is going to feed off of its big men up front. The D-Line returns two starters in Max Willinger and Kyle Robinson. Willinger is going to wreak havoc on any lineman who gets in his way. Sorry to anyone that even remotely attempts to block him, it’s just not happening anytime soon. Robinson will physically impose his will on offensive lineman with his athletic abilities. If there was a high school “Freaks” list for Kentucky, I have no doubt in my mind Robinson would be near the top. He is faster than most skill players, and when you factor in his strength… oh my. Ryan Adams will round out the group. He was able to play a rotational role as a junior, and he is looking to flourish in his last year as a Tiger.
The Defensive Line is going to be able to take a lot of pressure off of the rest of the defense this year. They are going to give every offensive line they face fits. I foresee Max Willinger and Kyle Robinson forcing a lot of double teams this year, providing gaps for the rest of the defense to capitalize on. Their presences will be felt as run-stoppers, and they are going to make an impact.When the offense can’t get the run-game going, and they try to pass, welcome to the island of the Tiger Secondary.
The defensive backfield is going to be just as good as the Defensive Line. Jake Taylor, and his never-back-down attitude will be a force for the secondary. Taylor is just an all-around playmaker. He’s great at shedding blocks from receivers, and attacking to stop the run. When he lines up in coverage, he will be across the opposing team’s best receiver, shutting them down. Across the field will be Owen Weis. Weis has great size (6-0, 160), and is poised for a breakout year. With Taylor on the other side, opposing offenses may try to test Weis but that won’t get them anywhere.
Joining them at the safety positions will be Jacob Stofer and Austin Eisert. Stofer plays very much with the play style of Harrison Smith, strong safety for the Minnesota Vikings (it’s close, but we will say Smith is slightly better). Both are a kind of jack-of-all trades, and they are able to contribute a lot to their respective defenses. However, they primarily serve as hard-hitting runstoppers, but are speedy and agile enough to cover all receivers well. Austin Eisert is ready to play on the opposite side of the ball, moving from wide receiver. Expect him to be a ball hawk this year; if it’s in the air, he’s at least getting a hand on the ball. It’ll be fun to see how his skill set transfers over to the defensive side of the ball.
Lastly – certainly not least – will be the Linebackers. The Linebacker group, deeming themselves the “hounds”, will look a little bit different this year after losing Logan Butler. However, don’t expect a production drop-off at all. Jack Daly will be the star in the middle, filling in for Butler. With Butler hogging most of the tackles last year, look for Daly to take a big chunk of them this year. Junior Doug Shaffner will also be manning the inside along with Daly. Both of these players can cover sideline to sideline, and they will do a lot of damage.
On the outside will be two other studs in Jack Kronk and Braidon Washburn. Kronk is undersized, but he will make up for it with sheer grit. There is a reason he started as a junior last year, so don’t count him out. He’s going to contribute big time in his last year. Braidon Washburn will be on the other side, filling out the Defense. He’ll be a pure assassin attacking off of the edge. They are going to be everywhere on the field, whether that be stopping the run, sacking the quarterback, or picking him off.
Coach Bruner’s Defense is going to be a force to be reckoned with for another year. The whole defense looks very promising. There’s a lot of talent here, and a lot of talent that knows how to play together. This is very unlike years past, where players have just been plugged in their senior year. It’s a combo we don’t see often at St.X, so when the first whistle sounds, enjoy it Tiger Nation.
As for the special teams unit, not a lot needs to be said. They are going to be great, if not the best in the state. The group returns everyone from last year. Sam McDonogh will be hitting it through the uprights from all distances. Owen Johnson is going to consistently kick touchbacks on all of his kickoffs. Zac Collins is going to be pinning opponents behind the 20 yard line. It’s quite simple.
In year four of the Wolford Era, and with so many returning starters, the 2016 Saint Xavier Tiger Football Team is going to be one of the teams to watch this year. It’s going to be completely up to the players on what they want to accomplish this year and maybe this is biased, but I truly believe that this can be one of the better teams we’ve had in recent memory.
This team is patiently waiting for their time. Patiently waiting for their first shot. And when that time comes on August 26th @ Lexington Catholic, Tiger Nation, they’ll be ready, and so should you.