Wesley enters 2014 at number 22 in our rankings. Check out our Top 25 Season Preview for more on the top college teams to watch this fall. Can’t find your team in the Top 25? View our full rankings to see where every team stands.
Last Season: 10-3 (N/A) Independent
As an independent, Wesley throws a wrench into our preseason rankings. Since HeroSports is a data-driven, our preseason rankings have to be based on data (duh). We’ve found the best preseason approximation of the end of season results is a combination of historical team strength and conference strength. Wesley, as an independent, is missing a key part of that equation, so their preseason rank is a little skewed. Once the games start, this will be remedied quickly, especially since Wesley has an impressive schedule just like they had last season.
Last season they played three teams featured in our preseason top 25 – Salisbury, Mary Hardin-Baylor, and Alfred. They went 2-1 in those contests, the lone loss at Mary Hardin Baylor. It was one of only two losses they suffered all season, the other at the hands of Rowan, 24-17. Their 8-2 regular season record was enough to earn them an independent berth into the D3 playoffs, and they took full advantage.
First, they travelled to Johns Hopkins of the Centennial Conference and won 29-24. They followed that with a win over Empire 8 champs Ithaca, 23-15. Then, in the D3 quarterfinals, they travelled to play Mount Union – a team that appeared in the last eight Stagg Bowls. It was a brutal first quarter for the Wolverines, who fell behind 31-0 before they knew what was happening. It was like they got Space Jammed. They outscored the Purple Raiders in each of the final three quarters, but ultimately couldn’t complete the comeback and lost 62-59 to end their season.
Ryan Gerlitz WR/PK – 5 receptions, 98 yards, 59 punts, 33.7 yard average
Jeremiah Howe WR – 50 receptions, 766 yards, 3 TDs, 21 carries, 138 yards, 1 TD
Malik Jones DE – 53 tackles, 10 TFL, 6.5 sacks, 2 FFs
Jared Morris FS – 66 tackles, 2.5 TFL, 2 INTs, 5 pass defenses
What to Watch For
Big Returns – Nearly the entire 2013 Wesley squad will be back for another go in 2014. Their only offensive-loss was wide receiver Jeremiah Howe, and to a lesser extent Ryan Gerlitz, who will be missed more for his foot than his hands. Defensively, Malik Jones, Dyamond Ruffin, and Jared Morris were all leaders at their position groups, but one key player per level isn’t bad at all, especially since they still have American Football Coaches Association All-American linebacker Sosthene Kapepula. His stat line is unreal: 110 tackles, 19 TFL, 2.5 sacks, 5 INTs, 1 FF, 1 FR, and 10 pass breakups. He’ll be a senior this season.
It would be hard to pick against Wesley returning to the playoffs. Of all D3 independents, no team has as much skill, experience, and drive as these Wolverines, while their schedule is a good balance of fluff and winnable games against legit competition. Expect this largely-intact team to return to the playoffs and don’t be surprised to see them advance further than they did a season ago.