By Steve Robinson | August 22, 2016 - 7:30 am
Posted in Category: Illinois Wesleyan, The Normalite

FootballBLOOMINGTON – When Illinois Wesleyan University’s football team takes the field for the 2016 season, opposing defenses will find a comparatively young offensive line trying to keep them from getting through to their quarterback and running backs. Opponents will also find that IWU’s squad has “Just One Thing” on their collective mind, as well.

Three specific words could be heard from every Titans player on media day Friday, Aug. 19 at Tucci Stadium: Just one thing. That one thing is to win the Collegiate Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin title.

Last season, IWU looked to be well on their way to doing that with a 7-0 mark until coming up short against their last few foes on the schedule last season, North Central, Wheaton College, and North Park.

But with a leg injury sidelining junior first string quarterback Jack Warner, this season could start with his backup, junior Jack Donegan, to get IWU’s potential positive start underway.

As the season opens up, a preseason poll by D3football.com has Wheaton College and North Central ranked in the Top 25. Wheaton College is ranked 8th in the poll, with North Central sliding into 13th. The CCIW preseason poll has IWU ranked third behind these two foes in that order.

Illinois Wesleyan FootballLexington’s Laible Now Full-Time Linebacker: At Lexington High School, Donavan Laible was at the controls of a team as its quarterback. He also served as a defensive back in the Minutemen’s two-way system. Now a senior at IWU, he will stay on the defensive side of the ball as an outside linebacker.

“I played a good deal of linebacker in high school,” the 6 foot-1, 195 pound Laible said. “To do it in college is new territory than it was in high school. I’m getting used to play the position with the instincts needed. I’m used to reading defenses. Now, I’ve got to read offenses.

Being a former quarterback will help Laible read potential routes opposing quarterbacks call for in the passing game, but when it comes to run patterns, he admits those will be trickier for him. His goal this season is to “find time on the field.” When he is not on the field, he will be in the classroom finishing up to earn a bachelor’s degree in accounting. He said he wants to study for his CPA exam.

Donavan appeared under center for IWU in two games, completing 36 passes for 420 yards and three touchdowns. He has 31 rushes to his credit for 108 yards, with his longest being 23 yards

CCIWBut with Wagner and Donegan poised to be IWU’s chosen quarterbacks for the foreseeable future, Eash worked with Laible to find a position where his skills could be used. “Donovan is a great kid and we wanted to find a place for him on the field,” Eash said, adding, “I think you’ll see him on the field.”

BHS Alum Stephon Rudicil Shifting Positions, Too: Bloomington High alum Stephon Rudicil, a fifth year senior, is moving in Eash’s defensive scheme, as well, from linebacker to defensive end. In 2015, he appeared in one game making three total tackles, two of them solo.

Circle Your Calendars: IWU will have nine starters on offense and 10 on defense as the season opens at Nebraska Wesleyan on Sept. 10. IWU’s 2016 home part of the schedule begins by hosting North Central Sept. 10 at 6p.m., and Wheaton College visits for IWU Homecoming Oct. 1 at 1p.m. Elmhurst College will visit on IWU Senior Day Oct. 29 for a 1p.m. game.

By Steve Robinson | August 19, 2016 - 10:19 pm
Posted in Category: Illinois Wesleyan, Pekin Daily Times

FootballBLOOMINGTON – When Illinois Wesleyan University’s football team takes the field for the 2016 season, opposing defenses will find a comparatively young offensive line trying to keep them from getting through to their quarterback and running backs. Opponents will also find that IWU’s squad has “Just One Thing” on their collective mind, as well.

Three specific words could be heard from every Titans player on media day Friday at Tucci Stadium: Just one thing. That one thing is to win the Collegiate Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin title.

Last season, IWU looked to be well on their way to doing that with a 7-0 mark until coming up short against their last two foes on the schedule last season, North Central, Wheaton College, and North Park.

But with a leg injury sidelining junior first string quarterback Jack Warner, the season could start with his backup, junior Jack Donegan, to get IWU’s potential positive start underway.

As the season opens up, a preseason poll by D3football.com has Wheaton College and North Central ranked in the Top 25. Wheaton College is ranked 8th in the poll, with North Central sliding into 13th. The CCIW preseason poll has IWU ranked third behind these two foes in that order.

Illinois Wesleyan FootballWashington Alum Herrell Looking To Finish By Fostering Traditions: Washington Community High School product Austin Harrell, now a senior at IWU, “brings some differences to the game,” IWU head coach Norm Eash said, adding, “He’s different because defensive backs don’t know how to take him. He’s big. If you’re thinking of hitting him high, you’d better not think of hitting him high because he’s 6 foot-4 and 214 pounds. He’s got tremendous speed. When he’s running, he takes long strides. Defensive backs don’t know how to take him.”

One of the captains for the team this season, Harrell said he would like to finish his IWU playing career “helping younger guys on the team and to foster traditions for players in future years.”

During the 2015 season, Harrell continued to make his mark at IWU, as he had 49 rushes last season for 341 yards and one touchdown, the longest of which was 60 yards. He also caught nine passes for 128 yards and one score.

Morton Alum Monferdini Moving From Tackle To Guard: Morton High School alum Nicholas Monferdini will be among those on the front line looking to protect IWU’s offense for the Titans’ Sept. 3 in an exhibition game against Mexico’s Monterey University at Tucci Stadium.

CCIW“We started four sophomores last year and he was among them,” Eash said, referring to Monferdini. “That was rough going but we were still at 7-0. Now those kids like Monferdini who were in the thick of it last year will be a year older and I think there’s a big jump in the offensive line from sophomore year to junior year.”

Now that those front line troops are in their junior year, Eash said, “We’ll have a veteran offensive line, and Monferdini will be a big part of it.”

The new season will also mean a position shift for Monferdini, from left tackle to right guard – a move Eash believes the 6 foot-4, 270 pounder is more suited for. “Nick was more of a guard for us,” Eash said about the role he saw for Business major.

“Being on the field was great and it was a great learning experience,” Monferdini said. “Playing at this level, after playing at the high school level, really made me step my game. It made me work a lot harder for this season so I could get better.” For instance, he said, being a Titan has taught him how to adjust his pass blocking style.

Squib Kicks: IWU will have 9 starters on offense and 10 on defense as the season opens…..IWU will open the season at Nebraska Wesleyan on Sept. 10….IWU’s 2016 home part of the schedule begins by hosting North Central Sept. 10 at 6p.m.…. Wheaton College visits for IWU Homecoming Oct. 1 at 1p.m…..Elmhurst College visits on IWU Senior Day Oct. 29 for a 1p.m. game.

FootballBLOOMINGTON – As a collective body, Illinois Wesleyan University’s football team knows they can improve on a 2014 season where they got more than they expected in injuries and disappointing outcomes, and less in terms of victories as a result, culminating in a 4-6 season, including a 2-5 conference mark.

So when the preseason poll came out from the Collegiate Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin predicting how teams would finish this year, the Titans were seen to finish third this season behind Wheaton College , who is predicted to win the conference this year, and North Central predicted to finish second. That, understandably, doesn’t sit well with Titans head coach Norm Eash, entering his 29th season patrolling the sidelines.

“We’ve got a successful program here, and 4-6 is not the standard that we have here,” Eash said. “So, we were disappointed and frustrated a little bit last year. There were some things that we couldn’t control.”

That included losing a total of five quarterbacks at points during the season, beginning with starter Jack Warner, now a sophomore, being sidelined with mononucleosis after playing 5 games, and Donovan Laible being sidelined after two contests with a torn Anterior Cruciate Ligament in one knee which caused him to spend nearly six months rehabbing to get back on to the field should the need arise.

“Those are things you sometimes can’t control,” Eash said. “But the things that we looked at after the season were that we were still in every ball game that we played. Of our six losses, four of the six were by 6 points or less. That was with young, inexperienced players.”

Illinois Wesleyan FootballThe caution Eash puts out to opponents as this season opens is that all of those young players from last season are back year, “so expectations are very, very high.”

“We have a veteran team,” Eash added. “We have a talented team. We have a team that has enough talent to win a league, so we have to make sure that we take care of business.”

Laible got hurt in the game against Augustana last October, damaging his anterior cruciate ligament in one knee in a contest that more resembled a baseball score with the Titans losing, 7-2.

As a result of how the 2014 season turned out for IWU, Eash said the biggest thing the coaching staff needed to do both during the season and during the offseason “was not to panic. We have talented kids. When you have them healthy, you can win some ball games. We just didn’t have them together healthy all at the same time after the third game of the season.” That third game last year was a road game at Simpson College in September.

Lexington Alum Laible Saw Action, Fully Recovered From ACL: For junior quarterback Donovan Laible, getting pressed into service came at a cost. The Lexington High School alum was one of five men under center last season for the Titans, playing in two games before being sidelined by his ACL injury which took six months to repair, thanks to the IWU training staff.

Up until that injury, the 6 foot-1, 195 pound Laible played in two games and went 36-for-66 passing, racking up 420 yards and being credited with 3 touchdowns. He also tossed 3 interceptions before his season-ending injury.

“Six months is a long time to be out of full-go competition,” Laible said. “It was really daunting for me, especially, because I hadn’t had a season off since I was in the third grade. But that’s what it took to rehabilitate an ACL fully.

“With the medical technology of today, I wasn’t too concerned about how I would feel after the surgery and rehab were done,” Laible said. “I was worried I would lose a little of the speed and agility that I had, but nothing has changed in terms of my times. All my times are the same on any of the tests we do.”

As for the preseason ranking IWU received from their league, Laible responded, “Coming off not the best season we’ve had, that’s usually how those rankings work. But it’s not where you are ranked when you start. It’s where you’re ranked at the end.”

CCIWNCHS Alum Sheehan Recovers From Injury, Ready For Action: Junior offensive lineman Matt Sheehan, a Normal Community High School product, credits all his coaches for how he has improved at his position since arriving at IWU. If he has an individual goal for himself, the 6 foot-6, 290 pound Sheehan wants to be in a game. He hasn’t played yet in the last two years, partly the result of a fractured tibia he suffered during last year’s training camp that sidelined him for most of last season.

IWU Opens At Franklin , Starts Home Schedule Sept. 12 Vs. Alma College : IWU kicks off the 2015 campaign on Sept. 5 with a non-conference away game Indiana ’s Franklin College . That will be followed by the Titans hosting non-conference opponent Alma College at Tucci Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 12 starting at 1p.m. IWU will host Millikin University for its homecoming game on Saturday, Oct. 10 starting at 1p.m., and Wheaton College will be the opponent for the last home game of the season on Saturday, Nov. 7, which will also be IWU’s Senior Day game.

FootballBLOOMINGTON – As a collective body, Illinois Wesleyan University’s football team knows they can improve on a 2014 season where they got more than they expected in injuries and disappointing outcomes, and less in terms of victories as a result, culminating in a 4-6 season, including a 2-5 conference mark.

So when the preseason poll came out from the Collegiate Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin predicting how teams would finish this year, the Titans were seen to finish third this season behind Wheaton College, who is predicted to win the conference this year, and North Central predicted to finish second. That, understandably, doesn’t sit well with the Titans head coach, Norm Eash, entering his 29th season patrolling the sidelines.

“We’ve got a successful program here, and 4-6 is not the standard that we have here,” Eash said. “So, we were disappointed and frustrated a little bit last year. There were some things that we couldn’t control.”

That included losing a total of five quarterbacks at points during the season, beginning with starter Jack Warner, now a sophomore, being sidelined with mononucleosis after playing 5 games, and Donovan Laible being sidelined after two contests with a torn Anterior Cruciate Ligament in one knee which he has spent nearly the past year rehabbing to get back on to the field should the need arise.

“Those are things you sometimes can’t control,” Eash said. “But the things that we looked at after the season were that we were still in every ball game that we played. Of our six losses, four of the six were by 6 points or less. That was with young, inexperienced players.”

Illinois Wesleyan FootballThe caution Eash puts out to opponents as this season opens is that all of those young players from last season are back year, “so expectations are very, very high.”

“We have a veteran team,” Eash added. “We have a talented team. We have a team that has enough talent to win a league, so we have to make sure that we take care of business.”

Laible got hurt in the game against Augustana last October, damaging his anterior cruciate ligament in one knee in a contest that more resembled a baseball score with the Titans losing, 7-2.

As a result of how the 2014 season turned out for IWU, Eash said the biggest thing the coaching staff needed to do both during the season and during the offseason “was not to panic. We have talented kids. When you have them healthy, you can win some ball games. We just didn’t have them together healthy all at the same time after the third game of the season.” That third game last year was a road game at Simpson College in September.

Morton’s Monferdini Finds More Technique Involved: Since coming to IWU from Morton High School and seeing what it takes for a college football team to try and succeed through a season, Titans sophomore offensive lineman Nicholas Monferdini said being part of the Titans has taught him that “everything done on this team takes a lot more technique than in high school, so you have to work harder and more often than you did in high school” to succeed.

The 6 foot-4, 255 pound Monferdini said he knew he would be playing at a higher level once he got to IWU, but just didn’t realize the level he was entering in to. As he entered college, he just knew he needed to step up his own game. “Now I’m used to it, and hoping to try to get into some games this season.” As for the CCIW pre-season rank, “It just means we have something we need to prove,” Monferdini said.

CCIWWashington’s Herrell Wishes He’d Known These Things: The college game, regardless of division, is a whole new ball game from the high school game, and IWU running back Austin Herrell said he wishes he knew then what he has learned now in his first two years as an IWU player.

“I know in high school, I always ran really tall,” said the 6 foot-4, 210 pound junior running back, and Washington Community High School product. “Coming in here, I learned that you have to run lower, you have to be smarter when reading defenses, and which holes you choose to run through. It’s learning to make decisions quicker and being quicker overall.”

Squib Kicks: IWU kicks off the 2015 campaign on Sept. 5 with a non-conference away game Indiana’s Franklin College….The Titans will host non-conference opponent Alma College at Tucci Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 12 starting at 1p.m…..IWU will host Millikin University for its homecoming game on Saturday, Oct. 10 starting at 1p.m…….Wheaton College will be the opponent for the last home game of the season on Saturday, Nov. 7, which will also be IWU’s Senior Day game.

By Steve Robinson | August 15, 2014 - 10:43 pm
Posted in Category: Illinois Wesleyan, The Normalite

FootballBLOOMINGTON – Most of us probably wouldn’t relish being considered the underdog in any situation. But Illinois Wesleyan University senior defensive lineman Jeff Jerome rather welcomes the challenge presented by being put in that position.

In a poll of Collegiate College of Illinois and Wisconsin football coaches, IWU, who finished last season 9-2 overall which included a 6-1 conference mark. For Jerome, dating back to his days at Normal Community West High School, being underestimated was something he nearly became accustomed to, he said. During his time with the Wildcats, he explained, Normal West was seemingly always below Unit 5 rival Normal Community High School, and another Big 12 nemesis, Bloomington High School. “Back then, we always had to fight our way to the top,” Jerome said. “It looks like it’s the same situation with CCIW.”

West Alum Jerome Wants To See IWU Win D-3 Crown: The 6 foot-1, 245 pound Jerome will begin his senior season on head coach Norm Eash’s squad “loving the idea of being the underdog and it gives all of us motivation and determination to get to the top of CCIW.”

“Being a senior, I can’t wait to get back on the field again this year,” Jerome said. As for personal goals, he explained, “I’m just looking at IWU winning the Division III Championship,” Jerome said. When he graduates, he is looking to take his career path toward doing something in the field of accounting.

Lexington Alum Laible Picking Up On Reading D: Lexington High School alum Donavan Laible played on IWU’s junior varsity team last season during his freshman year. Now a sophomore, he will rejoin the JV team as the season begins. A quarterback, he explained six guys split time under center on that squad and saw parts of or an entire quarter of action during JV contests.

“It’s definitely a lot different,” the 6 foot-1, 190 pounder said. “It was just good to get out there for live competition,” he said of his experience so far as a Titan. “There are a lot more decisions to make concerning recognizing coverages, and you have to make those faster,” he said explaining what he found was the biggest difference between playing college and high school games. He said most high school teams present the same defensive scheme on a regular basis.

Assessing his freshman season, Laible said, “I did alright, but I’ve got a lot of improving to do. I did alright.”

Illinois Wesleyan FootballBHS Alum Rudicil Makes Switch From Wrestling To Football: Stephon Rudicil played football last at Bloomington High School in his senior year two years ago. He switched to Wrestling when he attended Lincoln Community College, and now is back on the gridiron trying for a linebacker spot with the Titans. “The fundamentals from high school are still there,” Rudicil admitted. “There are still some things I need to pick up quick, and I’m working hard to do that. I’m not worried about it.”

Eash Says Preseason Polls “Don’t Mean Anything”: “Preseason polls are interesting to look at, but they mean nothing,” Eash said. “Preseason polls are based on how you finished the year before.” He said last year’s preseason poll had IWU ranked second. “Looks like it’s our job to get back some respect from the conference,” said the veteran coach who used Media Day at Tucci Field at Wesleyan Stadium to begin his 28th season at the helm. “But the burden of proof is on us.”

IWU has 16 seniors on the squad. That’s exactly half the number they had last season. “We’re going to be a different team,” Eash said. “We’re going to have some veterans in there, seven All-Americans, and some newcomers who were on the field last season but weren’t starters, and then we’ll probably have some youth out there.”

Circle Your Calendars: The year 2014 will mark IWU’s 125th season of football, and the Titans will open at home on Saturday, Sept. 6, facing Franklin College in a 1p.m. kickoff. Their next two games will be on the road to Albion College in Michigan (Sept. 13), then to Simpson College in Iowa (Sept. 20) before facing their first CCIW opponent, Carthage College, at Tucci Stadium on Sept. 27 in a 6p.m. contest.