After a 6-4 overall record, the UWG Wolves football team looks to challenge five of the top 25 programs in Division II football, including number four Midwestern State, number eight Valdosta State, number 14 Delta State, number 15 West Alabama and number 24 West Texas A&M.
“We want to compete at the top and face tough challenges,” said Head Coach Daryl Dickey. “We hope to make strides towards making this program into something the university and community can be proud of.”
The Wolves begin the 2012 season with momentum after taking down the number one nationally ranked team in Division II football, Delta State, in the last game of the 2011 schedule.
“The win was definitely a springboard into the off-season with attitude and momentum and sense of accomplishment. Each year is different and I hope that we have learned that when we compete at our highest level and play at our best, we can compete with anybody,” said Dickey.
Since the 2008 season, when the Wolves went 0-10, the level of play has notably improved, so much so that a new identity for UWG Football has been created on campus and in the community.
“We had been through some really lean times. In the beginning, we did not win a game and we did not even have a stadium. Four years down the road we are playing in one of the best stadiums in America for our level and beating the number one team in the country,” said Dickey. “The players we have now have a pride that this is their university. The climate is night and day from where we started to where we are now.”
Entering the 2012 season, the Wolves have lost multiple key playmakers to graduation, including running backs James Kennebrew and Yusuf Holloway, and defensive backs Manny Rodriguez and Janoris Darby.
“It is always big when you lose seniors who have been in the program a number of years. They started so far back and by the time they lef, we had accomplished so much and laid the groundwork for years to come,” said Dickey.
The Wolves are also looking to fill the hole left by last year’s quarterback, Emmanuel Taylor. Hoping to fill the void is first-year UWG quarterback, Austin Trainor. The Florida A&M transfer threw for 877 yards and five touchdowns for the Rattlers last season. The other two players vying for the quarterback position are sophomore Adam Holley and freshman Dallas Dickey.
According to Coach Dickey, the Wolves also have to work on the defensive secondary. Last season the Wolves ranked fourth out of five among the Gulf South Conference in opponents points per game allowing an average of 25.8 points.
On the defensive front, the Wolves have seven linemen returning including senior Juan Pickett who has registered over 100 tackles throughout his career.
“I am optimistic about our squad and our chances,” said Dickey. “We have a really challenging schedule, but that is okay. We will accept the challenge and we will get out there and compete and do the best we can with it.”