FREELAND, MICH. -- The Trine football team was picked to finish fourth in the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association Preseason Coaches Poll and also received one first-place vote.
The Thunder totaled 17 points to go along with its first-place vote to rank fourth of seven teams. Hope (Mich.) College was picked as the preseason favorite with nine points and three first-place votes. Olivet (Mich.) College was second with 14 points to go along with a pair of first-place votes and Adrian (Mich.) College rounded out the top three schools with 16 points and a first-place vote.
Trine returns two All-MIAA players on offense in junior wide receiver Jeffery Barnett (Fremont, Ohio/Ross) and senior offensive lineman Mitchell Watts (Goshen) as part of an offensive squad that returns seven players with starting experience of a year ago. Barnett earned first-team All-MIAA honors as a receiver, but also on special teams as a return specialist.
Junior Lamar Carswell (Toleo, Ohio/St. Francis de Sales) returns in 2017 after leading the Trine ground game in rushing, and was third in the conference, with 1,060 yards on 121 carries (8.8 yards per rush) and averaged 132.5 yards per game. He scored a team-high 11 touchdowns, in addition to scoring on a two-point conversion, to end the season with a team-best 68 points. Also back, will be senior Mark Wilson (Indianapolis/Lawrence Central). Last year, Wilson tallied 498 yards on the ground in 116 attempts (4.3 yards per carry) and was third in rushing touchdowns with six.
The offensive line will be anchored by veteran Watts and will be joined by sophomore Tristan Edwards (Elida, Ohio/Elida) as the only two players with starting experience. Other players returning from last season's depth chart include senior Robert Santos (El Paso, Texas/Chapin) and junior Grant Holbrook (Clinton, Mich./Clinton).
The Thunder return two players at quarterback with playing experience in senior Evan Wyse (Archbold, Ohio/Archbold) and junior Andrew Duckett (Niles, Mich./Brandywine), but will be without starter and graduated senior Brandon Rooze who threw for over 2,000 yards last fall. Wyse completed 12-of-24 passes for 133 yards, but was a threat as a rusher as he finished third on the team last year with 443 yards (7.5 ypc.) and was second in rushing TD with seven. Duckett was a perfect four-of-four as a passer in 2016 with 99 yards and three TD. He also carried the ball 22 times for 142 yards (6.5 ypc.) and found the endzone once.
Barnett will be back to lead the Thunder wideouts after a season that saw him record team-highs in receptions (59), yards (937) and TD (eight). He also finished in the top-five in the MIAA in every major statisical category including leading the conference with his eight TD receptions. Barnett was also the team's top kick returner last year with 486 yards and averaged 24.3 yards per return. Barnett will be joined by starters senior Andrew Bonfiglio (Toledo, Ohio/St. Francis de Sales) and sophomore Seth Boggs (Sandusky, Ohio/Perkins). Bonfiglio finished just behind Barnett in receptions with 54 for 587 yards (10.9 yards per catch) and four TD. Boggs caught three passes for 25 yards (8.3 ypc.) and a score in nine games last year.
The defense will be led by a pair of All-MIAA players in Me'Leick Miles (Indianapolis/Pike) and Marcus Winters (Toledo, Ohio/Central Catholic). Winters also garnered d3football.com All-Region accolades.
Miles will one of three starters returning on the defensive line. Last season, he led the team, and placed sixth in the conference, in tackles with 78 (40 solo and 38 assists). He also led the team, and ranked in the top-10 in the MIAA, in both tackles for loss (16) and sacks (7.5). Miles also tallied a fumble recovery and blocked two kicks. Sophomore duo Rodney Haywood (Carmel) and Keaton Osborn (Kendallville/East Noble) join Miles as returning players with starting experience. Haywood ended the 2016 campaign with 30 tackles (17 solo and 13 assists) to go along with 3.5 tackles for loss that included a pair of sacks, and forced a fumble. Osborn posted 21 tackles (eight solo and 13 assists) with four tackles for loss and one sack.
The linebacker corps will have two starters returning in senior Kyle Wiswell (Three Rivers, Mich./Mendon) and Zach DeMeester (Coldwater, Mich./Coldwater). Wiswell had 31 tackles (19 solo and 12 assists) last season with a sack and an interception. DeMeester has 21 stops (12 solo and nine assists) as a sophomore that included two tackles for loss.
Three starters in the secondary return from last year in Winters, fellow senior Robert Riley (Mendon, Mich./Mendon) and junior Cayleel Hill (Owings Mills, Md./Owings Mills). Winters made 23 tackles (21 solo and two assists) and finished second in NCAA Division III in interceptions per game (.8) with eight pickoffs. In addition to leading the team in interceptions, he also posted a team-high of 11 pass breakups. Riley finished fourth on the team in tackles with 51 (24 solo and 27 assists) and Hill tallied 32 tackles (24 solo and eight assists) with 1.5 tackles for loss. He also finished second on the team in both interceptions (three) and pass breakups (nine).
Barnett leads the special teams as a kick returner posting 486 yards for the season (24.3 yards per return) to garner All-MIAA honors. Sophomore Seth Boggs (Sandusky, Ohio/Perkins) was also listed as a starter on kick returns last season with 31 yards in his only return. Sophomore Lucas Garza (Syracuse, Ind./Wawasee) returns to handle the place kicking duties following a freshman season that saw him convert 39-of-45 extra point attempts and five-of-eight field goals to finish second on the team in points with 54.
Trine will open the 2017 season on Thursday, Aug. 31 when the Thunder host Manchester University at 7:30 p.m. at Fred Zollner Athletic Stadium.
|2017 MIAA Preseason Coaches Poll|
|Place||School (First-Place Votes)||Pts.|
|1.||Hope (Mich.) (3)||9|
|2.||Olivet (Mich.) (2)||14|
|3.||Adrian (Mich.) (1)||16|