Football Team Makes Preseason Polls
The two-time defending conference champion Occidental College football team has been ranked in the Top 20 by three national preseason polls for Division III.
The Tigers are ranked No. 17 by Lindy’s Football and Street & Smith’s College Football, and No. 11 by Sports Weekly. Occidental kicks off the 2006 season with a Sept. 9 home game against Lewis & Clark College.
“When you’ve won back-to-back championships, it’s going to take another championship to make the players feel good about their accomplishments,” head coach Dale Widolff said. “The expectations are higher and the work ethic gets better every year.”
The Tigers will be led by quarterback Andy Collins ’07, the two-time SCIAC Offensive Player of the Year who guided Occidental to Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference titles in 2004 and 2005, when the squad went a combined 19-3. Collins has been named a 2006 Preseason All American by D3football.com.
The 2006 team enters the season with its share of questions. Offensively, four of five of the Tigers top offensive linemen graduated this summer, as well receivers Josh Jones, Caleb Small and Ric Fukushima. Running back Ryan Gonzales also graduated.
“Certainly, we have a lot of holes to fill, but we should compete for the championship,” Widolff said, noting that the team is strong on defense with nine returning lettermen. “I would expect us to, at least initially, count on the defense to carry us until we can get our offense going. The offensive line is a big unknown and who the receivers are going to be is a big unknown. There are more question marks than we’ve had in a long time.”
Linebackers Joe Zackary and Tim Tanous, as well as defensive linemen Scott Ferguson, Robert Theofanis, Jeremy Gruber and Kyle Stowers are expected to contribute heavily to Occidental’s game plan. Widolff said he is pleased with his recruiting class. At 46 members, it is the largest class in his 26-year tenure. “Each year you’ve got different people who need to step up,” Widolff said. “That’s part of the attraction of the job. Each year the team chemistry is different, and there are questions about which seniors are going to step into the void in terms of leadership. That’s part of the challenge. We’re very excited.”
For a complete schedule and team information, click here.