Getting To Know Western Carolina

Western Carolina University
Founded: 1889
Enrollment: 9500
Fun Fact: Western Carolina's marching band, known as the Pride of the Mountains, boasts nearly 350 members and is "the largest college marching band in the Carolinas and Tennessee," according to Wikipedia.  The band recently received the Sudler Trophy, which as you know is the Heisman Trophy of collegiate marching bands.  They're kind of a big deal.

 

Western Carolina Football
Affiliations:
Division I-AA, Southern Conference
First Game:
1931
All-Time Record:
311-435-23 (.417)
Head Coach:
Dennis Wagner (3rd season; 5-18 at WCU).
Fun Fact:
The Western Carolina/Appalachian State game is known as the Battle for the Old Mountain Jug.  The jug, shaped like a moonshine jug, obviously, is capped with a cork and weighs 25 pounds. I don't know what's inside, but I'm sure it's delicious.  Sadly, Western is just 18-54-1 all-time against App State and 7-27 in the "jug era." They've won the jug twice in the last 25 years.
Bonus Non-Football Fun Fact: WCU's Ronnie Carr made the first intercollegiate three point field goal in college basketball history.
All-Name Team: Walt Woolwine, future US Senator Reggie America (America For America in 2032)
Returning Starters: 7 on offense, 5 on defense
Basic Offense: West Coast/Multiple
Basic Defense: 4-2-5/Multiple

The Catamounts went 2-9 (1-7) in 2009, including a 45-0 loss to Vanderbilt and a 27-20 loss to Gardner-Webb.  There's not much to like.


Offense
2009 Vitals: 113th in rushing, 91st in passing, 86th in passing efficiency, 111th in total offense, 107th in scoring (14.1 PPG). (All ranks I-AA.)

Incumbent quarterback Zack Jaynes, the only QB on the roster to take a snap last season, has been named the starter for Saturday after battling South Carolina transfer Zac Brindise for the job.  Jaynes has also been battling a back problem, one that's not fully healed and may linger throughout the season.  When Nate Irving breaks his back in half during the second quarter, the nagging pain could present a real issue for Jaynes.

Jaynes's numbers last season were about what you'd expect from the guy leading one of I-AA's worst offenses: 1790 yards (5.9 per attempt), 9 TDs, 9 INTs. 

Running back Michael Johnson (150 att, 568 yds, 4 TDs), the SoCon freshman of the year in 2009, returns, but the Catamounts have to replace three offensive linemen, and the two returnees are redshirt sophomores.  

They're in all sorts of trouble at quarterback and offensive line, which is too bad for senior wide receiver Marquel Pittman, the team's leading pass catcher a year ago (50 rec, 619 yds).  There doesn't appear to be much in the way of deep threats for WCU--of the six guys who caught 10+ passes last season, Pittman was the only one to average double-digit yards per reception.

Defense
2009 Vitals: 109th in rushing, 44th in passing, 50th in passing efficiency, 88th in total defense, 69th in scoring (25.9 PPG). (All ranks I-AA.)

From the media guide (pdf):

One of the biggest additions was the return of Adam Hearns, who switches from offense to defensive secondary after a year away from football, at the hybrid "drop" linebacker position.

I don't want to suggest that the situation is dire on this side of the ball, but it...could be better.

If they're going to improve as a unit this season, they're going to have to start by putting a dent in the ugly 4.6 yards per carry they surrendered a year ago. (Vandy, their lone I-A opponent, rolled up 433 yards on the ground.)  Getting better against the run means giving up this 4-2-5 nannypants crap. 

But they're going to be undersized no matter what they're running, and they'll likely continue getting pushed around.  Their starters up front run 235 lbs (end), 235 (end), 285, and 270.  Their corners are both 5-9.

There's not enough here for the Catamounts to entertain even a mild, hey-we're-wthin-two-scores-at-halftime surprise on Saturday.  Hope they bring the band.

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