It’s just 35 days until the Hillsdale College football Chargers take on St. Josephs in their first game of the 2009 season and fans are starting to get antsy, me included. We all want to see if Troy Weatherhead can hold off Anthony Mifsud in the QB department, and freshman like Joe “The Show” Glendening are keeping the “hype-ometer” cranked high.
The truth is the GLIAC isn’t getting any easier, with two preseason Top 10 teams, including the locked and re-loaded Grand Valley State Chargers.
Like any good athletics conference the GLIAC is run by mainly upperclassmen who have paid their dues, but there are always a couple of exceptions.
Here are some new faces to watch out for this season as the Chargers try to continue their success despite the infusion of talent the conference has been receiving.
Darris Sawtelle, Offensive Lineman, Grand Valley State
New Tennessee head coach Lane Kiffin told Sawtelle he “lacked the explosiveness to play in UT’s new offensive system” and the SEC’s hand-me-down could now be a force in the GLIAC, with all four years of elgibility still remaining.
Sawtelle lines up at 6-6, 315 pounds and he was ranked the No. 14 overall offensive tackle prospect in the country by Rivals.com as a senior at Birmingham Brother Rice High School in 2007.
He is just a little over a year removed from surgery to both of his shoulders, but he will play right away and two years of practice in Knoxville should play to his advantage while in Allendale.
James Stallons, Quarterback, Grand Valley State
Brad Iciek is essentially the cover boy of D-II, but after the Lakers gunslinger graduates in 2010 the QB job is wide open. Insert Stallons appropriately.
He’s another high-profile transfer for GVSU, haling from Wisconsin, where he never saw the field during a game.
Stallons threw for 2,300 yards and 25 touchdowns his senior year at Macomb Dakota, while leading his team to Division 1 Michigan state championship.
He’s 6-foot-5 and 172 pounds, and a drop-back style passer who was ranked the No. 32 QB prospect in the nation by Rivals.com as a senior.
As often as the Lakers decide a game’s outcome in the first two quarters, Stallons could have plenty of time to audition for next year’s job.
Banay Jones, Defensive Tackle, Ferris State
The 285-pound Flint Hamady product had done enough prior to his senior year that he already had scholarship offers from Ball State and Eastern Michigan.
Apparently playing time was important to him though, as the Bulldogs need to replace three of its four starters on the line. Jones twice received first-team all-conference honors and was a three-year starter in high school.
Scouting reports say he’s nimble for his size and Ferris has a recent history of producing some pretty darn good linemen.
Frank Whitaker and Zach Vermillion, Offensive Linemen, Ashland
Both of these big hefties essentially had spots on D-I rosters before coaching changes left them out on the street. Vermillion measures up at 6-4, 250 pounds and was named First Team All-Ohio as a senior and was also a two-time First Team All-Central Buckeye Conference selection.
Whitaker is a solid 6-3, 287 pounds and he hails from St. Ignatius High School (Ohio), a school that finished as the national runner-up last season.
The Eagles had the second most prolific offense in the GLIAC last year and head coach Lee Owens is known to play guys who are ready to contribute, regardless of their age.
Antwon Robinson, Safety, Wayne State
I’ve seen a few videos of this guy and he’s like a comet blazing through the night sky. He also has size for the position at 6-1 and hands like a receiver, especially since he was pretty good one in high school.
He was named to the Detroit Free Press All-North Team and the All-Area First Team as a senior at Southfield and rightfully so.
He recorded 92 tackles, seven interceptions (two returned for TDs), 12 deflections and three fumble recoveries, to go with 550 yards receiving and four scores in 2008.
The Warriors already have some talent in the secondary but Robinson seems like the kind of guy who will figure out a way to get on the field. Maybe in the special teams game, maybe in certain formations — only time will tell.