2018 Record: 8-3 overall; 7-1 Middle Atlantic Conference; Centennial-MAC Bowl Series
Key Returners: OL Connor Davis; DE Chikwado Nsoedo; K Ian Gould
Key Games: Sept. 21 at Delaware Valley; Sept. 28 at FDU-Florham
Outlook: Replacing the best quarterback in program history is a tough challenge for any team to take on, but that's exactly what head coach Ed Hottle and Stevenson University has to do heading into the 2019 season. The Mustangs are in search of their sixth straight postseason appearance.
Former Stevenson quarterback Dan Williams moved on after posting some of the best statistics the team has ever seen at the position. In four years with the team, he completed 60 percent of his passes for 7,139 yards, 61 touchdowns and 30 interceptions.
Hottle doesn't like to say the word "replace" when talking about finding another starting quarterback, though, because that's impossible when it comes to Williams.
"You get guys like that every once in a while in your coaching career," Hottle said. "The player who was on the field is a reflection of who he was off the field and the time and energy he put into the preparation. But to find another quarterback is definitely going to be a battle."
The current quarterbacks on the roster are sophomores Mason Ledford and Nick McNerney, neither of whom has seen much playing time. Ty Crabb, who took over the starting job last season after Williams was injured, is no longer with the team.
Hottle is looking for someone who can be consistent and has an understanding of the offense.
"It's going to be limited on the experience side," Hottle said. "So we, as coaches, have to do a good job of making sure we don't give them more than they can handle on game day. But we also have to allow them the opportunities to grow and develop some confidence and consistency early in the year."
Whoever ends up as the Mustangs' starting quarterback will have a strong offensive line to protect him, with all the starters returning. Three of the starting five were All-MAC selections, including senior guard Connor Davis, who has been a staple of the offensive line since his freshman season.
Davis says it is important to protect whoever the starting quarterback is to help him develop in that role.
"They're going to come into a good situation," Davis said. "They don't have to be Mr. Superstar and they can grow into the job."
Three of the team's top five rushers from a year ago -- juniors Titus Johnson and Gabe Erikson and sophomore Kevin Joppy -- are back after combining for 871 yards in 2018.
Defensively, the Mustangs lost several key players to graduation, including linebacker Ashton Lescke and defensive back Mike Datu; the two combined for 152 tackles and two interceptions last year. Stevenson will look to three seniors to anchor the defense: defensive end Chikwado Nsoedo, first-team all-conference linebacker Izaiha Pitts and all-conference honorable mention Zach May.
"I think that's a group we're going to lean on this year a lot," Hottle said. "I mean, there are six or seven guys who can really play ... at a high level. I'm excited about where that group is. I think they're going to get to a point where they'll be able to play with a little bit of bounce and some energy and function at a really high level."
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Stevenson Athletics
Issue 256: August 2019
Originally published Aug. 15, 2019