"The Process" continues for head coach Henry Stanford and the Hiram College football team heading into the 2017 campaign. Throughout his tenure so far, Coach Stanford has asked his players to trust the process of turning the Terrier football program into a contender in the North Coast Athletic Conference. As the team heads into year two of the Stanford regime, Hiram will take the field with an experienced core and a host of young talent.
In 2016, Coach Stanford led the Terriers to a trio of wins over the span of the season. Fans would have to go back 54 years to find a first-year head coach with more wins in his inaugural campaign (Bob Dove tallied five wins in his first year in 1962). From that team, Hiram returns a total of 29 letterwinners, including 12 on offense, 16 on defense, and one from special teams.
Offensively, the duo dubbed "thunder and lightning" return to the Terrier backfield and will once again look to help Hiram control both the ground game and the clock. Running backs, senior Danny Robinson and junior Isaiah Jones both enter 2017 coming off solid campaigns in '16.
Robinson returns for his final season after being named a First-Team All-NCAC back in 2016. Despite just 128 carries, Robinson totaled 683 yards, averaging 5.3 yards per carry. He notched a pair of touchdowns on the year, posting 68.3 yards per game on the ground, ranking fifth in the NCAC.
Jones, meanwhile, had a breakout year in 2016, posting 4.4 yards per carry and scoring six touchdowns on the ground. As a sophomore he totaled 351 yards on 79 touches. Together, the pair ran for 1,134 yards and eight touchdowns on just 207 carries.
In addition to their running back duties, both Jones and Robinson, along with tight end Mike Skizenta will serve as the team captains for the 2017 season. Skizenta has appeared in 27 career games and will not only serve as the starting tight end, but also work as the long snapper on special teams.
In addition to the running back tandem, other players that could see time in the backfield include freshman Juwan Brown, as well as sophomore David Cummings and freshman Garrett Noland, who will see snaps at h-back.
Overall, the 2017 offense will look to build off of one of the most prolific seasons in program history. In 2016, Hiram set new program standards, including total offensive yards and yards per game. The Terriers also broke school records in net passing yards, averaging 256.8 yards per game through the air.
One of the reasons for the offensive turnaround is back for his junior season, as Randy Tucker will get a full year under his belt as the Terrier's top signal caller. The Twinsburg, Ohio native has seen game action through both of his first two seasons, but became the everyday starter in week eight of 2016.
Through the final three weeks of the year, Tucker helped lead the Terriers to a 2-1 mark, completing over 63% of his passes while tossing six touchdowns. In the final week of the season, Tucker matched the Terrier single-game touchdown record, slinging five TD passes in a 36-14 win over Oberlin.
Sophomore Rodney Myers Jr. could also see some time under center over the course of the 2017 season. Myers played in one game as a true freshman, but performed well, completing 10-of-14 passes with three touchdowns against The College of Wooster on Nov. 5.
The unknowns for the offense come in the form of the receiving corps, as the Terriers will look to replace their top four pass catchers from a season ago. Looking to lead the corps is Miguel Hernandez, who is the team's leading pass catcher. He hauled in 119 receiving yards and a score last year.
Other players that will see time at wideout include; senior CJ Maner, junior Luther Fortson III, sophomore Jaris Foreman, and freshmen Tahj Lorthridge, Torin Mayhew, Jacques Yarbrough and Delino Franklin. Fortson was the only returner from 2016 to catch a pass, making four receptions in '16.
In addition to the wide receivers, Skizenta will serve as the starting tight end, while freshman Max Hendrix will also see plenty of field time throughout the season.
Protecting the quarterback and paving the way for the Terriers' tough running game, Hiram returns six letterwinners on the offensive line. Junior Sebastian Jenkins and Sophomore Dominic Dualan will look to anchor the offensive line for the Terriers. Jenkins has seen action in 19 games over his first two seasons, while Dualan appeared in eight contests as a freshman.
Seniors Aaron Rataj and Jordan Everett both return for their final seasons on the line, with sophomores Tyrik Robinson and Peter Sullivan, as well as freshmen Michael Hidalgo and Case Wiles vying for time.
With the departure of three All-NCAC selections on the defensive side of the ball, the Terriers will look to second-year defensive end, Horace Johnson to set the tone. Last season, Johnson was named an Honorable Mention All-Conference pick, finishing the season tied for the team lead in sacks (five) and ranked second in tackles for loss (10.5).
Johnson, along with Glenn Rushing and JaByron Webb, make up the three leading tacklers returning for the Terriers. Johnson tallied 53 stops as a freshman, while Rushing posted 51 as a defensive back during his rookie campaign and Webb tallied 25.
Along with Johnson, who will look to captain the defense, the Terrier front seven will also be bolstered by the return of Alex Meehan, who will look to provide pressure across from the all-conference sophomore.
Looking to replace First-Team All-NCAC selection, Zayd Maybin, sophomore Winston Webb will help lead the defense from the tackle position. Last season, Webb tallied 15 stops, including two for loss. Other players looking to see time on the line include senior Chris Chester, junior Alec Eldridge and newcomers Max Hamilton and Ke'Shawn Daniel.
At the linebacker spot, Hiram will be tasked with replacing AFCA Second-Team All-American Kyle Burchett. Seniors RJ Nelson and Dallas Booth hope to provide the leadership for the core that also includes junior Quentin Anderson and freshmen Sirahn Fields and Keyshawn Smith.
Webb and Rushing will lead a young group of defensive backs that sees the departure of both D.D. Fleetion and Brandon Gros. Senior Dillon Walsh and Eduardo Gonzalez will serve as veteran leadership for the group in 2017, while depth at the position also includes juniors Will Davis-Hereford and Isaiah Azubike as well as sophomore Jay Hooks and freshmen Dominic Medina and Chris Biddy.
The special teams unit was no exception to turnover as well in 2017, with senior Sam Conway the lone returning specialist. Last season, Conway served as the team's place kicker, knocking in four field goals and converting all but three of his extra-point attempts.
In 2017, Conway will be tasked with doing more, as the departure of both Zac D'Urson and Diego Navar has made the senior both the team's starting punter and kick-off specialist as well.
The Terriers will open their season on September 9th as they renew their all-time series with Earlham College. Following the tilt with the Quakers, Hiram will also host DePauw on Sept. 16, Wittenberg on Oct. 7, Wooster on Oct. 21 and Ohio Wesleyan on Nov. 11. Additionally, the Terriers will hit the road for games against Wabash (Sept. 23), Allegheny (Sept. 30), Kenyon (Oct. 14), Denison (Oct. 28) and Oberlin (Nov. 4).