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FB Preview -- Bad break has Wildcats searching for QB

September 02, 2009|By MARK KELLER/keller@herald-mail.com

As a junior, Blake Bandeff had a fair first season as Williamsport's starting quarterback.

Bandeff completed half of his passes (60-for-120) for nearly 600 yards and three touchdowns for a Wildcats team that had trouble scoring much of last year.

It was enough to make first-year coach Randy Longnecker optimistic about the quarterback position for the 2009 season until Bandeff caught a bad break ... literally.

Bandeff suffered a broken arm in an ATV accident over the summer, putting him on the shelf for all of the Wildcats' preseason training and at least their first three games of the regular season.

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"It was really tough to see him come around the corner this summer with a cast on that arm," Longnecker said. "Blake's a good leader who really understood the package we put in, really improved over the summer and was here all the time in the weight room.

"We're hoping to get him back by Week 4 or 5. He got some encouraging news from the doctor, so we're hopeful."

Longnecker said the starting job is up in the air in the meantime, with senior Casey McKenrick and juniors Logan Hershberger and Kemper Baker all seeing time under center.

"They have good skills, but each of them is missing a piece here or there," Longnecker said. "They played well in our first scrimmage."

The question mark at quarterback means junior running back Reggie Russ will go from being a big part of the offensive scheme to a huge one.

Russ carried 107 times for 460 yards as a sophomore and Longnecker said he didn't miss a day during offseason training this summer.

"Reggie is definitely one of our go-to guys. We need a lot of production from him," Longnecker said. "I think he's embraced that, too. He wants to carry the ball 30 times a game."

The Wildcats will have good speed on the outside, but without a lot of size. Nate Tyson (5-8) and Darius Smith (6-0) will start as receivers, and McKenrick (6-5) could figure into the mix if he is not the quarterback.

Seth Boggs (6-1, 195) anchors the offensive line. Longnecker also is trying to find a position for junior Karl Culbreath.

"He's a very good athlete, very flexible," Longnecker said. "We have to find the right spot for him."

Defensively, the Wildcats will run mostly the same sets they did a year ago, primarily working out of a 5-3. He said he wanted to keep the defense simplistic so the players would have an easy adjustment.

"We'll run some different looks out of it, but we wanted to stay more consistent," Longnecker said. "We were very aggressive and attacked in the scrimmage. That part of it looked really good."

Boggs also will be a key component on the Wildcats defensive line, along with defensive end Brett Allen, while Tyler Fisher and Kenney Freyman fill the linebacker positions. Tyson and Smith provide speed in the defensive backfield.

"We tried to keep some similarities to last year, because those were things the kids were comfortable with," Longnecker said. "We've adapted the new terminology and schemes to what they know, but there's still a learning curve. They're still comfortable with the old rather than the new."

Click here for Williamsport football roster and schedule.

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