Mount Union returns 18 starters
Purple Raiders prepare for run at championship No. 11
An experienced roster returns for the Mount Union football team as 49 letterwinners and 18 starters look to continue a run of 19 consecutive Ohio Athletic Conference championships (1992 to 2010) while contending for a record 11th NCAA Division III National Championship.
There is plenty of experience for the Purple Raiders off the field, as well, with head coach Larry Kehres returning for his 26th year on the sidelines as one of only 11 coaches in college football history to win more than 300 career games. His career record stands at 303-22-3.
Most of the experience returns on a defense that brings back nine starters from a unit that was No. 1 in scoring defense in the nation allowing just 8.93 points per game last year. The No. 2 ranked total defense brings back its entire starting secondary in seniors Chaz Jordan, Alex Ferrara and Cameron West along with juniors Nick Driskill and Isaiah Scott. Jordan and Ferrara were All-OAC first-teamers and All-North Region, while Driskill was an All-OAC second-team selection.
Senior Arthur Smith is the lone starter back at linebacker while up front senior Chris Favazzo, junior Charles Dieuseul and sophomore Matt Fechko are back on the line.
On offense, things start right in the middle with senior center Brett Ekkens who was an All-OAC first-team and All-North Region pick. He is joined on the offensive line by junior left tackle Antonio Tate and in the backfield, junior running back Jeremy Murray, who totaled more than 1,600 yards and 21 touchdowns a year ago, is back along with senior fullback Wes Ryder.
Junior signal caller Neal Seaman is back after a late season injury and off-season surgery as he tossed for 3,190 yards with 28 touchdowns on his way to All-OAC honorable-mention honors. While Seaman's top target from 2010 in Cecil Shorts III has gone to the NFL, a talented group of receivers are back led by All-OAC honorable mention junior Jasper Collins along with seniors Brandon Brown and A.J. Claycomb , who missed the entire 2010 season with an injury.
Senior kicker Tyler Almeida, who made 16 field goals a year ago, and junior punter Brandon Mathie headline a group of returners on the special teams unit.
The Raiders have six home games in 2011 and enter the season with a 53-game regular season win streak. Their season kicks off on Sept. 10 against Wisconsin-Oshkosh.