"Putting last season behind us" should be the focus going into the 2014 season for the Panthers. 2013 was a rough season to say the least, and I am sure Coach Harper and company are anxious to right the ship. There are many areas that concern me when thinking of last season. Chief among them is defense. I would guess, and doubt that I would be too far off, that last years defensive stats were some of the worst in the schools history. To me, defense is the key to success, but there are many pieces to the puzzle of creating a winning team. As for the defense, the hiring of Phil Elmassian will go a long way toward the improving of this piece of the puzzle. There is nowhere to go but up for the defense, but the coach cannot do it all. Ferrum loses 5 defensive seniors from last years team, which should mean that they have six returning starters. I would expect that the experience factor will help with securing a starting job on the defense, but there are no promises with a new defensive coordinator. My guess is that there will be many changes on the defensive side of the ball, especially as the schemes go. For me, I would love to see a standard 4-3 defense, but Ferrum will have to base their defense on the best talent on the field, and I am sure Coach E will have the unit working hard and improving as the season goes on.
Recruiting is another big piece of the puzzle, and last year, Ferrum had good recruiting numbers. Quantity does not always equal quality however. I look for this puzzle piece to improve also. While I have no direct information from Coach Harper on this years incoming recruits, a search of the internet revealed an apparent incoming freshman from Asheboro High School, that may hold promise. Please see links below.
Ridley to play at Ferrum
Ridley Stats from max preps.com
A couple of housekeeping notes....First, D3 football players do not get athletic scholarships. This is a Asheboro H.S. webpage, and has erroneously referred to Ridley as an athletic scholarship recipient. While there may be different facets of financial assistance, these would be available to any and all students, and as I understand it, cannot be based on any athletic criteria.
Secondly, a "signing" to play for a certain school, is not binding in D3 sports. Ridley is not bound to any commitment to play for Ferrum. The coaching staff will only know for sure that he, or any athlete is coming to Ferrum, when they pay any and all required fees and deposits, and then actually show up. D3 schools are powerless to enforce any type of "written commitment"
I personally hope Rudley follows through on his intended commitment. I think he would be a great prospect.
On offense, I look for Ferrum to be really solid at the skilled positions. The backfield will have very good speed, and the WR's should also be a strength. The question will be the offensive line. Tackles, Guards, and the Center will all be new as all were lost to graduation, so this group may be a work in progress. I look for them to gel better quickly, and overall the offense will be better. Size will be a question mark, for the O-line. I felt like there were many games, (Shenandoah, Maryville, Huntingdon, and CNU ) where the Panthers O-line just did not match up to those across from them. I really hope there has been lots of activity in the weight room during the off season.
Special Teams will also hold lots of questions. Gone is Wesley Franklin, from last years squad. Franklin who put up some really strong numbers last season, and who was the Big Green award winner, was 4-4 on field goals, and 23-23 on PAT's. Franklin was also the punter for the team, so this aspect of Special Teams will have someone brand new. For me , I was really disappointed that Ferrum did not have a TD from a punt or kickoff return the entire season. This phase of the game must improve, and I think it will.
Yes, there are question marks, but there are a lot of positives coming into this season. Look for the team to get better as the season goes along. I think there is potential for successful development for this team, and while I am not really ready to discuss where I think they will finish, I believe they will easily be under most opponents radar, when it comes to the tough games on their schedule. Stay tuned, Ferrum just may surprise some folks this year!