BOWLING GREEN — Following the end of spring football practice for Bowling Green State University, coach Dave Clawson was asked what he liked most about his squad.
It is worth noting that Clawson didn’t focus on things like the numbers of returning starters (nine on both offense and defense) from last year’s 8-5 bowl team.
Instead, the coach likes seeing so many familiar faces as he prepares for his fifth season leading the Falcons.
“We are no longer a young team,” Clawson said. “We are finally a junior and senior-oriented football team, which is what we should be every year.
“If you recruit well and develop well, there should be seniors that leave and sophomores and juniors that step up,” he said.
Bowling Green’s spring roster included 16 seniors and 19 juniors, many of whom have seen extensive action. Clawson said that experience showed in his team’s work this spring.
“We finally have the maturity that we show up and practice [hard] every day,” he said. “Every practice isn’t great, but we haven’t had any bad ones. And every scrimmage, guys show up and play.
“It’s not like two or three years ago, when you are screaming to get the energy level up. We don’t have to do that any more — we can coach football.”
Senior linebacker Paul Swan, who was voted a team captain, said the tenor of practice was so good, “you can tell this spring that we were a veteran team.”
"There are fewer mistakes. Guys know what they’re doing, and they’re always going hard, not giving up on plays and running to the football," he said. “It’s just really crisp out there.”
Questions linger as the Falcons prepare for their opener against Tulsa at Doyt Perry Stadium on Aug. 29.
One question is in the front seven on defense. Both Mid-American Conference defensive player of the year Chris Jones and three-time All-MAC pick Dwayne Woods were lost to graduation.
The hunt for Jones’ replacement was hampered by injuries to seniors Jairus Campbell and Ted Ouellet, junior Bryan Thomas and sophomore Bryan Baird. Clawson said the silver lining with those injuries is that it gave other players a chance to step up.
“Getting some of those young guys reps, guys like Mike Minns, Izaah Lunsford, Zach Colvin, Kendall Montgomery, I think will help us become a better football team,” Clawson said.
The offense also lost two starters: lineman Jordon Roussos and running back Anthon Samuel.
Clawson was asked about Samuel, the two-year starter at running back who left school after the Falcons played in the Military Bowl. “[Samuel] is considered a potential recruit, so I am not allowed to comment on him,” Clawson said.
If Samuel maintains eligibility, he will be allowed to return to B.G. and be cleared to play in the fall with two more years of eligibility.
Senior guard Dominic Flewellyn, another captain, said having four returning starters gives the Falcons the foundation for a strong offensive line.
“Now we have more experience because three of our guys, [Alex] Huettel, [Fahn] Cooper and [David] Kekuewa, were in their first year,” Flewellyn said. “Everybody is on the same page.
“We’re bringing along Christian [Piazza], Logan Dietz is pretty good, J.J. Beggan, Darion Delaney. I don’t want to forget anybody’s name, because we have a lot of guys coming along,” he said.
Clawson said the battle for the starting quarterback position will remain open, with senior Matt Schilz and sophomore Matt Johnson holding an advantage over freshman James Knapke.
“You have to have two good ones,” Clawson said. “We haven’t stayed healthy at the position since I’ve been here, except the first year with Tyler [Sheehan].
“We’re going to let that [competition] play out through summer, and play out through camp. I think they’re both playing better," the coach said. “And I’m really excited about James Knapke as well. As he learns the offense and learns to play faster, I think he’s a very talented quarterback as well.”
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