Last Thursday, we caught up with Western New England College’s head coach Keith Emery to preview the upcoming football season.
The Golden Bears are coming off their most successful campaign in school history, and concluded the 2011 season with a 10-2 record. WNEC defeated Framingham State University in the New England Football Conference championship last November, and then advanced to their first NCAA Div. III championship match against Salisbury University. However, their storybook season ended with a crushing 62-24 defeat.
Here is part one of our conversation with Coach Emery.
On NEFC preseason coaches’ poll: “The kids know, the kids know. It’s about a tough a race as you can get. There are some really good teams in this league, and you continue to look at Salve Regina and Endicott College and Curry College and U-Mass Dartmouth, [so my guys] know we’re named up top [the Boyd Division], so every game matters. This league is going to be competitive, so our job is to get ready for every game and that’s what we’re [going to do].”
On what made last year so successful: “[Quarterback] Bryce Brown. He was a difference maker and he did tremendous things for our program the last two years and helped put us on the map and helped develop [our program]. Before he started playing for us, we had Justin Walz and when he graduated we were like, what’s going to happen now? Bryce just took over and did a terrific job. He’s led us to our success, which helped get the recruiting classes that we need to continue that success and he made a world of difference. And over that course of those 10 games [last year], our guys just kept on fighting and it’s one of the things that we’re focusing on this year on. [We are] trying to be better for 60 minutes instead of holding onto the last minute, so that’s where our focus is this year. We’re going to be a different team, there’s no doubt. Bryce is gone, so it’s going to be different, but we’re trying to work on all cylinders [for] all 60 minutes.”
On the team’s biggest concern this season: “Our biggest concern is our offensive line. In addition to Bryce on offense, we [graduated] four offensive linemen and I think that right now is our biggest concern. We’ve been constantly trying to figure out who the best five are going to be, but we return Jimmy Whitlow, we return Andrew McManus – two guys who got a lot of playing time over the course of 2011 and we’re looking to those guys, but we’ve got a couple transfers that we like, so we just want to see if we can get a good five and really [let that] group take shape, understand how to work together and because that’s what happens. You’re not looking necessarily for each individual best lineman, you’re looking for the best group of five that work together well.”
On inviting 155 players to training camp: “It’s over 30-plus more than we’ve ever had before, so we have to practice differently and have to pay special attention to everybody, and that’s the thing. Everybody’s fighting their own battles and you’ve got to make sure you coach every one of those 155, [which] is the hard part. [However], everyone one of these guys has to know that their head coach cares about them and you have to try and show that, so I think that’s been the tough part [of preseason practices] right now, and getting these guys enough reps to expand their skillset to get better as football players and that kind of thing. So, it’s been tough, but we’ve found some ways to get the job done.”