Aug 03, 2022

KWU: New look Coyotes ready to start 2022 season

Posted Aug 03, 2022 11:57 PM
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KWU Athletics

Matt Myers is ready to go.

It's been several months since he was named Kansas Wesleyan's head coach (Dec. 17, 2021) following Myers Hendrickson's resignation to accept the head coaching position at Division I Western Illinois.

KWU promoted Myers the same day Hendrickson resigned and it was an easy decision.

Myers played linebacker for four seasons at Wesleyan after his high school career at Southeast of Saline. He spent the last six seasons as an assistant under Matt Drinkall and Hendrickson serving in a variety of roles that included offensive and defensive coordinator – a span that saw the Coyotes compile a 61-11 record including a 44-7 slate in the Kansas Conference.

"I am excited for the season to start," said Myers, who was named the 2021 NAIA Assistant Coach of the Year by the  American Football Coaches Association just four days before his promotion. "I thought we accomplished what we wanted to in the spring and now I'm trusting that the processes that we have in place are going to allow us to execute at a high level."

He admits there will be some nerves when KWU takes the field in the season opener against Friends on September 3 at Graves Family Sports Complex.

"It will be nice after we get going and we get off to a hot start - that would be ideal," he said. "I guess I'm always a little nervous when you go into a season, even when I was a player or an assistant. There are always some nerves because you don't know fully what to expect every year."
KWU finished 11-2 (9-1 in the conference) last fall and advanced to the second round of the NAIA playoffs with Myers serving as defensive coordinator. Some key players departed but the Coyotes' cupboard is far from bare and is led by a large senior class.

"We did lose some very talented players," Myers said. "The good news is we have a lot of guys on the team that are coming back that have played a lot of football for us. Some of that's COVID related but a lot of that's just guys that have been in been in our systems for a long time and they've had a lot of success."

Myers was pleased to be chosen to lead the program.

"It's very humbling that they went directly to me," he said. "It's very comforting to know that the administration from the top down has been fully supportive from the day that I got hired and even before that. I know a lot of people on campus and in the Salina community so it's good to know that I have their support and their backing too."

Now comes the interesting part. The Coyotes' first practice is scheduled for Aug. 13.

New coordinator James Bauer guided Southwestern's prolific attack last season and joined the Coyotes during the offseason.

There will be a new face at quarterback with Tony White returning after backing up Isaiah Randalle last season. White played 10 games completing 65 percent of his passes for 510 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. He looked sharp during KWU's spring scrimmage.

"Tony took snaps for us last fall and he came in in the spring in great shape. He looked faster," Myers said. "Then he started getting into Coach Bauer's system and working it and you could tell that he was getting a lot more comfortable with it. We have some young guys too that will compete with him."

Nick Allsman returns at running back after gaining a team-best 730 yards and scoring eight touchdowns in 2021. Steven Harvey and Mark Benjamin also return after seeing duty last fall.

Stevie Williams and Erin Jenkins, two of last year's top three receivers, graduated but the returning corps has talent and is led by the speedy and versatile Drevon Macon (59 catches, 576 yards). Patton Germann (18-283) and Jacquante Pitts (8-114) also return.

Success, of course, starts up front and the Coyotes are in good shape with four returning starters in the line – Trace OttJarren Hightower, Nolan Harris and Jake Balderrama

"We bring back four offensive linemen that have played for us and we've got some young linemen that had a really good spring," Myers said. "I'm excited to see them walk into camp after a summer of development."

Myers is eager to see the offense's progress.

"We have a lot of players back that have played football for us and we also have a lot of young talented players on the team that made a lot of strides in the spring," he said. "It'll be a very competitive fall."

Like the offense, experience isn't an issue. And like the offense, the Coyotes should be strong up front with seven linemen returning in Cole ParkerChris ScottScott SanchezAngel BaezMalakye AdamsChristian Bowman and Andrew Sorenson.

"And there are some young guys that I think will have the opportunity to play for us," Myers said. 

DeVante Gabriel, last year's leading tackler with 68 stops, leads the linebacking corps and is joined by Jhalen Haynes, who missed last season with an injury but was superb during the 2020 season.

Five players with experience return in the secondary in safeties Julian Urioste – who had a team-best four interceptions – Ricco Moore and Shaun Browder and cornerbacks Jordan Dupre and Cleon Hamilton.

Placekicker Aaron Main and punter Miguel Millan return after solid seasons in 2021. Macon also returns as a kick return specialist. 

Bauer will lead the offense and David Leonard replaces Myers as defensive coordinator.

All-American quarterback Johnny Feauto returns for his second season as a coach along with Walker TorrainMike Hall and Travis Benoist. Hall and Benoist are veterans on the staff. Other new coaches are former KWU players Justin SullivanAnthony BargasNolan Jones and Trenton Poe-Evans, a former All-America tight end and wide receiver.

"I've got five guys that played here," Myers said. "The coordinators are the two outsiders but everyone else are guys that have been with me for a long time so it'll be fun."

Myers isn't taking anything for granted. There are new coaches at four other conference schools as well – Bethel, Friends, Sterling and Ottawa.

"I don't have any preconceived notions," Myers said. "There's a lot of new coaches and with the COVID year there are a lot of high-quality players that are playing for different teams and it's going to be a really competitive, interesting fall." 

Myers will employ the same week-to-week approach his predecessors did, with a twist or two.

"We're going to take it a week at a time and see what happens at the end," he said. "I'm not counting wins and losses; we're going in there and play our best football and perform.

"You'll see some things that you've seen in the past and then just inherently you'll see some stuff that looks like nothing we've done before."

The 2022 schedule for the Coyote looks a lot like the 2021 slate, just with the sites reversed from a year ago. 

KWU opens its season on Sept. 3 at home against Friends. It's the third consecutive season KWU has faced Friends in the opener. 

The Coyotes then head on the road to take on Sterling on Sept. 10, then return home for two games. 

The Coyotes take on No. 19 ranked Bethel on Sept. 17 and then host rival Bethany on Sept. 24. 

A week later, the Coyotes head to Leavenworth to take on University of Saint Mary, then return home again to take on Avila on Oct. 8 in the first daytime home game of the season. 

Starting with the Avila game, the final seven games of the season alternate home and away each week to close the regular season. 

KWU is at McPherson on Oct. 15 before returning home for Homecoming and Family Weekend on Oct. 22 against Tabor. 

The Coyotes then head to Ottawa, before hosting Arkansas Baptist in the final home game of the regular season, before finishing the regular season slate on Nov. 12 at Southwestern. 

The NAIA Football Championship Series will start Nov. 19 with first-round pairings.