Wade Hawkins took over quarterbacking duties in the third week of last season. The fifth-year senior has hit the ground running as the clear starter this year.
Wade Hawkins/Menlo Athletics
"I know as a quarterback that it takes a while to feel comfortable," Menlo's second-year coach Mark Grieb said. "Having the spring practices and all summer to work with our core group of receivers has been great. He looks confident and has been really accurate with his throws. He's as excited as anybody on the team about what we have this year as a group."
The Oaks hope to continue the momentum of winning their final two games last year into this season against the Mountaineers, who were 6-4 last year.
The teams are meeting for the third time, and the first in 10 years. The schools have split their first two meetings.
Hawkins will have an experienced group of running backs but a relatively inexperienced group of receivers at his disposal.
The Oaks were fairly balanced last year, rushing for 1,844 yards and passing for 1,689 yards. The offensive line, led by junior left tackle Bryce Howard, returns in its entirety, giving Hawkins a sense of comfort.
Even without its top rusher, Brandon Bell with 706 yards last year, Menlo should be set in the backfield with no fewer than five backs, including Hawkins, who rushed for more than 100 yards last year. Amjed Aboul-Hosn (23 carries, 136 yards) appears to be the starter, with sophomore Kenneth Markey figuring into the rotation.
The Oaks graduated their top two receivers from last season, and lost 105 of the 150 receptions. Daniel Jones, with 22 catches for 22 yards, is the top returning receiver.
"The energy has been great at camp." said Grieb, a Hall of Fame quarterback with the San Jose SaberCats of the Arena Football League. "We've had excellent leadership from the veteran players and we've had a lot of very talented new players come in and spark the energy of camp."
Senior Brandon Soohoo and sophomores Ray Burney and Dylan Power will have to join Jones as Hawkins' primary targets.
Defensively, the Oaks will be led by senior linebacker Cam Grad, senior defensive back Ray Roach and sophomore defensive back Gabe Deol. They will be joined by several players with experience, including Connor Martinez, Edwin Martinez, Kaiiron Richards, and LeeRoy Richardson.
Second year assistant coach Vince Freitas takes over as defensive coordinator.
"I think he's done a fantastic job as far as preparing our guys to play," Grieb said. "We have a lot of veteran guys that are playing great. Cam Grad looks nearly unblockable. And our cornerbacks are playing as well as I've seen them play."
There's also a 38-player recruiting class, a number of which look to make an immediate impact.
"If the hard work and effort that we've had in camp can carry over to the regular season, I think we can have a very successful year. I'm excited to see what these guys can do. If they're capable of doing what I think they are, we're going to have a pretty successful season."
Menlo College, reigning Cal Pac Confrerence champions, opens its season Friday night with a nonconference match against West Coast Baptist College at 7 p.m.
The Lady Oaks finished 19-7 overall, reaching the opening round of the NAIA National Championships.
Senior outside hitter Courtney Calicdan returns as a two-time First Team All-Cal Pac selection and 2012 Cal Pac Player of the Year.
Sophomore setter Kelly Sung is also back after earning Cal Pac Newcomer of the Year honors. Sophomore Courtney Wong also had a impressive freshman season.
"With Kelly and Courtney being so new last year and doing so well and earning conference honors, I think coming back this year prepared and having a little bit more leadership and ownership of the team, I can expect the same if not more out of them," said Menlo coach Atlee Hubbard.
The Oaks open their season on the road, playing against Corban on Saturday and Oregon Tech on Monday in Redding.
Seniors Sean Kane and Sebastian Bosch, junior Nicholas Krahnke, and sophomore Ryan Onizuka will be counted upon to help Menlo.