Greensboro, NC -- A talented pool of skill-position players gives Guilford head coach Mike Ketchum '78 optimism entering the 2004 football season. A fleet-footed and sure-handed receiving corps lines up with a strong-armed quarterback in an offense resembling the scheme of the Quakers' record-setting 1997 unit. An athletic and speedy secondary compensates for a smallish defensive front, which lost four regulars from 2003. The special teams feature All-American punter Christian Adams and all-region place-kicker Travis Frazier, plus a crop of dangerous kick returners.
The Quakers return 11 starters and 39 letter winners from last year's club, which lost four times by a touchdown or less to finish with a 2-8 overall record, 1-5 in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC). Guilford ran an option-style offense last season, which produced a league-low 243.5 yards per game. In an effort to take advantage of his young playmakers and a strong-armed quarterback, Ketchum will install a one-back, three-receiver offense that looks like the formation he used in 1997 when Guilford went 8-2 and shared the ODAC title.
Redshirt-sophomore Chris Gammon (left) enters camp as the starting quarterback. Gammon led Guilford with seven touchdown passes in nine games off the bench last season and ranked fifth among the ODAC's pass efficiency leaders. He threw for over 7,000 yards and 69 touchdowns in three scholastic seasons and should flourish in the pass-oriented formation. Gammon's targets include sophomores Chris Barnette, Brandon Lindsey and Micah Rushing, who are cut from a similar cloth. Each player stands just under six-feet tall and is blessed with excellent speed, good hands and a nose for the ball.
Junior running back T.J. Journigan returns to the lineup after a two-season absence. The Massachusetts transfer showed great promise early in 2002 before an injury ended his year in the season-opener at Carson-Newman. While Rushing and Lindsey occasionally carried the ball last season, expect most of Guilford's other backs to come from this year's newcomers.
The ODAC's top pass defense in 2003 lost six starters, including Most Valuable Player O.J. Batts '03, a First Team All-ODAC pick. The defensive line misses four of its top six players from last season's club, which will lead to a revamped scheme in 2004. While the losses are great, Guilford fans can find solace in the return of all-league linebacker Wes Kidd (right) and hope in the return of former running back Marcus Ballard. A redshirt senior, Kidd led the Quakers in tackles as a junior and was sorely missed in 2004. Ballard, another senior, scored 16 touchdowns in three seasons as a running back before sitting out 2003. He is expected to play cornerback in his final campaign.
Senior defensive end Delvin Newkirk (left) improves each season and is coming off a Second Team All-ODAC performance in 2003. He has led the Quakers in sacks and tackles for loss in each of his three years. In an effort to get Newkirk and converted middle linebacker Kyle Becher single coverage on the line, look for the Quakers to employ some five-man fronts. Junior Ian Kirwan inherits the nose guard job after splitting time there with all-league performer Brian Person '04 last year.
Guilford's line play is a significant question mark headed into preseason workouts. The Quakers return only six interior linemen from last season's club, which means first-year players and veterans new to the position will see considerable action. Four of the veterans are on the offensive side of the line, but they need to learn the new pass-oriented formation. Fifth-year senior Jeff Frisby (6-5, 260) has made steady improvement over his career and is the club's lone returning starting offensive lineman. Juniors Corey Haase (6-2, 280) and Jon Matthews (6-3, 255) have decent size, but limited experience.
The Quakers' special teams should be strong again with Adams and Frazier's return. Adams, a senior, became Guilford's first All-American punter since 1974 and has led the ODAC in punting average in each of the past two seasons. Frazier's 10 field goals last year set the school's NCAA Division III record and led the league as a freshman. Rushing (right) and Lindsey each ran kickoffs back for touchdowns last season and figure prominently in the team's return-game plans.
Guilford's schedule includes seven road games, which ties the school record and marks the first time since 1932 the Quakers have spent so much time away from home. The ODAC slate provides formidable tests, especially against the likes of three-time defending league champion Bridgewater. Hampden-Sydney, the Quakers' first league opponent, was ranked nationally last season and just missed an NCAA Division III playoff berth.
Out of the conference, the Quakers host cross-town rival Greensboro on Homecoming (October 2) in the eighth annual Gate City Soup Bowl game. Averett debuts on Guilford's schedule as an official for the first time in 2004 as the Danville, VA, school begins its fifth varsity season. The Cougars, who have scrimmaged the Quakers in recent seasons, replace NCAA Division II foe Carson-Newman on the Quakers' schedule.