College football preview: West Chester University Golden Rams

Matt Leon
August 30, 2018 - 12:10 pm
Redshirt junior A.J. Long will start at quarterback tonight for the West Chester University football team.

West Chester University Athletics

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The Division II West Chester Golden Rams will open their 2018 season Thursday night on the road, paying Bentley University a visit up in Waltham, Massachusetts.

The Golden Rams are coming off a strong 9-4 2017 season during which they won the Pennsylvania State Atheltic Conference's East Division and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Playoffs.

Head coach Bill Zwaan liked what he saw in training camp leading into this season.

"Our guys did a nice job," Zwaan said. "We had some really good, hard practices and I felt like our kids came in in great shape. So right now I feel pretty good about where we're at."

West Chester starting quarterback Paul Dooley will miss the season's first five games due to a suspension, meaning that redshirt junior A.J. Long, who started his college career at Syracuse, will be the starting quarterback.

"He really is good running the football," Zwaan said. "He has a strong enough arm to do what we need him to do throwing the football. So we just need to get a little bit more consistency out of him throwing the football. He has had a good camp. As camp has rolled on, he has played better and better. He's a real threat running the football so we're mixing some things in that way. The other piece is he's really come around as a leader for us."

Long threw six touchdowns last season in limited action for West Chester and ran for two more.

West Chester has a big hole to fill in the backfield after the graduation of running back Jarel Elder, one of the most productive offensive players in recent program history. But Zwaan says they have veteran talent that is ready to step in.

"We have two seniors who have been in the program for four years: Mark Dukes and Mike Class," he said. "Both those guys have been waiting for this opportunity. They kind of got stuck behind a great player and there's not a lot you can do with that. But we've played them a lot at different times and they're ready. They just want to get their opportunity to go out there and play."

Zwaan broke down his defense:

"Defensive line, we're pretty strong up front right now," he said. "(Grad student) Ch'aim Smith coming back from injury, (senior) Diquan Gilbert at the other end. Really, we're two deep across the defensive line.

"Of course, we have Tyler Morrissey back at middle linebacker who was an All-American last year and led the country in tackles," he added. "That linebacking corps is really good led by him. Our secondary is basically back intact. We've got everybody back who played for us last year."

West Chester was picked as the favorite to win the PSAC East once again.

Thursday's game with Bentley kicks off at 6 p.m.

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