Michael Pina, Michael Whitsett and Josh David preview the Mustangs' 2017 campaign.
NEWTON, Mass. – The compete level at camp is at an all-time high, and progress is moving at a fast pace as the 2017 Mount Ida College football team gets ready to open their 2017 campaign.
The Mustangs, picked third in the Eastern Collegiate Football Conference (ECFC) preseason poll, are looking to improve upon a 4-6 season last year (4-3 ECFC), and have brought in a class of nearly 50 freshmen to solidify their talented roster.
According to head coach Mike Landers, about to enter his tenth season, the quality of this freshman class, which comes from all over the country, and the intensity of the upper classmen, has contributed to their ability to install new concepts quickly during training camp.
"Upper classmen have come in with a plan and a vision to carry over what we learned in spring practice, so we don't have to start from scratch," said Landers. "Camp is all about mistakes, and they are making a mistake and learning from it, and then making the next mistake. They're not making the same mistakes over and over again."
The three positions with the highest percentage of returners for the Mustangs will be at the offensive line, the linebackers, and the defensive backs.
The offensive line features senior leaders Chris Stafford (West Warwick, R.I.), Vincent Tucker (Englewood, N.J.) and Oliver Sylvestre (Warwick, R.I.), as well as junior Qamar Acres (Watauga, Texas), and sophomores Ryan Gries (Northford, Conn.), Tyllin Landrum (Garland, Texas) and Anthony Rivera (Mashpee, Mass.), all of whom saw playing time last year.
Fifth year senior Josh David (Sandown, N.H.), senior Chris Medeiros (Pelham, N.H.) and junior Sam Ejiasi (Forney, Texas) anchor the linebackers corps. David (9.8) and Medeiros (6.2) were among the team leaders in tackles per game last season.
Although there aren't any seniors in the defensive backfield, it will be one of the strongest units on the field for the Mustangs, with DeSean Hart (Mays Landing, N.J.), Dwayne Hunter-Parker (Waterbury, Conn.) and Michael Whitsett (Springfield, Mass.) leading the way. Hunter-Parker and Hart had two interceptions apiece last year, and the three backs combined to break up 13 passes.
Michael Pina (Brockton, Mass.), a transfer from Western New England, will take over at the quarterback position for the Mustangs. Although Pina served in a backup role with the Golden Bears, he was part of a squad that won the Commonwealth Coast Conference (CCC) in 2016, and brings outstanding leadership and competitiveness and a good understanding of the concepts that Coach Landers and the Mustangs are trying to execute.
Out of the large freshman class, Coach Landers has been inspired by the work of several players, including Armani Skiner (Houston, Texas) and Kahlil Bowens (Randolph, Mass.) at the cornerback position, and Anthony Dobronte (Brigantine, N.J.) on the defensive line.
Landers expects first years to help Mount Ida score points as well, noting the great work of wide receiver Oscar Lopez (Revere, Mass.) and the strong competition at running back, including Kolbie Humble (Vidor, Texas), Marcus Mcbean (Braintree, Mass.), Koby Osazee (Milton, Mass.), and De'Andre-Goldson Fisher (Springfield, Mass.).
Tight end will feature junior transfer Vince Iaquinta (Oceanside, N.Y.), who comes over from Anna Maria, and first year Thomas MacDougal, while upper classmen Mike Obianigwe (Roslindale, Mass.), Buddy Wade (Monroe, Conn.), and Jonathan Cistrunk (Milton, Ga.). will anchor the defensive line.
"I'm optimistic about the season because of the way the guys are working and the way in which the team is competing and focusing," said Landers. "It enables us to progress faster and unlock more of the playbook. The physicality and speed of our defense will allow us to create opportunities to utilize that speed in different ways."
The Mustangs will kick off their 2017 schedule under the lights on Friday, September 1st when they travel to UMass Dartmouth.
They will then play three straight home games, hosting Plymouth State on September 9th, Springfield on September 16th, and, after a bye week, their ECFC opener against Gallaudet on September 30th.
The month of October will begin with road trips to Castleton and new ECFC member Dean College, before an October 21st home date against Maritime at 1:00 pm.
Another newcomer, Alfred State, will host the Mustangs to end the month of October, and Mount Ida will finish their home schedule with Senior Day on November 4th against Anna Maria before heading to Maine on November 11th for their finale against Husson.