WPI Football Looks for a Turnaround Season in 2012
Saturday, August 18, 2012
"Last year, going in to the fourth quarter, we were in some great competitive games against a lot of great competition," Robertson said. "You look at it at face value and think maybe your team isn't conditioned enough. But what we actually found was that our ones (starters) were conditioned, but our twos and threes (backups) weren't. So we've tried to work them in more in the spring and now to build some quality depth. "
The Engineers went 2-7 in 2011, but only two of those losses came by more than a single score. In fact, after their season opener against Merrimack, the Engineers never played in a game where they trailed by more than a touchdown in the fourth quarter. Robertson believes this year's team, which loses 12 starters from a year ago, can and will contend for a league title. If anything, he thinks the loss of starters has been a positive because it has kept the level of competition up in camp.
A veteran defense
WPI excelled on the defensive side of the ball-Robertson's specialty- ranking third in the Liberty League with 24.9 points allowed per game. Leading the defense is senior inside linebacker Hussein Yatim, who led the team with 60 tackles a year ago. Fellow inside linebacker Christopher O'Connor returns as well to complete what looks to be a solid linebacking corps.
"We only lost three starters on defense, and we have a bunch of guys that were good enough to start last year coming back," Yatim said. "We pride ourselves on our speed. We're not the biggest defense out there, but we're fast and we play aggressive. We run to the ball, no matter what. Even if you're the farthest person from the ball on the field you're running to it."
Robertson is also high on his defensive line, led by senior defensive end Nick Chambers. The Braintree native led the Engineers last season in sacks with six and is also one of the conference's better run defenders. In the secondary, senior William Alves returns after leading the team in pass breakups last year, and versatile safety Mitch McClune, a graduate student, will be used to defend the run and the pass equally.
Talent on Offense
On offense the Engineers return little experience, but wide receiver Mohamed Yatim, Hussein's older brother and teammate at Shrewsbury High, should provide a threat on the outside. The elder Yatim is a graduate student, studying biomedical engineering like his brother, and wants to finish his career on a high note after a 2011 full of fourth quarter disappointments.
"We would actually enter the fourth quarter (last season) with the lead most of the time, but we would eventually let the lead go," Yatim said. "But we have a bunch of new coaches here, and now they're putting the pressure on us to stay focused. So we're working hard to stay focused for four quarters."
During the off-season, the WPI coaching staff hammered that point home. The team's motto was simply "finish," reminiscent of last year's Super Bowl champion New York Giants, and that concept applied to every spring, every play and every repetition in the weight room. Both Yatims believe this approach will pay dividends in 2012.
Key Camp Battles
The Engineers' backfield is still in flux right now. At running back WPI will look to replace Ernie Mello, and All Conference selection last season. A quadrate of sophomores will vie for the job as Zach Grasis, Sherman Peoples, Chris Turner and Seamus Gallagher all battle for carries.
WPI also faces a question at quarterback, where junior John Antonopolous and sophomore Jacob Grills are fighting for the starting role.
"We've got two really great quarterbacks," Robertson said. "They're both fantastic. They're really good friends, they're close, but they're competing for a starting spot. You wouldn't know it by how they act around each other though."
The Engineers begin their season Saturday September 1st at Curry College. WPI's home opener comes the following week when they host cross-town rival Worcester State.
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