Taylor Football Set to Embark on 2018 Campaign
UPLAND, Ind. – The Taylor University football team will open its 71st season and its 11th with head coach Ron Korfmacher, when it takes the field at Indiana Wesleyan for a 4:00 pm start on Saturday, September 1.
Korfmacher became the program’s all-time wins leader on the sidelines with a 21-13 triumph over Missouri Baptist to close the 2017 campaign and will enter 2018 just one win shy of his 50th head coaching victory with the Trojans.
The 2018 squad will consist of 87 student-athletes, with 53 returning players looking to mix quickly with a group of 34 newcomers. The Trojans boast eight returning starters on offense and four on the defensive side of the ball and will follow the lead of an experienced 20-man senior class.
“We have a lot of confidence in this team of men and what they have demonstrated throughout the past year and into training camp as we have prepared for this season,” stated Korfmacher. “They have a genuine love for each other and a brotherhood that runs deep and goes well beyond football. We have a great group of servant leaders who are working hard. This group is resourceful and they find ways to succeed and win on and off the field. This team has a great blend of passion for each other and the game, as well as the perseverance to see it through.”
In addition to the strong chemistry and focus throughout the roster, the unit expects an increased amount of depth to lead to improved results across the board. The increased number of players ready to make an impact should lead to more competition for playing time, while helping equip Taylor to battle through injuries that have wreaked havoc on the program during the past two seasons.
While the team struggled through injuries over the previous two seasons, it also went 0-5 on the road in 2017 and is 1-10 away from Turner Stadium over the past two seasons. Nine of those setbacks were on the home fields of NAIA Top-20 foes and NCAA Division I and II programs.
The 2018 NAIA Preseason Top-25 Poll has those ranked games lining up on TU’s home turf this time around, with No. 6 Saint Xavier, No. 15 Marian, No. 16 Concordia and No. 1 Saint Francis all slated to follow NCAA Division I FCS Butler on the Trojans’ home docket.
Plenty of road tests will also challenge Taylor, including the season-opener at IWU in the first-ever gridiron meeting between the two long-time rivals. TU will also head to Trinity International, open MSFA Mideast League play at Siena Heights, travel to Lindenwood-Belleville and close the regular season at Missouri Baptist.
Taylor will look to its experienced offense to lead the charge against that challenging 10-game regular season slate and hopes to lean on the playmaking skills of All-MSFA seniors Everett Pollard and Grant Hohlbein to ignite the attack.
Pollard connected on 62.1 percent of his passes last season, firing 16 touchdowns and dialing up with Hohlbein 66 times. The senior quarterback enters his final collegiate campaign as Taylor’s all-time career leader with 58 passing touchdowns and is just 18 completions shy of another program mark. Pollard also needs just five passing yards to join Kenny Locke (6,827) and Shaun Addison (6,266) as the only players in program history to pass for over 6,000 yards.
In addition to Pollard and Hohlbein, Taylor will look to Daniel Boy, Kyle Kempton and Holden Hodge to aid the passing attack, after all three averaged over 10 yards per reception last season.
Seniors Taylor Johnson and Brandon George will anchor TU’s offensive line, with Spencer Crisp highlighting the running game along with Drew LeFever and Josh Saltzgaber. Crisp led the Trojans with 80 carries for 287 yards and three touchdowns through the first three games in 2017, before being slowed by injuries.
While the Trojans lost seven starters on the defensive side of the football, they bring back plenty of familiar faces, anchored by a deep and athletic group up front. Senior Jordan Bostick will highlight the unit from his defensive tackle slot, with Tyler Hasbrook and John Ragan filling in on the ends.
The front line will be backed by senior linebackers Ra Murray and Brady Hill, who each saw time in all 10 games in 2017. Sophomores Mark Baker and Jordan Jackson will be poised to contribute as well.
The deepest and most versatile spot on the field for the Purple and Gold will be in the secondary, where eight returning players and multiple promising newcomers will split time at five positions. Junior safety Jackson Bronkema highlights the group as TU’s top returning tackler from a year ago with 49 stops, while senior All-MSFA standout Tyler Gerig returns to lead the squad’s cornerbacks.
Austin Gunderson is expected to handle the kicking and punting duties once again for Taylor on special teams, with Hodge and Gerig getting the first crack among a host of options in the return game.