Updated Tue, Aug 6, 2013 5:42 pm
The Marietta Pioneers football team took part in the Ohio Athletic Conference’s 2013 Media Day held at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. The Pioneers struggled in 2012 – finishing the season 0-10 – but a large group of returning starters look to propel Marietta to the top of the OAC in 2013.
The OAC Media Poll ranked the Pioneers No. 9 in the conference, one vote ahead of Wilmington College. Mount Union, last year’s OAC champion, was voted No. 1.
Marietta featured a new face at the podium for this year’s media day, as Andy Waddle took over as head coach this offseason. Waddle comes to Marietta after spending his last eight seasons as the defensive coordinator at Wittenberg University, where he helped the program win four North Coast Athletic Conference championships and make four NCAA playoff appearances.
Waddle is faced with the challenge of repairing a defense that allowed 50 or more points in five games last year.
Marietta returns 31 letter winners and 17 starters – including the entire offensive line – in 2013, which is tied for second-most in the conference. However, Waddle insists that the offense still has a long way to go.
“It’s nice to have guys that have played, and there’s no substitution for experience,” Waddle said. “At the same time, I don’t think it’s any secret that we need to get better on the offensive line. We weren’t good enough last year at that position group, and if we’re going to win games, we’ve got to be able to protect our quarterback and run the ball with efficiency.”
Waddle also commented that the team does not have a clear number one option at the running back position and that the spot is still “wide open”. The Pioneers do have a starting quarterback in fifth-year senior Tom Fulton, but he wasn’t able to practice in the spring due to a surgery that he had after last season.
The defensive side of the ball will likely see the most change this season, as Waddle’s defensive system will change the Pioneers from a 3-4 defense to a 4-3 in 2013. Senior linebacker Jake Hammer likes the change, commenting that he feels it better suits their personnel.
“One of the main problems we had last year was running the 3-4,” Hammer said. “It really didn’t suit our team and it led to a bunch of problems. Personnel wasn’t really one of our problems last year. It was the scheme that didn’t use our personnel in the right way.”
Hammer returns after a season in which he recorded 115 tackles, the most in the OAC. Without any returning starters on the defensive line, Hammer is undoubtedly the leader of the defense and the whole Pioneer squad.
When asked what their goals were for themselves and as a team this season, Hammer and wide receiver Kirby Harris shared the same answer: Do whatever it takes, even switch positions, to help the win.
Coach Waddle said that he just wants his team to get better every day and to change the perception of Marietta around the conference.
“I hope, when you look at Marietta in the future, you see a team that is relentless in their effort,” Waddle said. “And no matter what the score is, you’ll see a team that fights.”