Bearcats are #8 in Preseason Top 25

By Robert McKinney, Athletics Communications Director, (503) 370-6110

SALEM, ORE. -- Willamette University is ranked #8 in the Preseason Top 25 for the 2009 season. The Bearcats, who won the Northwest Conference title at 6-0 and finished the regular season undefeated at 10-0 in 2008, qualified for the NCAA Division III Playoffs and finished the year with an 11-1 record.

This year's Preseason Top 25 was released by on Tuesday, Aug. 4. Ballots for the poll were received from a panel of voters that included coaches, sports information directors and media representatives.

Defending NCAA Division III national champion Mount Union College (Ohio), 15-0 in 2008, held first place in the Preseason Top 25 with 623 points and 23 of 25 first place votes. The remaining first place votes went to the national runners-up from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, 13-2, with 602 points in the poll. UWW defeated Willamette, 30-27, in the second round of the 2008 Playoffs.

The University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, 12-2, was ranked #3 with 560 points, while North Central College (Ill.), 11-1, was #4 with 497 points. Hardin-Simmons University (Texas), 9-2, was ranked #5 at 459 and Wheaton College (Ill.), 11-3 was #6 at 456.

The University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, 9-2, held the #7 spot with 426 points. Willamette was #8 with 406 points. Rounding out the Top 10 were Wesley College (Del.), 9-2, at #9 with 355 points and Ithaca College (N.Y.), 9-2, at #10 with 268 points.

Willamette enters the season with 43 returning lettermen. The Bearcats have five returning starters on offense and seven returning starters on defense. Quarterback Ryan Whitcomb (Jr., Oak View, CA/Nordhoff HS/College of the Canyons) is set to return after missing nearly the entire 2008 season with a knee injury. Tailback Deon Horne (Sr., Issaquah, WA/Liberty HS), who led the Bearcats with 988 rushing yards also returns.

Top returning players for the Bearcats on defense include Cory Lowe (Sr., DE, Beaverton, OR/Beaverton HS) and Arlin Taylor (Jr., SS, Spring Valley, CA/Steele Canyon HS). Taylor made 63 tackles, forced three fumbles, recovered three fumbles, broke up seven passes and recorded two interceptions last year. Lowe registered 8.5 tackles for losses and 6.0 quarterback sacks on his way to 40 total tackles.

Willamette returns place-kicker/punter Mitchell Rowan (So., Cotati, CA/Rancho Cotate HS) and return specialist Jose Green (Jr., TB, Downey, CA/Warren HS). Rowan set Willamette records by hitting 62 of 66 extra points. He also connected on 5 of 8 field goals and averaged 38.2 yards per punt.

Green averaged 22.1 yards per kickoff return and 9.4 yards per punt return. He scored one touchdown on a kickoff return and one on a punt return.

The Bearcats will open the season at Concordia University-Moorhead in Moorhead, Minn., on Saturday, Sept. 5 at 11 a.m. (PDT). Willamette's home opener is set for Saturday, Sept. 12 at McCulloch Stadium against California Lutheran University at 1:30 p.m. (PDT).

WU's regular season home schedule also includes games against the University of La Verne (Sept. 26, 7:30 p.m.), Whitworth University (Oct. 3, 1 p.m.), Pacific Lutheran University (Oct. 17, 1:30 p.m.) and Linfield College (Oct. 24, 1:30 p.m.). All of Willamette's games --- home and away -- will be webcast live by Full Access Sports. Top 25
Preseason Poll
Released on Aug. 4, 2009
Quarterback Ryan Whitcomb, who missed almost the entire 2008 season with an injury, returns for the Bearcats.

Quarterback Ryan Whitcomb, who missed almost the entire 2008 season with an injury, returns for the Bearcats.