Bearcats will Travel Far and Wide to Play Strong Schedule

First Game is at Wisconsin-Stevens Point on Sept. 4

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

SALEM, ORE. -- Willamette University enters the 2010 football season with an experienced squad and a challenging schedule. The Bearcats, ranked #18 in the D3football.com Top 25 have achieved a 19-3 combined record over the past two seasons. In 2009, Willamette was 8-2 overall, including 5-1 in the Northwest Conference (2nd place).

The Bearcats will open this year's schedule with four consecutive games against very talented opponents starting at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point on Saturday, Sept. 4 before traveling to Hardin-Simmons University (Texas) on Sept. 11. Willamette will host NAIA opponent Southern Oregon University (scholarship program) on Sept. 18, and then, following an open date, will start conference play at defending Northwest Conference champion Linfield College on Oct. 2.

"It really places a premium on our guys working hard during the summer and coming in ready to go," Speckman said about playing at Stevens Point and having four difficult games early in the schedule. "We don't have much time to prepare."

A key factor for Willamette is the return of both quarterbacks who received extensive playing time as freshmen in 2009.

Brian Widing (So., QB, Oregon City, OR/Canby Union HS) started the final nine games after Ryan Whitcomb was injured in the first game for the second season in row. Kevin Ramay (So., QB, Simi Valley, CA/Grace Brethren HS) also saw significant playing time, as Willamette spent nearly the entire season with a two-quarterback system.

Whitcomb (Jr., WR/QB, Oak View, CA/Nordhoff HS/College of the Canyons) received his undergraduate degree this spring and returns to action this fall while studying in Willamette's Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) program. Whitcomb will likely see action at one or more of the following positions: wide receiver, quarterback, running back or flanker.

Head Coach Mark Speckman has some flexibility in how to utilize Whitcomb's strengths due to the tremendous success of Widing and Ramay last season. Whitcomb is an exceptional runner and team leader.

In Whitcomb's only full season of action at Willamette in 2007, he rushed for 677 yards and three touchdowns on 128 carries (5.3 avg.). He also completing 44 of 85 passes for 480 yards and three touchdowns.

Widing and Ramay both excelled in the passing game. Widing completing 60.6% of his passes (60 of 99) for 887 yards, nine touchdowns and just one interception. Ramay connected on 55.6% of his passes (40 of 72) for 625 yards, nine touchdowns and three interceptions. Both achieved passing efficiency ratings above 160.0.

Willamette has eight returning starters on offense and six returning starters on defense. Mitchell Rowan (Cotati, CA/Rancho Cotate HS), the punter and place-kicker, also returns for his junior season.

Six of Willamette's returning starters on offense are seniors, led by wide receiver Scott Schoettgen (Columbia, CA/Sonora HS). In 2009, Schoettgen caught 49 passes for 840 yards and scored 14 touchdowns for the Bearcats. He tied a school record with four touchdown catches against the University of Puget Sound on Nov. 7. He averaged 5.4 catches per game and 88.7 yards per game. He missed one game due to injury. He was named First Team All-Northwest Conference.

Schoettgen earned a career-high 191 receiving yards on just five catches against California Lutheran University on Sept. 12. In his three seasons at WU, he has caught 80 passes for 1,485 yards and 23 touchdowns. He needs six touchdowns to tie Willamette's career record for touchdown catches.

Terrell Malley (So., Portland, OR/Roosevelt HS) has earned the top spot at tailback. Malley, who has exceptional speed, rushed for 270 yards on 48 carries (5.6 avg.) as a freshman in 2009.

Jamiere Abney (Jr., Bremerton, WA/Bremerton HS) will battle Malley for playing time at tailback. Last year, when senior Deon Horne missed two of the final three games due to injury, Abney stepped in on offense. He carried the ball 56 times for 348 yards (6.2 avg.) and scored seven touchdowns during the season.

Flankers Chad Pollard (Jr., Bakersfield, CA/Liberty HS/Bakersfield College) and Mikey Lemon (Sr., McMinnville, OR/McMinnville HS/Linfield College) also return. Pollard was chosen Second Team All-NWC after rushing for 311 yards on 46 carries (6.8 avg.) and catching 15 passes for 279 yards and three touchdowns. Lemon gained 229 yards on 36 carries (6.4 avg.) and hauled in 11 passes for 140 yards.

Willamette returns three of five starters in the offensive line, but must replace graduated Third Team All-West Region selections Scott Hirschberger at center and Joe Penkala at right tackle. Offensive tackle Edward Salceda (Sr., San Pedro, CA/San Pedro HS/L.A. Harbor College) and offensive guard Luis Guerra (Sr., El Cajon, CA/Steele Canyon HS) both earned Second Team All-NWC honors in 2009.

WU returns three of four starters in the defensive line, two of three starters at linebacker and two of four starters in the defensive secondary. Four of the six returning starters on defense will be seniors in 2010.

The senior starters are defensive end Walter Robinson, II (Altadena, CA/Cathedral HS), inside linebacker Ralph Pineda (Los Angeles, CA/Cathedral HS/San Jose State Univ.), cornerback Jeff Kahler (Honolulu, HI/St. Louis School/Whitworth Univ.), and safety Arlin Taylor (Spring Valley, CA/Steele Canyon HS).

Pineda was named Third Team All-America and First Team All-West Region by D3football.com in 2009. He was chosen First Team All-NWC and was selected NWC Defensive Player of the Year. Ron Carter (Jr., DT, Atwater, CA/Buhach Colony HS) was named Third Team All-West Region and First Team All-NWC in 2009.

Pineda is the top returning tackler, after finishing second on the squad in 2009 with 81 total tackles, including 5.5 tackles for losses and 3.0 quarterback sacks. He intercepted two passes, forced three fumbles and recovered three fumbles.

Robinson made 60 tackles and led the Bearcats with 11.5 tackles for losses and 6.0 quarterback sacks. He also forced a fumble and earned one fumble recovery.

A year ago, the Bearcats used many players on defense, especially at linebacker and defensive back, so the team should be able to find new starters who already have experience at the remaining positions.

"We played a lot of people at all of those positions on defense," Speckman said. "They all received a lot of playing time and are capable of stepping in and making a difference."

A good example is Harmon Bruno (Danville, CA/San Ramon Valley HS) at outside linebacker. Bruno, who will be a junior this season, played in all 10 games off the bench in 2009 and ranked third on the team with 66 total tackles. He was named Honorable Mention All-NWC.

Special teams should remain strong. Rowan averaged 35.7 yards per punt and connected on 6 of 8 field goals. He made 46 of 51 extra points and now holds WU's career extra point records with 108 makes on 117 attempts in just two seasons.

Senior tailback Jose Green (Downey, CA/Warren HS) is back as the primary punt and kick return specialist. In 2009, he averaged 24.3 yards on seven punt returns and gained an average of 18.2 yards on eight kickoff returns. Malley also returned kickoffs and averaged 18.1 yards on 16 attempts.

Speckman enters his 13th season a Willamette's head coach with an overall record of 71-50 (.587). He has been named Northwest Conference Coach of the Year twice (1999, 2008) and has led WU to three NCAA Playoff appearances (1999, 2004, 2008). He was selected Regional Coach of the Year by both the AFCA and D3football.com in 2008.

Scott Schoettgen enters his senior season with 80 career pass receptions for 1,485 yards and 23 touchdowns.

Scott Schoettgen enters his senior season with 80 career pass receptions for 1,485 yards and 23 touchdowns.

Brian Widing threw for 887 yards and nine touchdowns as a freshman last season.

Brian Widing threw for 887 yards and nine touchdowns as a freshman last season.

Mitchell Rowan is WU's career extra point leader with 108 makes on 117 attempts.

Mitchell Rowan is WU's career extra point leader with 108 makes on 117 attempts.

Terrell Malley wore #4 last season. He's wearing #2 in 2010.

Terrell Malley wore #4 last season. He's wearing #2 in 2010.

Luis Guerra was named Second Team All-NWC in 2009.

Luis Guerra was named Second Team All-NWC in 2009.

Ralph Pineda was chosen Third Team All-America last season.

Ralph Pineda was chosen Third Team All-America last season.

Walter Robinson achieved a team-high 11.5 tackles for losses last year.

Walter Robinson achieved a team-high 11.5 tackles for losses last year.

Harmon Bruno registered 66 tackles as a sophomore in 2009.

Harmon Bruno registered 66 tackles as a sophomore in 2009.