Wesley expecting big things from Baynard

Junior Jamar Baynard, a career 1,200-yard rusher, is a key figure in Wesley’s offense. (Delaware State News file photos)

Junior Jamar Baynard, a career 1,200-yard rusher, is a key figure in Wesley’s offense. (Delaware State News file photos)

DOVER — There was never any question Jamar Baynard had the ability to play.

But it wasn’t until about two-thirds of the way through his freshman season at Wesley College that the former Middletown High standout really put things together.

Suddenly he went from an occasionally-used running back to a 100-yard rusher in two of the Wolverines’ four playoff games.

“He probably had the best skills of all the guys that were in that group,” said coach Mike Drass. “But he didn’t understand the offense and really struggled until he got a lot of playing time.”

Ever since that stretch late in his first year, though, Baynard has been the center of the Wolverines’ running game.

Now a junior, Wesley has grown to expect big things from the 6-foot, 210-pounder going into its season opener on Saturday at noon at Frostburg State (1-0). The game is also the Wolverines’ first as a member of the New Jersey Athletic Conference.

The thing about Baynard is his ability to catch the ball as well as run with it. Along with running for 1,276 yards, he has 57 catches for 716 yards.

Baynard has also scored a total of 21 touchdowns in his career.

He may be as complete a running back as Wesley has had, at least in recent memory.

“I don’t think we’ve ever had a guy who was over 200 pounds, who had breakaway speed, who could run the ball tough inside and had hands of a wide receiver,” said Drass. “Jamar’s a receiving threat.”

“I’m very confident catching the ball,” said Baynard. “That’s what I work on (in the off-season). I can’t just be a one-dimensional guy. I try to elevate my game.

“It’s always good to be able to do more than one thing so you can get the ball in your hands and help the team win.”

Baynard, says, too, that his understanding of the offense has made him a better player.

He certainly knows a lot more than he did two years ago.

“I feel like I know the offense inside and out now,” said Baynard. “It helps me teach the younger guys and it helps on the field, of course. I can adjust to a lot of things now courtesy of Coach (Chip) Knapp, (quarterback) Joe (Callahan) helping me along the way and past running backs.”

Jones gets his chance

Wesley lost some really good linebackers to graduation.

The list includes guys like All-American Sosthene Kapepula, Jordan Wescott, Luke Maginnis and Matt Capetola.

Julian Jones is well aware of who’s not here any more. The senior linebacker spent the last few seasons playing with that bunch.

“I actually came in with those guys,” said Jones. “It was a strong brotherhood there. I miss them a lot. (But) we just have to keep it going.”

A regular in Wesley’s defensive lineup for the past two years, Drass says Jones is ready to be the centerpiece of a Wolverine linebacker corps that also includes starters Samer Manna and Ben Robinson.

“I’m just happy for him,” said Drass. “This is his chance. … If you look at the stats, you saw a bunch of guys who all had like 40 or 50 tackles.

“He’s the leader of that group now. We were doing film last night and he was answering every question. The other guys were like, ‘Wow.’”

Over the last two seasons, Jones has made 69 tackles, including 11 stops for losses last fall. But he knows being a leader is about more than just making tackles.

“Me being an older guy on the team, I have to bring more leadership,” said the 6-foot-3, 218-pounder. “I’m calling the defense now. When I came in three years ago I was just going with the flow.

“Now I’m making sure everybody else is lined up right. I like it, though. I like being able to fill big shoes.”

Drass remembers the first time Jones got on the field in a game against Salisbury two years ago. The youngster made a tackle on special teams.

“He got up and just had a grin on his face a mile wide,” said Drass. “I see that in him a little bit with this camp. He’s always been on the field for us but this is his opportunity to shine.”

Reunited

Saturday’s game will be the first time Wesley has played Frostburg since 2011.

While the Wolverines lead the all-time series only 10-9, they won the last eight games in the series. And those victories came by an average margin of 38-7.

On the other hand, between 1987-99, Wesley lost its first seven meetings with the Bobcats. Frostburg won the first three games by a combined 116-0 as the Wolverines had just moved up to NCAA Division III.

Drass admits that most of the players who will be involved in Saturday’s game don’t know anything about the history between the two programs.

“As we were getting ready for the season, I remember saying to myself, ‘These kids wouldn’t even know what the heck you were talking about,’” said Drass. “They know it (Frostburg) is a team in our conference and they’re a good team. But there’s no revenge factor because they dropped us in 2011.”

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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