It is possible for a college football team's offense to have seven returning starters and still be young at the same time.
Such is the case with Ashland University's football team, which will look to continue to field one of the top offenses in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference after molding key returnees with intriguing newcomers.
Leading the Eagle offensive charge will be sophomore quarterback Austin Brenner, who went 5-2 as a starter last year en route to being named 2018 GLIAC Freshman of the Year. Brenner passed for 1,225 yards and five touchdowns, threw just two interceptions, and led the GLIAC by completing 61.3 percent of his passes. He also ran for 241 yards and three more scores.
"Experience and playing against the talent that we see out of conference and in our league is huge," Brenner said. "Having experience, seven games, and even getting to gel with the linemen, the running backs that we have and the receivers that we have coming back, I got real in-game reps with them last year."
There will be a new cast in the backfield behind Brenner. The frontrunner at tailback has been a fullback – sophomore Austin Williams. But three newcomers – junior Keon Singleton (361 yards and three touchdowns rushing last year at Malone) and freshmen Gei'vonni Washington and Jeffrey Barnett – all will look for their opportunity.
"I have a lot of confidence in Austin Williams. He had one heck of a spring," said Brenner. "We've got some guys coming in who I think will step up, and they are hard workers."
Junior Hunter Williams is the team's top returning fullback.
Ashland's top two returning wide receivers are junior Logan Bolin (29 catches, 394 yards, three touchdowns in 2018) and sophomore Garrett Turnbaugh (16 catches, 178 yards). The remaining experience comes from senior Wes Wenning, while another senior, Cedric Frierson, moves over from the defense. Other top wideout candidates include senior Jordan Smith (26 catches, 342 yards, two touchdowns last year at Quincy), junior Dakota Hobbs (34 catches, 544 yards, three touchdowns in 2018 at Malone), and freshmen Jake McLoughlin, Raymell Byrd and Marlon Jordan.
At tight end, junior Michael Schweitzer (eight catches, 120 yards, two touchdowns) and senior Ben Fago provide Ashland with loads of experience, while junior ex-defensive end Eric Pickering and junior Sterling Armstrong look for time in short-yardage, goal line and rotations.
Ashland's offensive line features third-year starter Ryan Maguire, a senior at left tackle, and a pair of second-year sophomore starters in center Samson Hairston and right tackle Gavin Posey. Senior Connor Fulton is slated at left guard, while right guard will be a competition between senior Ronnie Shaw, sophomore Sam Puthoff and redshirt freshmen Drew Davies and Dugan May.
"Maguire, he's as solid as it gets," Brenner said. "He did one heck of a job last year. I have tons of confidence on that side. And Gavin Posey on the right side, he's just going to keep getting better and better."