After the winless 2015 football campaign, head coach Todd Stratton resigned and the Athletics Department immediately began searching for a new head coach. The Poets hired Mike Neale who comes from Albright College in Pennsylvania. Neale came to Whittier with an impressive resume after quickly turning Albright into a contending program, which posted just two wins the season before he arrived. One thing he emphasizes is his dedication to finding young players who will be able to lead and motivate others.
Once Coach Neale arrived at Whittier, he quickly got to work getting the football Poets back on their feet and on the ball. With the exception of Offensive Coordinator Mark Mejia, every member of the coaching staff has been newly hired this year with props to Neale. On Sunday April 24, the team concluded its 6-week spring training session and Neale shared his hopes for the team moving forward into next season.
“We took some great steps moving forward and implementing new systems offensively, defensively, and on special teams,” said Neale. Because of the addition of a brand new coaching staff, there have been a number of new systems put in place for the football team, and Neale was quick to praise the efforts of his players during the training session. “[I am] extremely pleased with their effort to learn new things and attention to detail in meetings in addition to their effort on the field.”
Sophomore Defensive Back Tim Hillman expressed his optimism for the upcoming season after getting back on the field the past few weeks. “[Spring training] was a lot of fun. A lot of our teammates are feeling closer and there is a great bond between us and the coaches,” said Hillman. “The coaches are a lot more relatable compared to what we’ve had in the past, and this is something we’ve benefitted from and definitely needed to take this step forward.”
Sophomore Kicker Eric Voss shared in Hillman’s excitement about the future of the program sharing the knowledge that recruiting the right incoming firstyears could help push the team, as well. “If we keep up what we’ve been doing lately, bring in the new freshmen and show them the way we’ve been handling things over the spring semester,” said Voss. “I see things going very well and us having a much better season than we did last year.”
A change in coaching staff is something that the football program seems to have needed and as of Spring, the feeling that the program is headed in the right direction is evident on and off the field. Football is one of, if not the most popular sport in America and a successful season next year could greatly benefit both the Athletics Department and school itself. Yes, last season may have been disappointing, but the team is looking to expand school spirit in the Fall. With a new coaching staff and new sense of optimism in the locker room, the Poets could be in the perfect position to take SCIAC by surprise next year.