JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. - This is the 10th in an 11-part series chronicling each of Carson-Newman football's opponents for the 2013 season. Today's feature breaks down one of two SAC teams to hand Carson-Newman a loss in 2012 – the Newberry Wolves.
Newberry started strong in 2012, winning its first four ballgames and jumping into the AFCA top 25. However, the Wolves faltered by dropping five of their final six games to finish 5-6.
The fortunate thing for fifth-year head coach Todd Knight is that the knowledge of those late season missteps should be fresh in the minds of 18 returning starters, including a league high nine on offense.
W.T. Murden is back in the saddle of the Wolves' spread offense. The junior quarterback tossed for 2,334 yards last year and a 20:8 touchdown to interception ratio – the best mark among SAC quarterbacks.
Murden has plenty of options at receiver. First team All-SAC pick Corey Washington is chief among them. Washington had nine touchdowns to go along with 51 catches for 776 yards. His nine TD catches were second in the league. Jason Livingston and Camera Winchester round out the receiving corps after 500 and 200-yard seasons, respectively. Last year, 10 different receivers caught passes in the Wolves 47-22 win over the Eagles, led by Washington's five grabs for 82 yards and a score.
Dureal Elmore is the leading returning rusher after a 616-yard season. He found the endzone five times, including once against the Eagles.
The entire offensive line returns intact, with the exception of center Laquwan James. All the better to protect Murden after only allowing just over a sack a game last season – good for 34th in the nation.
Defensively, the Wolves do have some shoes to fill. Gone is all-league linebacker Apollo Stretch, who mustered 106 tackles in his senior year, as well as linebackers Kelton Hall and Joe Smith.
However, the defensive line returns everyone and is led by Jamal Bethune, a 6-2, 245-pound defensive end who produced a team best eight tackles for loss. Bethune was third on the team with 53 stops. The Wolves will need to find a stopgap for Brian Spencer in the secondary. He only picked off five passes last season – good for 14th in the nation.
Offensively and defensively, the Wolves were fairly middling last year. On offense, the Wolves ranked in neither the bottom or top 25 of any category statistically. The same can be said for the defense with the exception of sacks, which, with 13 ranked 134th out off 156 teams, and punt return defense, with four yards a return allowed was good for 17th in the nation.
The Wolves have handed Carson-Newman two straight losses. In fact, the Wolves own a 4-3 series advantage dating back to the Wolves' 2006 SAC championship season. Newberry has never beaten C-N three straight times in the series' history.
The final installment of the Better Know an Opponent series features Wingate and will be available Friday morning.