Fewer desserts and more ice.
For Davidson football coach Paul Nichols, those two trends represent how serious his team is about leaving last season’s winless record behind.
“The dining hall has been e-mailing to let me know that nobody’s eating desserts,” said Nichols, a former Davidson quarterback starting his second season as head of the program. “And the athletic training staff says there’s a record number of guys getting ice tubs. That’s an indication to me that they’re beginning to understand what it means to be dedicated to something.”
Nichols is looking for that kind of body-and-willpower commitment to help turn around a program that hit bottom record-wise last season, failing to get in the win column for the first time in 25 years.
The Wildcats lost every game by at least two touchdowns, with some promising starts derailed by turnovers or big plays yielded on defense. And opponents literally wore Davidson out by the end of games due to the Wildcats’ lack of depth
‘We have to develop some confidence,” Nichols said. “Winning breeds winning, and we’ve just got to see if we can’t move this thing forward this year.”
Davidson’s success may hinge on the extremes of a small senior class and a big freshman class this fall.
Ten seniors remain from an original recruiting class of 23, and almost all will start.
“We’re a pretty tight-knit group and we’re ready to lead this team,” said senior linebacker Matt Casey, an All-Pioneer League pre-season pick. “We want to step up and be the change that the program needs.”
Other top senior players include linebacker Dan Casey (no relation to Matt), defensive back Bryant Bednarik, tight end Trey Huelskamp, and quarterback J.P. Douglas. Douglas is one of several signal-callers in a battle to replace record-breaking quarterback Jonathan Carkhuff, who graduated.
“They’ve stuck around because this is important to them,” Nichols said. “All the seniors will play a bunch. That’s important, because I’ve been in situations in other places where the seniors didn’t play. It’s hard to develop leaders that way.”
On the other end of the experience spectrum, the Wildcats brought in a 37-member freshman recruiting class.
“It’s going to be interesting to integrate these two groups,” Nichols said.
Nichols says the most immediate need for the Wildcats is to improve their turnover margin (minus six last season) and a defense that allowed nearly 41 points a game.
“It’s going to start with taking care of the football and taking it away from the other team,” he said.
The season starts with back-to-back home games against Charlotte’s College of Faith and Catawba, and also includes trips to VMI and Princeton.
‘We’ve got some opportunities to compete as we start the season and we’ll have a couple of non-conference games in challenging places to play,” Nichols said. “It’s important for us to get off to a good start.”