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University looks to make noise with junior-heavy roster

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — After the program’s second losing season in the last 25 years, John Kelley was eagerly awaiting the chance to welcome his Hawks back to Bakers Ridge to start building for the 2020 season. A three-month hold on activities due to the pandemic did little to blunt the team’s enthusiasm when they were able to return last week.

“We were stir crazy, cabin fever, you name it,” said Kelley. “Kids are the most resilient guys in the world. I am so proud of them. They came in here in good shape. Obviously they were doing stuff when we where on quarantine. I don’t have any kids I think that just sat completely around. This is difficult for them because it is not their normal routine. But they are eating it up. We are getting close to 70 kids a day.”

Like many teams throughout the state, University will enter Phase II of preseason strength and conditioning drills next week. The biggest benefit will be access to the team’s weight room.

“I think every football coach will tell you of all the things we can do, that is the most important. That’s really the one that the kids missed when they were on quarantine shutdown. A lot of them didn’t have any access to weights or places to lift.”

For now, the Hawks have been broken into pods of ten players, creating mini-teams within the team.

“We had to worry about kids that ride with each other. We tried to keep our linemen together. We tried to keep our skill together. We tried to keep our younger guys together.”

Last fall, the Hawks went 3-7 with a pair of one-point losses on the road. Kelley says UHS will be improved but may still be a year away from reaching their full potential.

“We are probably going to have only about six seniors. The biggest thing is this year we are going to be improved. I am not going to make any wild predictions. But two years from now, we are going to be back. We are going to be a force. I like our numbers. I like our growth. I like everything you have to do to get better. I think we will make some noise this year.”

The Hawks welcome back Chase Edwards at the quarterback spot and a good crop of skill players. Kelley says their lines on both sides of the ball should be more representative of what UHS has put on the field in recent years.

“We played two years with kids that shouldn’t at the Triple-A level. We had some under two-hundred pound linemen. We are probably going to have five guys up there all over 250. That puts us Triple-A ready. I think that will make a big difference.”

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