Tuesday, June 18, 2019

74 Days 'till WCU Football Kickoff - #74 Tyler Smith











It's now 74 days until the kickoff of Catamount football on Saturday, August 31, 2018, against the Mercer Bears, in E.J. Whitmire Stadium, Cullowhee, NC

To help pass those long summer days, and hopefully get the Catamount faithful more excited about the upcoming season, and knowledgeable of the team members, we'll continue the 100-day football countdown each day until kickoff day.

Today we'll highlight another member of the offensive line:


#74 Tyler Smith

















Class: Redshirt Freshman
Hometown: Laurinburg, N.C.
High School: Scotland County HS
Height / Weight: 6-8 / 320
Position: Offensive Line


Prior to Western Carolina: Two-time all-conference selection, earning All-Southeastern 4A Conference (SEC) selection as a junior and an All-Sandhills Athletic Conference (SAC) nod as a senior … Was named to the WPDE End Zone Team and was selected to play in the Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas following his senior season while also collecting 910Prep.com All-State accolades … Was additionally named to the 2017 American Family Insurance All-USA North Carolina Football Team.

Personal: Full name is James Tyler Smith … Is the son of Betty Jo and Jamie Smith.





Courtesy WCU Athletics Media Relations


Monday, June 17, 2019

WCU Football has the highest APR in the SoCon


75 Days 'till WCU Football Kickoff - Keith Henry












It's now 75 days until the kickoff of Catamount football on Saturday, August 31, 2018, against the Mercer Bears, in E.J. Whitmire Stadium, Cullowhee, NC

To help pass those long summer days, and hopefully get the Catamount faithful more excited about the upcoming season, and knowledgeable of the team members, we'll continue the 100-day football countdown each day until kickoff day.

Since no student-athlete is currently assigned to #75 on the spring roster, today we will highlight another assistant coach:


Keith Henry





Position: Assistant Coach / Special Tms Coord. / Nickels
Alma Mater: Catawba
Graduated: 1989








Western Carolina head football coach Mark Speir has announced the addition of veteran assistant coach Keith Henry to his staff. Henry, who will coach the nickelbacks and serve as special teams coordinator, has nearly three decades of coaching experience at all levels of football including 18 seasons at the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision level.

Henry joins the WCU coaching staff after most recently working at Charlotte with stops at his alma mater, Catawba College (2013-16) for four seasons, and Wake Forest (2001-2011), where he was a part of five different postseason bowl games over 11 years. He replaces former Catamount assistant coach Justin Hood who took an assistant coaching position in the secondary at FBS-member, Kent State.

“We are very excited about the addition of Keith Henry to our coaching staff,” said Speir. “Keith brings a ton of experience and knowledge to our program, coaching for 20+ years at the FBS level and at Power 5 schools. He has recruited the Carolina’s for most of his career and has an established reputation with the high school coaches in both North and South Carolina. He has also been charged with taking over the special teams coordinator duties, which is a vital part of any program. Keith has been heavily involved in special teams in every stop of his coaching career.”

Speir added, “Finally, Keith spent a good deal of his coaching career working with Jim Grobe, who is one of the finest and most respected men in the profession. So, he certainly understands our culture of developing men both on and off the football field.”

Henry served as assistant head coach at Catawba for four seasons and was the Indians’ defensive coordinator while coaching the defensive backs. Back in 2015, Catawba’s defense produced All-America linebacker Kyle Kitchens, who was named South Atlantic Conference (SAC) and region Defensive Player of the Year as the Indians won the SAC championship. The Henry-led defense forced 28 takeaways including a league-leading 11 interceptions while also ranking second in the NCAA Division II ranks with a mere 15.8 points per game allowed.

Prior to returning to his alma mater, Henry spent 17 years on the coaching staff of Jim Grobe between both Ohio University and Wake Forest. He was a six-year assistant at OU under Grobe, making the move to Winston-Salem with the Bobcats staff. During his 11 years at Wake Forest, Henry served as special teams coordinator in 2011 and also coached the outside linebackers, defensive ends, and defensive backs.

He helped the Demon Deacons to five bowl games while on staff including the 2007 Orange Bowl after the 2006 ACC Championship. Over a three-year stretch from 2006 through 2008, he helped Wake achieve a remarkable 28-12 record and three-consecutive bowl game appearances.

While at Ohio, Henry was a part of helping post a 27-20-1 record in the Mid-American Conference over a six-year run.

Other coaching stops in Henry’s career include a three-year stint at North Carolina A&T, a year as the defensive backs coach at Charleston Southern, and a season as a graduate assistant at Gardner-Webb. Henry also interned during the summer with the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars in 2013, serving as an assistant with the inside linebackers during training camp and into the preseason.

A 1989 graduate of Catawba College in Salisbury, N.C., with a degree in physical education, Henry was an All-America safety, four-time All-SAC selection, and a two-year team captain that garnered the Harvey Stratton Player of the Year award. He graduated with a then-school record 398 career tackles and 20 combined interceptions. Henry went on to play professionally in the Arena Football League, spending single years as at wo-way player – wide receiver and defensive back – with the Albany Firebirds (1990) and the Charlotte Rage (1991).

Henry was a prep standout at Maiden High School and began his coaching career at Bandy’s High School after graduating from Catawba. He earned his master’s degree in athletic administration from North Carolina A&T in 1995 after spending three seasons on staff at NC A&T as the linebackers, wide receivers, and defensive backs coach during his time in Greensboro.

In 2000, Henry was inducted into the Catawba College Sports Hall of Fame and in 2001, was inducted into the South Atlantic Conference Hall of Fame. He also coached baseball at North Carolina A&T, winning a MEAC title and conference Coach of the Year honors in 1994.

Henry and his wife, Nicole, have four children: Kirstie Foster, K.J. Henry, Maya Henry, and Isaiah Henry as well as two grandchildren: Makhi and Malachi.






Courtesy WCU Athletics Media Relations


Sunday, June 16, 2019

Happy Fathers Day to the Catamount Nation


76 Days 'till WCU Football Kickoff - #76 Jacob Combs










It's now 76 days until the kickoff of Catamount football on Saturday, August 31, 2018, against the Mercer Bears, in E.J. Whitmire Stadium, Cullowhee, NC

To help pass those long summer days, and hopefully get the Catamount faithful more excited about the upcoming season, and knowledgeable of the team members, we'll continue the 100-day football countdown each day until kickoff day.

Today we'll highlight another member of the offensive line:


#76 Jacob Combs










Class: True Freshman
Hometown: North Wilkesboro, N.C
High School: North Wilkesboro HS
Height / Weight: 6-4 / 280
Position: Offensive Line


Prior to Western Carolina: Two-time All-Mountain Valley Conference selection playing both offensive and defensive line … Earned Winston-Salem Journal All-Northwest team accolades twice over his final two seasons as a prep.

Personal: Full name is Jacob Lee Combs … Is the son of Vicki Phillips and Ricky Combs




Courtesy WCU Athletics Media Relations

Saturday, June 15, 2019

77 Days 'till WCU Football Kickoff - #77 Clark Willhoite










It's now 77 days until the kickoff of Catamount football on Saturday, August 31, 2018, against the Mercer Bears, in E.J. Whitmire Stadium, Cullowhee, NC

To help pass those long summer days, and hopefully get the Catamount faithful more excited about the upcoming season, and knowledgeable of the team members, we'll continue the 100-day football countdown each day until kickoff day.

Today we'll highlight another member of the offensive line:


#77 Clark Willhoite





















Class: Redshirt sophomore
Hometown: Cincinnati, Ohio
High School: Roger Bacon HS 
Height / Weight: 6-6 / 320
Position: Offensive Line


2018 (Redshirt Freshman): Played in all 11 of the team’s games on the year on special teams and as a substitution along the offensive line … Was a part of Tyrie Adams eclipsing the 1,000-yard rushing mark giving WCU a 1,000-yard rusher in four-consecutive seasons … Was sidelined with a knee injury during WCU’s annual spring drills.

2017 (Freshman): Did not see game action, taking a redshirt.

Prior to Western Carolina: Played offensive tackle and was a team captain as a senior at Roger Bacon HS ... Selected first team All-Greater Catholic (GCL) Central lineman ... Awarded his team's Most Valuable Player honor along the offensive line ... Also received Academic All-Ohio honors in his final year as a prep ... Earned second-team All- GCL Coed Central lineman in 2015 as a junior while also receiving the most improved team award ... High school head coach was Mike Blaut.

Personal: Full name is Clark Evan Willhoite ... Is the son of Sonya Beeler and Mark Willhoite ... His mother played basketball at Bradley University ... Has a brother, Hagan, and a sister, Zoey.





Courtesy WCU Athletics Media Relations


Friday, June 14, 2019

June 14, U.S. Army & U.S. Flay Birthday

Happy Birthday to both......





78 Days 'till WCU Football Kickoff - #78 Garrett Bowman












It's now 78 days until the kickoff of Catamount football on Saturday, August 31, 2018, against the Mercer Bears, in E.J. Whitmire Stadium, Cullowhee, NC

To help pass those long summer days, and hopefully get the Catamount faithful more excited about the upcoming season, and knowledgeable of the team members, we'll continue the 100-day football countdown each day until kickoff day.

Today we'll highlight another member of the offensive line:


#78 Garrett Bowman








Class: Redshirt Freshman
Hometown: Arab, Ala.
High School: Arab HS
Height / Weight: 6-4 / 265
Position: Offensive Line


2018 (Freshman): Saw action in one game, making his collegiate debut on the road at Mercer (Oct. 20) … Did not record any official statistics playing along the offensive line … Expected to take a redshirt.

Prior to Western Carolina: Recruited as an offensive lineman … Two-year varsity letter winner on both the offensive and defensive line for high school coach Adam Gilbert … Credited with 72 career tackles including 46 as a senior … Credited with 20 career tackles for loss including nine sacks … Added four receptions for 48 yards and a touchdown as a senior … Name first team All-Marshall County and earned all-region plaudits … Earned Zaxby’s Player of the Game eight times during his junior and senior years including five times in his final season.

Personal: Full name is Matthew Garrett Bowman … Is the son of Lisa and Joel Bowman … Has two younger siblings, John Brady, and Drew.






Courtesy WCU Athletics Media Relations

Thursday, June 13, 2019

79 Days 'till WCU Football Kickoff - #79 Bailey Byrum









It's now 79 days until the kickoff of Catamount football on Saturday, August 31, 2018, against the Mercer Bears, in E.J. Whitmire Stadium, Cullowhee, NC

To help pass those long summer days, and hopefully get the Catamount faithful more excited about the upcoming season, and knowledgeable of the team members, we'll continue the 100-day football countdown each day until kickoff day. Today we'll highlight a member of the offensive line:


#79 Bailey Byrum








Class: Redshirt Sophomore
Hometown: Sweetwater, Tenn.
High School: Sweetwater HS
Height / Weight: 6-7 / 330
Position: Offensive Line


2018 (Redshirt Sophomore): Dressed for several games on the year, but did not see game action.

2017 (Redshirt Freshman): Made his collegiate debut in the home-opener against Davidson (Sept. 9), appearing in one game on the season as a reserve along the offensive line and on special teams.

2016 (Freshman): Did not see game action; expected to take a redshirt ... Named to the 2016-17 Southern Conference Academic Honor Roll.

Prior to Western Carolina: Three-time all-county selection and a two-time all-district honoree ... As a senior was named All-State by both the Tennessee Sports Writers Association (TWSA) and The Examiner.com ... Selected as the Region 2-AA co-Offensive Lineman of the Year and was the Advocate Democrat lineman of the year ... Played for the East squad in the Toyota East-West All-Star Classic ... Graded out with 158 career pancake blocks over three seasons including a career-high 72 as a senior with 95 career knockdowns, 64 in his final season ... As a junior was named a MVP at a National Playmakers Academy camp held at Tennessee State Univ. ... Listed as a three-star athlete by 247Sports.com and a two-star standout by Rivals.com ... He is considered the No. 124 offensive tackle in the nation and the No. 26 overall player in the Tennessee Class of 2016 ... High school coach was Ethan Edmiston.

Personal: Is the son of Eddie and Laura Byrum ... His grandfather, David Michael "Big Dog" Vestal Sr., played football at the University of Tennessee where he was on the Vols 1956 Sugar Bowl team ... His uncle, David Vestal Jr., played football at ETSU.







Courtesy WCU Athletics Media Relations

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

80 Days 'till WCU Football Kickoff - Jess Smith











It's now 80 days until the kickoff of Catamount football on Saturday, August 31, 2018, against the Mercer Bears, in E.J. Whitmire Stadium, Cullowhee, NC

To help pass those long summer days, and hopefully get the Catamount faithful more excited about the upcoming season, and knowledgeable of the team members, we'll continue the 100-day football countdown each day until kickoff day.

Since no one is currently assigned to #80, today we'll highlight another tight end who could be wearing #80 this year:



Jess Smith








Class: Redshirt freshman
Hometown: Seneca, S.C.
High School: Seneca, HS
Height / Weight: 5-9 / 175
Position: Tight End



2017 (Freshman): Did not see game action, taking a redshirt.

Prior to Western Carolina: Played free safety and outside linebacker at Seneca High as a prep ... Was selected to the Region 1-AAA All-Region team as a senior.




Courtesy WCU Athletics Media Relations


Tuesday, June 11, 2019

81 Days 'till WCU Football Kickoff - Brandon Hendricks











It's now 81 days until the kickoff of Catamount football on Saturday, August 31, 2018, against the Mercer Bears, in E.J. Whitmire Stadium, Cullowhee, NC

To help pass those long summer days, and hopefully get the Catamount faithful more excited about the upcoming season, and knowledgeable of the team members, we'll continue the 100-day football countdown each day until kickoff day.


Today we'll highlight another tight end who could be wearing #81 this year:


Brandon Hendricks








Class: Redshirt freshman
Hometown: Mocksville, N.C.
High School: Davie HS
Height / Weight: 5-10 / 160
Position: Tight End

Prior to Western Carolina: Was a two-way player at Davie High playing both wide receiver and cornerback where he was a three-year letter winner ... Also ran track as a prep, ranking tied for ninth in high school history in the 100-meter dash (12.10, 2017) and eighth in the 200-meter dash (24.44, 2017) ... He was also on the school’s sixth-best 4x100-meter relay team in 2016 ... Played football as a prep alongside Catamount teammate, Angel Perez-Hunt.








Courtesy WCU Athletics Media Relations


Monday, June 10, 2019

82 Days 'till WCU Football Kickoff - #82 Caleb Woodard











It's now 82 days until the kickoff of Catamount football on Saturday, August 31, 2018, against the Mercer Bears, in E.J. Whitmire Stadium, Cullowhee, NC

To help pass those long summer days, and hopefully get the Catamount faithful more excited about the upcoming season, and knowledgeable of the team members, we'll continue the 100-day football countdown each day until kickoff day.

Today we'll highlight another tight end:


#82 Caleb Woodard









Class: Redshirt Sophomore
Hometown: Bryson City, N.C.
High School: Swain County HS
Height / Weight: 6-0 / 230
Position: Tight End



2018 (Redshirt Junior): Did not see game action. 

Prior to Western Carolina: Played tight end in the Maroon Devils’ run-oriented offensive scheme, graduating in 2016 ... Played in 30 career games including the 2014 1-A Western Regional finals ... Caught six passes – two for touchdowns – as a senior in 2015, tallying 167 receiving yards ... Also played baseball and participated in track & field as a prep.






Courtesy WCU Athletics Media Relations

Sunday, June 9, 2019

83 Days 'till WCU Football Kickoff - Arketa Banks











It's now 84 days until the kickoff of Catamount football on Saturday, August 31, 2018, against the Mercer Bears, in E.J. Whitmire Stadium, Cullowhee, NC

To help pass those long summer days, and hopefully get the Catamount faithful more excited about the upcoming season, and knowledgeable of the team members, we'll continue the 100-day football countdown each day until kickoff day.

Since no student-athlete is assigned to #83 on the spring roster, today we will highlight another assistant coach:



Arketa Banks







Position: Assistant Coach / RB & TE
Alma Mater: Elon University
Graduated: 2003
Hometown: Warrenton, N.C.





A Western Carolina assistant football coach from 2009-12, Arketa Banks has returned to Mark Speir's Catamount football coaching staff. Banks, who was initially retained by Speir upon his hire in 2011, returns to Cullowhee after spending the 2018 season on staff at Gardner-Webb where he coached the running backs and tight ends, continuing that role in his new appointment.

“We’re thrilled to have Arketa and his family back as a part of our Catamount football family,” said Speir on the addition of Banks to his coaching staff. “He is an outstanding recruiter, football coach, and mentor for our young men. He understands our culture and will promote the vision of our football program and this university. We are so happy that he is back in the Purple & Gold.”

Banks – who Speir coached as a player during three seasons at Elon – returns to again lead the Catamount running backs and will add the tight ends. He coached that same position for three of his previous four seasons on the WCU sidelines, mentoring 2009 Southern Conference Freshman of the Year in Catamount RB Michael Johnson. During his first stint in Cullowhee, he also served as the team’s community service liaison and assistant director of camps and clinics.

During his first stop in Cullowhee, three Catamount running backs collected SoCon All-Freshman honors including Johnson, Shaun Warren (2011) and Darius Ramsey (2012). Ramsey went on to collect first-team Academic All-America honors in 2014. WCU’s offensive scoring on the ground increased from seven TDs in Banks’ second season in 2010 to a dozen in 2011 and 22 in 2012 – which was the most since WCU rushed for 25 TDs in 2001.

After leaving WCU, Banks coached at NCAA Division II powerhouse Lenoir-Rhyne for five seasons from 2013-17 where he was the slotbacks coach in 2013-2014 and wide receivers’ coach from 2015-17. Under his tutelage during the 2014 season, the Bears’ slotbacks rushed for a school and D-II national-record 416.2 yards per game. Seniors, Chris Robinson and Jarrod Spears earned all-league and all-region honors under Banks’ watchful eye as Robinson rushed for 1,418 yards, the most by an L-R back in 20 years, earning NCAA Division II All-American honors. The Bears went 11-1 in 2014 and finished the season ranked No. 8 in the nation.

While at Lenoir-Rhyne, Banks also served as the Director of High School Relations and In-State Recruiting for the Bears.

A heralded defensive back and track & field standout, Banks got his start in coaching at his alma mater, Warren County High School in Warrenton, N.C., in 2004 as the junior varsity head coach, taking over at the varsity level in 2005. It was in the latter year that he posted a 6-5 record and mentored QB Victor Hunt to the NCC Player of the Year honor. He also coached prep football at Wakefield High in Raleigh in 2006-07, coaching defensive backs and quarterbacks.

He earned his first collegiate coaching position at Brevard College in 2008 coaching the defensive secondary and was the program’s recruiting coordinator before making his first move to Cullowhee prior to the 2009 season.

A 2003 graduate of Elon, Banks was a four-year letter and an All-Big South Conference performer on the football gridiron, collecting second-team plaudits as a receiver and a kick returner in 2002. During his career with the then option-oriented Phoenix between 1999 and 2002, Banks helped establish the program as one of the top independents in NCAA Division FCS before Elon’s first season in the Big South in 2002, receiving team MVP honors in 2001 after catching 22 passes for an average of 24.5 yards per reception with six touchdowns.

Going into his senior year at Elon, The Sports Network (now STATS FCS) deemed Banks the “fifth-best kick returner” in NCAA Division I-AA (now FCS) football after earning All-Independent as a return specialist in 2001. During his career, he led Elon in receiving from 2000-2002, amassing 1,371 yards on 54 catches with 17 receiving touchdowns.

Banks and his wife, the former Ms. Latora Pettaway of Henderson, N.C., were married during the summer of 2009. The couple has three children; Shymia, Kimora, and Arketa, II.





Courtesy WCU Athletics Media Relations

Saturday, June 8, 2019

84 Days 'till WCU Football Kickoff - #84 Owen Cosenke










It's now 84 days until the kickoff of Catamount football on Saturday, August 31, 2018, against the Mercer Bears, in E.J. Whitmire Stadium, Cullowhee, NC

To help pass those long summer days, and hopefully get the Catamount faithful more excited about the upcoming season, and knowledgeable of the team members, we'll continue the 100-day football countdown each day until kickoff day.

Today we'll highlight another tight end:


#84 Owen Cosenke





















Class: Junior
Hometown: Aldie, Va
High School: John Champe HS
Height / Weight: 6-3 / 240
Position: Tight End


2017 (Freshman): Played in 10 of the team's 12 games including nine starts at tight end ... Finished the year with nine receptions for 82 yards and a touchdown ... Made his debut in the season-opener at Hawai'i (Sept. 2), finishing with a career-best three catches for 28 yards ... Hauled in his first collegiate touchdown pass on a three-yard scoring strike in the home win over ETSU (Oct. 14) ... Named second-team Freshman All-America by Phil Steele ... Hauled in a 20-yard pass in WCU's annual Spring Game.

Prior to Western Carolina: Played for head coach Jason Dawson at John Champe HS in Aldie, Va., before finishing his prep career at Fork Union Military where he played for head coach Col. John Shuman ... Started all 12 games at FUMA ... At John Champe HS, garnered first team all-conference and second team All-Region honors as a senior as a part of a conference championship team in just the Knights' fourth year of existence ... Garnered MaxPreps Offensive Player of the Game accolades in a game against Dominion (Oct. 16, 2015) ... Recorded 35 catches for over 400 yards and four touchdowns in his final season ... Also played basketball at John Champe HS where he was a two-year varsity starter.
Personal: Full name is Owen Mattingly Cosenke ... Is the son of Kelly and Stephen Cosenke ... Has two younger brothers, Trevor and Calvin.







Courtesy WCU Athletics Media Relations

Friday, June 7, 2019

85 Days 'till WCU Football Kickoff - #85 Luke Britt












It's now 85 days until the kickoff of Catamount football on Saturday, August 31, 2018, against the Mercer Bears, in E.J. Whitmire Stadium, Cullowhee, NC

To help pass those long summer days, and hopefully get the Catamount faithful more excited about the upcoming season, and knowledgeable of the team members, we'll continue the 100-day football countdown each day until kickoff day.

Today we'll highlight a tight end



#85 Luke Britt












Class: RS Freshman
Hometown: Calypso, N.C
High School: North Duplin HS
Height / Weight: 6-6 / 215
Position: Tight End



Prior to Western Carolina: Credited with three catches for 41 receiving yards and two touchdowns as a senior … Also recorded a pair of interceptions and three blocked kicks – two punts and a field goal – defensively … Helped guide his team to the North Carolina 1-A state championship game in 2017 … Earned WGBR High School Athlete of the Week honors in November 2017 … Also plays both baseball and basketball as a prep.

Personal: Full name is Luke Donnell Britt … Is the son of Suzanne and Ralph Britt … His father, Ralph, was a tight end at N.C. State and later played in the NFL with the Pittsburgh Steelers (1987).






Courtesy WCU Athletics Media Relations

Thursday, June 6, 2019

President Trump's 75th D-Day anniversary speech in Normandy

D-Day June 6, 1944


86 Days 'till WCU Football Kickoff - Phillip Ely










It's now 86 days until the kickoff of Catamount football on Saturday, August 31, 2018, against the Mercer Bears, in E.J. Whitmire Stadium, Cullowhee, NC

To help pass those long summer days, and hopefully get the Catamount faithful more excited about the upcoming season, and knowledgeable of the team members, we'll continue the 100-day football countdown each day until kickoff day.

Since no student-athlete is assigned to #86 on the spring roster, today we will highlight another assistant coach



Phillip Ely







Position: Assistant Coach / QB
Alma Mater: University of Toledo
Graduated: 2016
Hometown: Tampa, Fla.







Phillip Ely comes to Cullowhee after two years as the quarterback's coach and a co-offensive coordinator at Tiffin University.

Ely assumes the position vacated by former quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator Brad Glenn who took an assistant coaching position with NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision member Georgia State in early February.

“Phil is a very sharp and talented rising star in the coaching profession who has been a winner at every stop of his playing career as both a high school prep and collegiate student-athlete at Alabama and Toledo,” said Speir. “Phil was a part of two outstanding programs that have top-notch head coaches, playing for both Nick Saban at Alabama and Matt Campbell at Toledo. He will bring a new perspective to our talented quarterback corps through the lens of a former player who excelled at the position.

Speir added, “I liked the fact that he has coached on the defensive side of the ball at Iowa State, as well as, been a play-caller at Division II Tiffin which just completed the best record in school history. He has been the part of two programs as an assistant coach that have resurrected programs into national powerhouses at both Iowa State and Tiffin.”

Ely earned his coaching start as a graduate assistant at Iowa State in Ames, Iowa, first on the defensive side of the ball with the secondary before moving back to offense where he mentored with the Cyclones’ quarterbacks and wide receivers. From there, Ely landed the quarterbacks coach and co-coordinator role at Tiffin University that also included play-calling duties.

In his first season at Tiffin, Ely coordinated a passing attack that featured a freshman QB in Nick Watson who went on to complete nearly 61-percent of his passes for 2,124 yards and 12 touchdowns. Last season, Tiffin averaged 30.4 points and 271.2 yards passing per game, throwing for just shy of 3,000 yards collectively as a team. Watson improved to 65-percent passing with 23 TD strikes against just eight interceptions, collecting All-Great Midwest Conference honors.

Last year, Tiffin opened the year with nine consecutive wins and its highest national ranking at No. 15, but just missed the postseason following a pair of consecutive losses in the final two weeks of the season.

A two-time graduate of the University of Toledo, Ely was a two-year starter on a pair of bowl championship teams in the Rockets’ fast-tempo, spread offense. Twice elected team captain, Ely threw for over 3,000 yards and 23 touchdowns against only 10 interceptions in 2015, collecting All-Mid-American Conference honors. He guided the Rockets to an 11-2 record including wins over No. 12 Arkansas and No. 21 Temple, the latter victory coming in the Boca Raton Bowl in which he collected MVP honors. He parlayed that season into an invite to NFL preseason camps with both the Tennessee Titans and Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the spring of 2016.

Ely began his collegiate career at the University of Alabama as a highly touted recruit from Plant High in Tampa, Fla., where he played in three state championships, winning a pair of Florida state titles. He was additionally dubbed a U.S. Army All-American as a prep. Ely played in seven games in 2012 for the Crimson Tide while serving as the back-up to A.J. McCarron for two seasons.







Courtesy WCU Athletics Media Relations

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

87 Days 'till WCU Football Kickoff - Reuben Wright










It's now 87 days until the kickoff of Catamount football on Saturday, August 31, 2018, against the Mercer Bears, in E.J. Whitmire Stadium, Cullowhee, NC

To help pass those long summer days, and hopefully get the Catamount faithful more excited about the upcoming season, and knowledgeable of the team members, we'll continue the 100-day football countdown each day until kickoff day.

Since no student-athlete is assigned to #88 on the spring roster, today we will highlight another assistant coach


Reuben Wright








Position: Assistant Coach / Def. Line 
Alma Mater: Catawba College 
Graduated: 1994






Reuben Wright joined the Western Carolina football coaching staff as the running backs coach in mid-May, 2017. Wright, who played collegiately at Catawba College in the early 1990s, worked alongside current Catamount offensive coordinator Brad Glenn at two different high school coaching stops.

Wright replaced former assistant coach Jason Nichols who took a similar position at his alma mater, East Carolina, in late February. Wright officially started in Cullowhee on May 8, and inherits a wealth of talent including three-time 2016 postseason All-America selection, Detrez Newsome.

Wright comes to Cullowhee with a wealth of coaching experience including eight different stops at the high school level. He most recently served as the assistant head coach and defensive coordinator for a season at Greenwood High School in Greenwood, S.C. Prior to that, he spent four seasons as the head coach on the sidelines at Carolina High School and Academy in Greenville, S.C., where he mentored Zykiesis Cannon who went on to play at Louisville.

Wright's coaching stints also include serving as the assistant head football coach at Eastside High in Taylors, S.C.

Between his numerous prep stops, Wright has also coached at the collegiate level, spending two seasons at Presbyterian College where he worked primarily along the defensive line. In his first season with the Blue Hose defensive linemen, he mentored end Sherman Burnett to All-State honors. His unit ranked inside the national top 20 for defensive tackles for loss. He also helped recruit current Arizona Cardinals three-time Pro Bowl selection, Justin Bethel.

Prior to making the jump to the collegiate ranks, Wright spent two years as the defensive coordinator at Blythewood High in Blythewood, S.C., just outside of Columbia where he was also the strength and conditioning coordinator. While at Blythewood, he helped mold the Bengals in their inaugural season in 2006, helping the squad to a 14-1 overall record and the 2006 South Carolina AAA state title. Wright's defense featured all-state performer and Georgia signee, Charles White, and held opponents to just 14.7 points per game in the 2006 season. Additional prep coaching stops in the Palmetto state include defensive coordinator at Seneca High (2004-05), and as an assistant coach at Northwestern High (2001-04) where he helped the program to a Big 16 state runner-up finish in 2001. His career started at Greer High (1994-2000) where he patrolled the sidelines for seven seasons, working alongside Glenn at both Seneca and Greer. The two helped guide the Yellow Jackets to an undefeated, 15-0, season and the AAA state championship in 1994, and two Upper-State runner-up finishes in 1999 and 2000.

Captain of the 1993 Catawba football team, Wright earned his bachelor's degree in history from the college in 1994 before earning his Master's in education from Converse College in Spartanburg. Wright is married to Ms. Dena Wright, and has two children, daughter Kennedy and son Cade.







Courtesy WCU Athletics Media Relations

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

88 Days 'till WCU Football Kickoff - Tripp Weaver









It's now 88 days until the kickoff of Catamount football on Saturday, August 31, 2018, against the Mercer Bears, in E.J. Whitmire Stadium, Cullowhee, NC

To help pass those long summer days, and hopefully get the Catamount faithful more excited about the upcoming season, and knowledgeable of the team members, we'll continue the 100-day football countdown each day until kickoff day.

Since no student-athlete is assigned to #88 on the spring roster, today we will highlight another assistant coach


Tripp Weaver






Hometown: Asheville, N.C.
Position: Assistant Coach / Def. Passing Game Coordinator / DBs
Alma Mater: ECU
Graduated: 2012







Tripp Weaver joined the Catamount football defensive coaching staff as the defensive backs coach and the defensive passing game coordinator in March of 2018.

Weaver was a part of three-consecutive conference championship seasons including a 2015 Southern Conference championship at The Citadel and back-to-back Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) championship teams at JMU. He was also a part of a Dukes’ football program that made consecutive appearances in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) National Championship game, winning the national title in 2016.

An Asheville, N.C., native and graduate of T.C. Roberson High, Weaver got his start in collegiate coaching after two and a half years as a volunteer student assistant at his alma mater, East Carolina, spending two seasons on the sidelines with the Pirates where he worked under current Western Carolina defensive coordinator, John Wiley.

Over two seasons at James Madison, Weaver worked as an assistant coach working primarily with the cornerbacks. He was responsible for the punt return unit and served as the program’s recruiting coordinator. During his tenure, Weaver helped JMU return to defensive national prominence, as JMU led the country in 2017 in scoring defense (11.1 points per game), interceptions (31), takeaways (44) and pass efficiency defense (83.12 rating).

JMU’s cornerbacks accounted for 16 of the team’s 31 interceptions in ‘17, as Jimmy Moreland ranked second nationally with eight picks, while Rashad Robinson was third in the FCS with seven. The Dukes produced 69 pass breakups, with the corners coming up with 33 of them. Moreland was one of the country’s best, leading JMU with 14 pass breakups.

In addition to leading the country in four defensive categories, the Dukes also ranked in the top 10 in 14 areas, coming in at third in total defense (252.0), defensive touchdowns (5) and turnover margin (+1.47), fourth in punt-return defense (3.33) and fifth in sacks (3.4). They were also seventh in rushing defense (90.5), eighth in fumble recoveries (13) and 10th in passing defense (161.5), third-down defense (30.1%) and blocked punts (2).

Weaver’s punt return group once again ranked as one of the country’s best, ranking 10th with 13.0 yards per punt return. D’Angelo Amos was second in the FCS with 15.8 yards per return, and John Miller was ninth at 11.7 per return. Both had a punt return for a touchdown, as John Miller had one in the home opener against ETSU and Amos blocked a punt and returned it for the score at Elon.

He coached Robinson to All-America accolades, as the junior was named AFCA First Team All-America, Associated Press Second Team All-American and a Third Team All-American by both STATS and HERO Sports. Both Robinson and Moreland were named First Team All-CAA selections at cornerback, marking the first time in school history that JMU put two corners on an all-conference team in the same season. Miller was also First Team All-CAA punt returner and was voted CAA Special Teams Player of the Year, marking the second year in a row Weaver coached a JMU student-athlete to the award.

In his first season with the Dukes, he helped lead a young, yet experienced defensive backfield to a solid showing as a part of the national championship team. JMU’s defense led the country with 21 interceptions, eight of which came by Weaver’s cornerbacks. The Dukes produced 80 pass breakups as a team over the 15-game season, with 39 coming from the corners.

JMU ranked fifth nationally and second in the Colonial Athletic Association with 30 takeaways, leading to a No. 8 ranking in turnover margin (+1.13). JMU was also seventh in pass efficiency defense (106.88), 26th in third-down defense (34.1%) and 30th in total defense (344.3). JMU allowed nearly 60 fewer yards per game from the 2015 season to 2016 campaign.

The Dukes’ punt return led the country with a CAA-record six returns for a touchdown in 2016. Rashard Davis, the CAA Special Teams Player of the Year, set a conference record with an FCS-best four punt returns for a score, including two during the playoffs. Of the six returns, one was produced on a blocked punt for a touchdown in the quarterfinals against previously-unbeaten Sam Houston State.

Weaver coached Taylor Reynolds to All-America honors, as the senior became the first JMU corner to earn the distinction since Clint Kent in 2005 and just the third corner dating back to 1994. Reynolds had two of the unit’s eight interceptions and ranked 34th in the FCS and second, in the CAA with 1.14 passes defended per contest. He paced all CAA players with 14 pass breakups. Joining Reynolds with two interceptions apiece were Jimmy Moreland, Curtis Oliver, and Rashad Robinson. Aside from Reynolds’ team-high 14 breakups, Moreland was second for JMU with nine, while Oliver tied for third with seven.

In the national championship game, Oliver came up with a key interception off the foot of a Youngstown State receiver on the opening possession of the second half. That takeaway eventually led to a JMU touchdown, giving the Dukes a 28-7 lead. Earlier in the season, Reynolds corralled an interception in the end zone with 1:22 left to preserve a seven-point lead versus William & Mary.

Prior to making the move to Harrisonburg, Va., and JMU, Weaver spent two seasons at Southern Conference-member, The Citadel (2014-15) on Mike Houston’s staff as the outside linebackers coach.

In 2015, Weaver helped the Bulldogs to their fourth winning season since 1995 with a 9-4 record and a share of the 2015 Southern Conference title. The Citadel boasted a conference-best +117 scoring margin, including a +100 edge during league play. It also defeated Southeastern Conference (SEC) member South Carolina 23-22 in the regular-season finale and advanced to the second round of the FCS playoffs after upsetting ninth-ranked Coastal Carolina. It was also the Bulldogs’ first-ever playoff road win.

The Bulldogs’ defense showed a drastic improvement from 2014 to 2015, giving up nearly seven fewer points per game and limiting opposing offenses to 86 fewer yards, while tallying 19 more takeaways. The Citadel led the country with a school-record 515 interception return yards and five interceptions for a touchdown. It also led the SoCon and ranked third nationally with 20 interceptions, the third highest single-season total in program history, and with 31 turnovers forced. The Bulldogs also topped the SoCon passing touchdowns allowed (10), fumble recoveries (11), third-down defense (36.5%) and tackles for loss (6.5). They ranked second in the conference in scoring defense (21.8), total defense (356.2), rushing defense (157.3), and sacks (2.08). Weaver’s outside linebackers were responsible for 10 turnovers, grabbing five interceptions, forcing three fumbles and recovered two more. Joe Crochet was tied for the league lead with two fumble recoveries and was the first Bulldog in 26 years to be named a First Team Academic All-American. Quinlan Washington was voted to the SoCon All-Freshman Team and was a First Team All-SoCon return specialist.

His first unit in 2014 included bandit Rah Muhammad, who was the team’s second-leading tackler (70) as he ranked 15th in the conference in tackles per game (5.8). Crochet was named the team’s defensive MVP after tying for third in the Southern Conference with three forced fumbles and Mark Thomas continued development as an effective pass rusher.

Weaver went to The Citadel from East Carolina, where he was an assistant coach for two seasons (2012-13), working primarily with the defensive secondary. During his time with the Pirates, the team went 18-8, including a 10-win season in 2013 when the Pirates finished the season ranked 24th in the Associated Press poll. He also served as a student assistant before joining the team in a full-time capacity.

In 2012, Weaver coached the safeties and helped mentor ECU defensive MVP Damon Magazu and Godfrey Thompson, both of whom earned All-Conference USA honors. ECU safeties accounted for more interceptions (8) than the Pirates had the year prior (5), helping the squad finish 8-5 overall and 7-1 in conference play to earn an invitation to the R&L Carriers Bowl.

The following season, he transitioned to cornerbacks coach. His unit, led by All-C-USA selection Adonis Armstrong, helped lower the team’s passing defense average by 23 yards while grabbing nine of the squad’s 18 interceptions. The Pirates finished 36th nationally in total defense (368.8), their best ranking in the category since 2008, and they helped spark the program to wins over in-state rivals North Carolina and N.C. State, marking the first time ECU beat both schools in the same season.

A native of Asheville, N.C., Weaver graduated from ECU in 2012. He is also a 2008 graduate of T.C. Roberson High School, which JMU head coach Mike Houston was for 10 years including the last five as the head coach (1996-2005).

Weaver is married to the former Leigh Hatcher of Asheville, N.C.






Courtesy WCU Athletics Media Relations

Monday, June 3, 2019

89 Days 'till WCU Football Kickoff - #89 Richard McCullum











It's now 89 days until the kickoff of Catamount football on Saturday, August 31, 2018, against the Mercer Bears, in E.J. Whitmire Stadium, Cullowhee, NC

To help pass those long summer days, and hopefully get the Catamount faithful more excited about the upcoming season, and knowledgeable of the team members, we'll continue the 100-day football countdown each day until kickoff day.

Today we'll highlight a kicker:



#89 Richard McCullum











Class: Sophomore
Hometown: Sanford, N.C.
High School: Southern Lee HS
Height / Weight: 5-9 / 1670
Position: Kicker


Prior to Western Carolina: Connected on 13-of-20 field goals as a senior including a career-long 51-yard field goal in 2017, adding 31 touchbacks on kickoffs … As a junior, connected on 44-of-45 PATs and was 14-of-20 on field goals including a long kick of 47-yards in a game as a part of earning the Cape Fear Valley Conference Special Teams Player of the Year … Connected on a 60-yard field goal at practice in Twitter post that went viral … Received the Tom Suiter Extra Effort Award from WRAL-TV in Raleigh ... High school coach was Joe Allison … Is bi-lingual and was the leader of his school’s Spanish Club … Also played baseball as a prep. Personal: Full name is Richard Larry McCollum … Is the son of Carolina and Fredy McCollum … Has two brothers, Freddy and Bryan … His older brother, Freddy, kicked collegiately at Wingate.






Courtesy WCU Athletics Media Relations

Sunday, June 2, 2019

90 Days 'till WCU Football Kickoff - Mark Rhea











It's now 90 days until the kickoff of Catamount football on Saturday, August 31, 2018, against the Mercer Bears, in E.J. Whitmire Stadium, Cullowhee, NC

To help pass those long summer days, and hopefully get the Catamount faithful more excited about the upcoming season, and knowledgeable of the team members, we'll continue the 100-day football countdown each day until kickoff day.

Since no student-athlete is assigned to #90 on the spring roster, today we will highlight another assistant coach


Mark Rhea







Hometown: Beavercreek, Ohio,
Position: Assistant Head Coach / OLBs
Alma Mater: Univ. of Toledo
Graduating Year: 1992







Mark Rhea came to Western Carolina in mid-March, 2010 as the defensive line coach and was promoted to the program's recruiting coordinator during the spring of 2011. Under head coach Mark Speir, Rhea continues to hold the top recruiting position.

After two seasons of specializing in coaching the defensive ends, Rhea resumed coaching the entire defensive line as a unit during 2016 spring drills.

Remaining on board from the previous WCU coaching staff, Rhea was elevated to Assistant Head Coach in late October of 2011, and then on Nov. 13, 2011, was named Interim Head Coach and led the Catamounts against Coastal Carolina on Nov. 19, 2011. During the summer of 2015, Rhea was again promoted to the Assistant Head Coach level by Speir.

Under the watchful eye of Rhea, WCU's defensive ends continue to develop along the defensive line. In 2014, Caleb Hawkins garnered second team All-Southern Conference accolades from the voting media, leading all of WCU's defensive linemen with 54 tackles including 27 solo stops and 11.0 TFL.

Rhea, who played and coached at the University of Toledo, joined the Catamount coaching staff from Division II-member, Tiffin University. A four-year starter at the Univ. of Toledo from 1988-91, Rhea got his start on the Rockets' staff serving as an administrative assistant and graduate assistant from 1992-94. He has served as a defensive line coach at four different institutions and most recently was the defensive coordinator last season at Tiffin University in Ohio.

Rhea coached for six seasons at Idaho State before returning to his alma mater. During his tenure at Idaho State, he coached a defensive line that had all four linemen earn All-Big Sky honors four years in a row and earned a combined 22 all-conference honors, including eight First Team All-Big Sky picks and seven Academic All-Big Sky selections.

Prior to his stint at Idaho State, Rhea was on the staff at Austin Peay and before that he coached at the United State Coast Guard Academy in Connecticut.

In his career, Rhea has mentored three players who have gone on to the professional ranks. In 2006, he coached J.P. Bekasiak, who later became a first-round pick of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the Canadian Football League. Rhea also coached two players at Idaho State who went on to the NFL in Jared Allen with the Minnesota Vikings and Jeff Charleston who played for the Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints last season.

Allen, a two-time All-American and winner of the Buck Buchanan Award as the I-AA Defensive Player of the Year in 2003, was drafted in the fourth round by the NFL's Kansas City Chiefs in 2004. Charleston had 19 tackles for loss and was the Defensive Newcomer of the Year in the Big Sky in 2005. He signed as a free agent out of college with Houston in 2006.

After earning his bachelor's degree in athletic administration from Toledo in 1992, Rhea assisted the Rockets' coaching staff before working two seasons as a graduate assistant at Michigan State. The Beavercreek, Ohio, native had a standout playing career at Toledo that saw him named the team's outstanding defensive lineman as a senior and play a pivotal role on the Rockets' 1990 Mid-America Conference (MAC) co-championship team.

Rhea and his wife Stacey have a daughter, Madeline.







Courtesy WCU Athletics Media Relations

Saturday, June 1, 2019

91 Days 'till WCU Football Kickoff - #91 Trevon Poole













It's now 91 days until the kickoff of Catamount football on Saturday, August 31, 2018, against the Mercer Bears, in E.J. Whitmire Stadium, Cullowhee, NC

To help pass those long summer days, and hopefully get the Catamount faithful more excited about the upcoming season, and knowledgeable of the team members, we'll continue the 100-day football countdown each day until kickoff day.


Today we'll continue to highlight the defensive line:


Trevon Poole




















Class: Sophomore
Hometown: Cincinnati, Ohio
High School: Winton Woods HS
Height / Weight: 6-2 / 270
Position: Defensive Line


Prior to Western Carolina: Was a two-time, second team all-conference selection as a two-year varsity letter winner for head coach was Andre Parker … Recorded 108 career tackles including 69 solo stops with 10 career sacks … Was a second-team All-Eastern Cincinnati Conference selection as a junior … Was also on the bowling team and participated in track & field as a prep.

Personal: Is the son of Tamika and Tony Poole … Has two siblings, Antonio and Karen.








Courtesy WCU Athletics Media Relations