MC picked fourth in OAC

CANTON — After one of the program’s most successful seasons in recent history, Marietta College running back Tanner Clark isn’t shy about how he feels entering the 2019 campaign.

“We’re feeling dangerous this year,” Clark said Tuesday at Ohio Athletic Conference Media Day at the Pro Football Hall of Fame. “Not in a bad way. Not in a cocky way.”

One could forgive the Pioneers if they were feeling a little cocky. Marietta finished fourth in the OAC last year with a 6-3 record (7-3 overall) and featured one of the league’s best offenses. Knowing that, combined with what they have returning, the Pioneers were picked to finish fourth in the Media Poll and fifth in the Coaches Poll.

Defending national runner-up Mount Union was picked first in both polls while John Carroll and Baldwin Wallace were second and third, respectively.

Ohio Northern was fourth in the Coaches Poll, but swapped spots with Marietta in the Media Poll. Heidelberg was sixth in both polls.

In the Coaches Poll, Otterbein came in seventh, Muskingum eighth, Wilmington ninth and Capital 10th.

In the Media Poll, it was Muskingum in seventh, Otterbein eighth, Capital ninth and Wilmington 10th.

However, Marietta head coach Andy Waddle noted that the OAC standings are determined on the field, not on paper.

“Where you start in the preseason polls matters very little,” said Waddle, who’s guided Marietta to a 13-7 record over the last two seasons.

“You kind of expect the poll to follow along with where you ended a year before. We lost a lot, where maybe some other people had a lot coming back. So I’m not that surprised to see where we’re at.”

Clark returns to Marietta as one of the top scoring threats in the country. He rushed for 1,446 yards and 19 touchdowns, caught 26 passes for 255 yards and two touchdowns and even returned two kickoffs for touchdowns. He was top-10 in Division III in rushing yards, all-purpose yards and scoring.

“He does a little bit of everything for us,” Waddle said.

Marietta also returns 2,470 yards in its receiving core, as Waddle pointed out. Seniors Andrew Barker and Ryan Van Meter enter their fourth year as starting wideouts for MC. Robert Nelson, Bobby Cashaw, Gage Giovengo, Parker Caretti and Kobe Hughlett are also experienced pass-catchers back in the fold.

The big question is who will be throwing to all these guys with record-setting quarterback Darrien Fields graduated. Senior Kyle McSweeney enters camp as Marietta’s QB1, and Van Meter expects the offense to pick up where it left off last year.

“Kyle’s going to be just fine,” said Van Meter, who caught 33 passes for 407 yards and five TDs as a junior. “He stayed with me over the summer in Marietta and we’ve been throwing four or five days a week. He’s working as hard as anyone there is. He’s a good quarterback. He knows the offense. He’s been there for four years with us. He’s going to be just fine.”

Marietta also has some question marks on the offensive line and around the defense, but the Pioneers are counting on the depth they’ve developed over the last couple years to step in and take over those spots.

“We want to win,” Waddle said. “We want to have a winning record and we want to improve. We want to do things that haven’t been done at Marietta College before. There’s going to be a lot of challenges in that. Some of those challenges are going to be inexperience. We’re going to have to get those guys that are inexperienced some experience. Talent will hopefully rise to the top.”

Contact Jordan Holland at jholland@mariettatimes.com.