Breitenstein tops the
Wofford FB depth chart
By Steve Behr
Very little went right for Wofford at Kidd Brewer Stadium last season.
After tying Appalachian State 14-14, the Terriers saw ASU score four straight touchdowns to take a 42-14 halftime lead en route to a 70-24 Mountaineers victory on Halloween night.
“It turned into a nightmare,” Wofford coach Mike Ayers said. “It was on Halloween and it was scary.”
The good thing about that night for the Terriers was the emergence of then-freshman fullback Eric Breitenstein, who gained 157 yards against the Mountaineers. Breitenstein was a backup to All-Southern Conference fullback Dane Romero, who led the team with 1,078 yards and 23 touchdowns rushing.
But Romero was a senior last year, which opens the door for Breitenstein to become a starter in his sophomore season. Breitenstein gained 395 yards and scored two touchdowns as the backup fullback in 2008.
“I don’t know i fyou can replace him,” Breitenstein said. “You just work as hard as you can to do what you can for the team.”
Those numbers are bound to improve, especially since Wofford’s ground game depends heavily on the production of its fullback. Breitenstein came out of spring practices number one on the depth chart, and the former Watauga all-state running back knows many eyes are on him.
“It’s not like you haven’t been working hard and stepping up, but you’ve got to step up and be a leader to show everybody else how to do it,” Breitenstein said. “You’re looked on, no matter what, to be a leader. Even if you are a sophomore, you’re at the top of the depth chart, so you’re at least the leader at that position. It definitely goes a little faster.”
Ayers feels Breitenstein is up to the task of being a leader, even if the Watauga native is just a sophomore.
“He is a guy who will be heavily counted on,” Ayers said. “He came out of spring practice number one and he's just a tremendous young man. He has a great work ethic and he loves the game.”
Breitenstein gained over 6,000 yards while leading Watauga to back-to-back appearances in the North Carolina State 4-A Western playoff finals. He was named all-state as a safety as a junior and repeated all-state status his senior year, that time as a running back.
He capped his prep career with a trip to the Shrine Bowl. Ayers said Breitenstein has fulfilled the coach’s expectations so far.
“He’s been everything we thought and more,” Ayers said. “One thing we found out is that he has great skills as far as catching the football. There is also a toughness about him. When he is blocking, he’ll stick his nose in there. He’s also not afraid to get through little cracks on the line.”
The Terriers will have some holes to fill, particularly on offense. Their offensive line was hit hard by graduation and running back Jeremy Marshall will have to take a medical redshirt after a knee injury knocked him out of the lineup last season.
Wofford must also replace quarterback Ben Widmyer, a three-year starter with the Terriers. Widmyer gained 800 yards and scored 10 touchdowns rushing, while passing for 1,284 yards and 10 more TDs in leading the Terriers to a 9-3 record and a berth in the FCS playoffs.
“He just knows how to play,” Breitenstein said.
“He makes things happen.”
Wofford averaged 36.5 points and 467.2 yards offensively per game in 2008.
There is a youthful movement on the offensive line,” Ayers said. “There are some young guys that have to step up for three very talented players that graduated and that is going to be a concern. At running back, a guy to replace is Dane Romero who could get us the tough yards. We had a starter at quarterback in Ben Widmyer who played the majority of snaps last year, but that being said we have some guys we feel are going to be all right.”
Yet with all of the starters leaving from last year, it’s the kicking game that has Ayers worried the most.
“I think our biggest concern will be with the kicking game,” Ayers said. “We have an opportunity to get better if Chris Tommie can come back and stay healthy. He was an All-American type kicker and last year we had the kicking game by committee. We hope that Chris will be able to punt and placekick, but if he can’t do both hopefully he will punt. We look forward to having him back and letting him do his thing.”
Wofford is co-existing with the Carolina Panthers while the NFL team holds training camp. Breitenstein said dealing with that, and playing on the college level is hard work, but worth the effort.
“It’s a lot of hard work, but I love it,” he said. “I don’t know how you could do it if you didn’t love it. It’s a lot of time and a lot of effort, but I’m happy.”