GREENWOOD, IN – Franklin College claimed their sixth Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference football title last fall, sharing the title with Rose-Hulman after each posted a 7-1 league mark. The Grizzlies have been selected as the favorite to win a fifth-straight league crown in 2014, according to a poll of the HCAC’s nine head coaches.
Franklin, who was 8-4 overall in 2013, held off Mount St. Joseph University in the preseason poll receiving 79 points and seven first place votes. Mount placed second in the voting with 65 points and the final two first place votes, while Hanover College finished third with 50 points. Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology (48), Defiance College (48), Bluffton University (43), Manchester University (34), Earlham College (26), and Anderson University (12) round out the poll.
Along with their goal of receiving a fifth consecutive conference crown and NCAA Division III playoff berth, the Grizzlies will also be going for their seventh title in eight years under the direction of five-time HCAC Coach of the Year Mike Leonard.
The No. 25 ranked Grizzlies (D3football.com) return 12 starters, including nine on the offensive side of the ball. Senior quarterback Grant Welp (Ferdinand, Ind./Forest Park) will take over under center for the Grizzlies after losing Jonny West to graduation. The Grizzlies will also look to replace All-American wide receiver Kyle Linville. Senior wide receivers Zach Cole (Middletown, Ind./Shenandoah) and Jonny Hession (Speedway, Ind./H.S.) will look to replace the production from Linville. Cole hauled in 46 passes for 518 yards and eight touchdowns last fall, while Hession added 44 receptions for 544 yards and five scores. Junior offensive lineman Austin Carlton (Evansville, Ind./F.J. Reitz) looks to anchor the offensive front and was named a D3football.com Preseason All-American last week.
Franklin's defense returns three starters, including 2013 honorable mention All-HCAC selection junior Nate Bryan (Greencastle, Ind./North Putnam). Senior defensive back Jameson Brock (Noblesville, Ind./H.S.) has been a multiple-year starter. The Grizzlies ranked fourth nationally last season in rushing defense (72.9 yards per game).
Bryan tallied 59 tackles, including 15 stops in the backfield. Sophomore Keaton Lyons (Rensselaer, Ind./Rensselaer Central) recorded 3.5 sacks and 42 tackles from the linebacker unit.
Franklin fell in the second round of the NCAA Division III playoffs 33-3 at Wisconsin-Whitewater last November. It was the third straight year FC fell in the second round of the NCAA Division III playoffs.
The Grizzlies will begin the 2014 season at Illinois Wesleyan on September 6.
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