SPARTANBURG — Wofford coach Mike Ayers believes the Terriers were very close to keeping their successful run going last season and plans to get back on track this fall.
The longest serving coach in the Southern Conference – Ayers starts his 27th season with the Terriers – had his program in position for another conference crown and NCAA playoff spot midway through last season before they closed with a four-game losing streak to finish 5-6.
It was only the second losing season for Wofford in the past 12 years and ended a run of three straight trips to the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs. When Ayers reviewed the film, he didn’t see poor fundamentals, effort or execution. He saw a handful of mistakes at the worst times, all fixable for this year.
The way to get it solved, Ayers says, is repetition and focus, something he’s long delivered to the Terriers.
“I think the think we’ve tried to get our guys thinking about is consistency,” Ayers said.
5 Things to know about Wofford football:
Mike Ayers has been the steady hand on Wofford football for nearly three decades whose guided the team from NAIA to the FCS over that time and rarely shown interest in changing jobs. So it was surprising to see Wofford interviewed for Georgia Southern’s open head coaching job this past offseason. But Ayers realized he drew the interest of the Football Bowl Subdivision school because of his success with the Terriers, something the 66-year-old coach expects to continue this fall.
The Terriers’ long-used option offense lost fullback Donovan Johnson, who was third in the Southern Conference with 94.9 yards a game. Worse for Wofford is that it will have to replace three offensive line starters from a group that helped the team finish as the nation’s fifth-best rushing team at 269.9 yards per game last fall. “We’re working hard to get back to where we were,” said Will Gay, one of four juniors competing for time at halfback.
WHERE’S THE PASS?
Wofford threw the ball around 12 times a game last season, about a third less than its opponents. Quarterback Evan Jacks led the way with 59 throws in eight games and will be looked at to increase his completion percentage (47.5 percent) from a year ago.
Wofford was outscored 95-35 in the first quarter last season and the defense knows it can’t give up those kind of numbers again and succeed. The push starts up front as the Terriers bring back three defensive line starters in nose tackle E.J. Speller and ends Tarek Odom and Tom Bove, who combined for 17 tackles for loss last season.
SHARING THE FIELD
For the past two decades, Wofford has had to split fall camp time on campus with the NFL’s Carolina Panthers, who are owned by Wofford alumnus Jerry Richardson. When Richardson was seeking a summer home for his new franchise he chose his alma mater and the Panthers have trained at the school’s fields and the Richardson Physical Activities Building since.