Football Preview 2016: Wroble returns, brings veteran presence to middle of SU defense
WINCHESTER – Shenandoah University linebacker Micheal Wroble has heard it a few times since the Hornets’ football team opened camp on Aug. 11, the seniors jokingly making statements about how they are getting old. Wroble can only laugh and reply, “This is my fifth camp.”
Indeed, Wroble is entering a rare second senior season at Shenandoah after applying for and being granted a medical hardship waiver from the NCAA prior to the 2016 season for time he missed during his freshman year in 2012 due to a torn meniscus and MCL.
Count head coach Scott Yoder as one of the many Hornets thrilled to have Wroble back on campus and providing a much-needed veteran presence in the middle of SU’s 4-4 defense after the graduation of career tackles leader Michael Messick and the 2015 Old Dominion Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year, defensive end Jake Payne.
“Having him back, being here again for another year, makes us feel a lot better about the inside just because we know we’re gonna have a fresh face playing (inside linebacker) but he’s gonna play a lot of snaps right next to Wroble,” Yoder said.
Wroble comes into his fifth season as the Hornets’ returning leading tackler after making 72 total stops (46 solo) last fall, a mark that ranked third on the team in 2015. A soon-to-be four-year starter, Wroble should feel right at home at inside linebacker when SU kicks off its season with a 7 p.m. road game at Gallaudet on Sept. 3, with one exception. This fall will mark one of the few times he and Messick haven’t shared the football field since the two were in elementary school in Mechanicsville, Maryland.
“It’s kind of weird out here now but I’ll get there,” Wroble said of missing the on-field chemistry he previously enjoyed with Messick. “We’ll get there, whoever is beside me.”
Who will start next to the 5-foot-7, 180-pound senior at the other inside linebacker position remained a mystery for the Hornets after the first week of camp. Yoder said senior Cody Miller – a Strasburg High School grad – junior Dante Richardson, sophomores Marty Stevenson and John Edwards and freshmen Steve Gebhardt and Bernie Hayes were all in competition for that spot as of Aug. 16.
Wroble said he was pleased with what he saw from that inexperienced group early in preseason practice.
“They’re stepping up big,” he said. “They’re doing what they have to do to fill those shoes and make it their own spot, you know. … I think they’re doing what they need to do. They’re working hard to get to that spot and make sure it’s theirs.”
Wroble, meanwhile, is making it his job to help that group – and the Hornets as a whole – accomplish what they set out to accomplish in 2016.
“I’ll help those guys achieve what they want,” Wroble said. “The seniors now, they were young guys when I started out, so just letting them see what they can do, I guess, just doing whatever I have to (do) to get to their goals.”
That statement supports Yoder’s assertion that Wroble’s greatest growth in his time at SU has been in the linebacker’s maturity. Off-the-field issues led to Wroble being suspended for the final two games of his sophomore season in 2013, but since then has devoted himself to putting the team above himself.
“He’s grown up in the three years that have been with him, now four,” Yoder said. “And not just football-wise but life in general. He’s been through a lot, good and bad, and he’s just more mature now as a person, which helps him on the football field.”
That doesn’t mean Wroble – who has developed a reputation as a jokester among his teammates – doesn’t still like to have fun. He still sports the mullet that he’s had since the end of his sophomore season, the result of a bet between him and Payne while the two watched highlights of former University of Oklahoma linebacker Brian Bosworth during a video game session, although Wroble has allowed his hair to return to its natural brown after dyeing it blond for his junior season.
But when Wroble steps onto the field, he’s all business. He ranks eighth on SU’s all-time career tackles list with 206 and has recorded totals of 75 and 72 tackles in his last two seasons. Another 70-tackle season in 2016 would tie Wroble with Byron Mitchell for second on that list.
“Mike’s a lot of things. We know what he is,” Yoder said. “I mean he’s a football player, he’s a plugger and he’s gonna do his job. He’s not real flashy but he gets the job done. So it’s great to have him back. He’s a good locker room guy because he’s friends with everybody and he’s a pretty funny guy.”
Yoder didn’t suggest that Wroble’s on-field responsibilities would change this season with the departure of Messick.
“I’m gonna tell him he should have a lot more tackles because that little guy’s not gonna get there first,” Yoder quipped in reference to Messick, who finished with 348 career tackles (126 in 2015). “I think probably just a little more of a leadership role (from Wroble) and hopefully defensively play the way he’s played the last three years. That’s what we’re hoping for.”
Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or email@example.com
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