WINCHESTER – Shenandoah University’s football team entered preseason camp needing to answer some questions about its offense: How would the Hornets reload their receiving corps? Who would step into the running back rotation? What players would fill out the rest of the offensive line around the veteran interior linemen? But there was never a doubt who would take the snaps at quarterback for SU this season.
For the fourth straight season, that job belongs to Hayden Bauserman, a senior who has been breaking school records since his freshman year in 2015 and already owns the program’s top marks in every major single-game, single-season and career passing category.
Last season was Bauserman’s best yet, as he completed 62.5 percent of his passes (321-for-514) for 3,818 yards and 41 touchdowns – all career highs – as the ringleader of one of the most prolific passing offenses in all of NCAA Division III.
Those numbers have left teammates, coaches and many outside the Hornets’ program wondering what the 2018 season holds in store for Shenandoah’s star QB. Even defensive end Jordan Heisen, when asked during preseason camp what he’s looking forward to this season, changed the direction of the conversation to the offensive side of the ball and replied, “I’m very excited to see Hayden Bauserman go out for his senior year.”
“I’m not gonna try to do too much,” Bauserman, a two-time first team All-ODAC selection, said on Sunday morning. “I’m not gonna try to go out and beat my numbers from last year or anything like that. The main number that matters is six, and I wanna beat six wins. However, we do that, and whatever I need to do to help, I’ll do it. I’m just kind of taking it one game at a time, one day at a time and enjoying everything and enjoying the process. Today’s my last day of camp here forever, and it’s kind of a bittersweet moment, but just kind of enjoying everything and taking everything in and just trying to be the best that I can be.”
In 2017 that meant being one of the best quarterbacks in Division III. Bauserman’s average of 381.8 passing yards per game led the country last season, and his 41 touchdown passes were third most in the nation.
The 6-foot-3, 220-pound senior from Woodstock could’ve strolled into his final college season riding the high of his stellar junior year, but that’s not his style.
He wants to be more consistent this fall after what he perceives as a drop off in production over the latter half of last season (seven of his 12 interceptions came over the final four games of 2017), and Bauserman added that his decision-making has been the area of biggest improvement since last season. He also feels he possesses better footwork in the pocket, is working on throwing less off his back foot with pressure in his face and has strengthened his leadership skills (his teammates voted him as one of four team captains for the second straight year).
Bauserman also is in better shape, an area of constant focus for the quarterback since he arrived on campus four years ago.
“He’s made it a point since Year 1 to get better each year,” Hornets head coach Scott Yoder said. “I think it says a lot about him that he passed our 16 110-yard sprints test. That’s tough to do when you’re a 225-pound quarterback, and it really meant a lot to him. I mean, I think he got 15 last year, and he got 16 this year. He spoke to the team about how much it meant to him, so I think that just rubs off on the team, that our leader, he’s a pretty gifted player and he’s working on what he’s not good at to make everybody better. So I think that, and it’s the little things. He’s very comfortable in his skin on and off the field, and he’s a really good leader without being a get-in-your-face guy.
“We all know the deal,” Yoder added, “if he plays well on Saturdays, we’re gonna have a really good chance to win when he does.”
Being that kind of centerpiece can create pressure. So too could the thought of all the eyes watching to see how Bauserman will follow up on the type of season he had in 2017, but he’s focused on muffling that kind of noise.
“I don’t wake up in the morning and think about the numbers that I put up last year. I wanna be the best that I can be and help my team win,” Bauserman said. “If that means that I put up better numbers than last year, that’s what it means. If that means we don’t throw the ball as much, and we have a better running game, and we win more games, that doesn’t matter to me. I just wanna win. It’s hard to ignore (his stats from last season) because everybody talks about it but I kind of block that out and kind of downplay it a little bit because what happened last year doesn’t really matter at this point.”
He has turned an eye to the future, however, as Shenandoah must prepare for the inevitability of life after Bauserman. The senior said he’s “trying to make Shenandoah’s future the best it can be after I leave” and credited the Hornets’ backup quarterbacks for being receptive to his advice and eager to ask questions.
Sophomore Ben Agostino, who completed 9 of 19 passes for 107 yards as a freshman last season, is the first in line behind Bauserman among a group that includes sophomore James McPhillips and freshman Ben Rhodenizer.
Yoder said Agostino, who is of similar build to Bauserman at 6-2, 220 pounds, was highly recruited out of Liberty High School in Eldersburg, Maryland.
“We think that he’s the next guy. He’s shown progress in his time here,” Yoder said. “He’s a different style than Hayden, can still throw it but … we can pull it and run it with him. So I think if he’s in the game … (and) he plays at a level that he knows he can, I think we could win a game with him if we had to.”
Yoder said McPhillips has made as much progress as any player during Yoder’s six seasons at SU, and he added that the progression of Rhodenizer, who played in a spread offense at Rockbridge County, would be a “huge part” of the Hornets’ future at the position.
“I think the future’s bright for them,” Bauserman said.