Braden Wingle didn’t exactly get what he wanted out of his first season at Bakersfield College.
After throwing for 7,253 yards and 78 touchdowns in two years as the quarterback at Bakersfield Christian, Wingle hoped to pick up where he left off in his first season with the Renegades. But in a crowded quarterback room, he got lost in the shuffle and didn’t see a snap during a grayshirt season.
“You have to go to practice every day and you’re practicing with the team, then you go out on Saturdays and you’re just on the sideline watching,” he said. “It was a little frustrating.”
Unable to get on the field, Wingle used his time to improve himself physically and mentally, putting on 20 pounds of muscle while immersing himself in the team’s playbook.
“I feel like I’ve learned a lot more,” he said. “(It’s) not only knowing our plays but being able to read the defense. It’s definitely got me more prepared for this season.”
That preparation will be put to the test Saturday, as Wingle will start for the 16th-ranked Renegades in their season opener against No. 21 Mt. San Antonio at Memorial Stadium at 6 p.m.
Though he’ll get the first crack at leading the offense, Wingle won’t be the only signal caller to take snaps Saturday. Larry Harrington, a dual threat transfer from Norfolk State who threw for over 5,000 yards while rushing for nearly 2,000 in his final two years at East Wake (N.C.) High School, is also expected to see a lot of playing time.
But after standing on the sideline the entire 2018 season, any return to the field is a welcome one for Wingle.
“It’s super exciting,” he said. “I’m pretty confident in myself and our offense and I think we’re going to do good things. It’s been a long time coming. I just can’t wait for Saturday.”
Offense to rely on returning RB tandem
As the new quarterbacks look to get their footing, BC will lean on a pair of returning running backs to shoulder the load.
Despite the loss of Elisha Ortiz, who gained more than 2,000 scrimmage yards in two seasons with the program, the Renegades return plenty of punch in the backfield with the return of Isaiah Martin (363 rushing yards, four touchdowns in 2018) and Shane Jones (122 rushing yards, four TDs).
The explosive Jones is also a big-play threat in the passing game, where he gained 291 yards on just 13 receptions as a freshman.
At receiver, coach Jeff Chudy hopes to use a six-man rotation featuring returning players Adarian Rowel and Lebrevon Austin, and newcomers Cole Beaty, Nicholas Edwards, Deveon Williams and Malik Delouth. Tight end Zach Hartsfield is also expected to be more involved as a receiver after serving mostly as a blocker last season.
The group will be protected by an offensive line that returns starting guard Joshua Yubeta and tackle Eamon Sullivan, as well as tackle Cayden Cox, an all-conference player in 2017 who was out all last year with an injury.
Defense looks to come out strong
The Renegade defense clearly didn’t put its best foot forward in the 2018 opener.
A unit that finished second in the Southern California Football Association in points allowed by year's end, had arguably its worst outing of the season in Week 1, surrendering season-high totals in passing yards (351), total yards (532) and points in a 45-24 loss at Mt. San Antonio.
“Last year, we were humbled by them beating us,” sophomore free safety Justin Harrington said. “So this year we’re going in focused and bringing even more intensity than we had going in last year.”
While Harrington, a first-team all-conference selection who intercepted four passes a year ago, is the most decorated returning defensive player, he’ll get plenty of help from a front-seven Chudy calls “the best area of depth we’ve got on our football team.”
Leading the charge up front will be sophomore Holden Williams, who Chudy says is “probably the toughest guy on our team.” Williams had 32 tackles, including five for a loss in 2018.
He’ll be joined up front by sophomores Daniel Krasjet, Angel Baez, Devon Zinn and Taeber Nylander. Chudy also expects contributions from freshmen Tre Bell, Pierre Morrison, Cristian Duenas, James Johnson, Kaden Shelton, Steven Roland and Cameron Williams.
“Having the depth up front and on the edge is going to carry us throughout the season,” he said. “We haven’t had this kind of depth in a long time.”
At inside linebacker, Anthony Villanueva, Connor Whitbey, Brock Mather and Cole Chammas are all competing for spots, while a secondary led by Harrington will also return the services of strong safety Damaris Herron, who was slowed down by injury for much of 2018.
Special teams gets makeover
The return and kicking games were forced to part with major talents, as the Renegades’ punter, kicker and top return man all signed with FBS schools.
Duane Hartman will replace UCLA commit Carson Olivas at punter, with Paxton Winders taking over for UNLV commit Nathan De Jager at kicker.
Also the Renegades' leading receiver last year, Cameron Roberson, who scored on a 39-yard touchdown run last week in his first game at UMass, accounted for more than 800 yards in the return game, while returning three punts for touchdowns a season ago.
Chudy says Jones, Justin Harrington, Delouth and Deveon Williams are all still competing for reps in the return game, which he expects to remain strong this fall.
“We’ve been lucky the last couple years where we’ve had the top punt returner in the state,” he said. “Whoever that guy is (we hope) to keep that rolling.”