Fenton Will has waited patiently for his turn on the Cal Poly defense.
In 2019, as a redshirt sophomore, Will made his biggest impact to date with the Mustangs.
The 6-foot, 225-pound linebacker played in 11 games, making three starts, while making 38 tackles. Will had seven tackles in eight games in 2018.
Now, after a long layoff due to the coronavirus pandemic, Will is chomping at the bit to get back on the field for the 2021 spring season... and a potential 2021 fall season.
"I can't wait to play as much football as I've got left," Will said at Cal Poly's fall camp. "As long as the NCAA lets me play, I'm here to play. I love this game, it's given me a lot of opportunities in my life.
"So, in the next year, I'm hoping to get two seasons in."
Cal Poly's 2020 season was canceled due to the pandemic and a six-game Big Sky Conference slate was released earlier this month. Cal Poly's spring season is scheduled to start Feb. 27 vs. Southern Utah. Cal Poly would then play a complete fall season later next year.
"We've taken so much time off, it feels good to be back playing football after training on our own for so long," Will said during camp. "Everything feels like it's starting to come together, so it's exciting."
Will, who is in his fourth year at Cal Poly, says he's done quite a bit growing up since graduating from St. Joseph.
"You come out of high school and you think you know everything," Will said. "But I think I've changed and I've grown a lot. As a football player, I've developed my skills to a new level and I'm really lucky to be able to play this game still."
Will hopes to make a big impact in 2021. He returns to a linebacking corps that is the leader of the Mustang defense. Matt Shotwell led the team with 89 total tackles and 7 1/2 tackles-for-loss last year and returns as a junior. Three linebackers return to Cal Poly after making five or more starts last year, including Shotwell and juniors Joey Ruiz and Aaron Cooper.
The Mustangs lose five defensive backs that made five or more starts in 2019. They return three defensive linemen who started at least five games last year. Will said the new coaching staff installed by first-year coach Beau Baldwin has switched up the defense.
"We've got a ton of changes, we've totally switched up our whole scheme," Will said. "I think we're really coming together. It's going to take time but our communication on the field is good. The linebackers have more responsibility than in the past, which is something we all really like."
The Mustangs have four other linebackers who return after playing in at least six games a year ago, including another St. Joseph graduate Timothy Miller, who is now a red-shirt sophomore. Corey Thomas, Lance Vecchio and Laipeli Palu are also expected to contribute at the linebacker positions.
"The beauty of this defense is that the inside linebackers can play either spot," Will said. "So I've played a little field side, a little boundary and we're going to switch it up. (The coaches) are always keeping us on our toes in case someone gets coronavirus or someone goes down. Everyone is ready to play Mike or Will (linebacker)."
Though there's a new coaching staff and the team is coming off a 3-8 campaign from 2019, Will feels there's some major momentum building in the program, especially with Baldwin at the helm.
Baldwin spent nine seasons at Eastern Washington and won an FCS title there in 2010. Baldwin comes to Cal Poly after spending the last two seasons as Cal's offensive coordinator.
"I think this team and this coaching staff are capable of winning championships," Will said. "I know it's the first season with the new coaches and it might be a bold statement, but we're going to be bold."
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