Argonauts Prepping for 2019 Campaign
Fall camp is underway for the University of West Florida Football Argonauts, who are preparing for their fourth season.
Monday was the team’s Media Day on campus.
“[We’re] very excited about what we have in this 2019 year; coming off of a season that was probably one of the most challenging that I’ve been associated with,” said Head Coach Pete Shinnick.
UWF went 6-5 overall and 4-4 in the Gulf South Conference last season, missing the Division II playoffs. Much of the blame can be placed on the injury bug that sacked the quarterbacks.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever played six quarterbacks in one season; and then play a guy who was playing defense for a little bit, and a guy who was playing running back and a guy who was playing wide receiver,” Shinnick said. “So it was very interesting for us.”
Injuries notwithstanding, Shinnick says missing the playoffs – despite having been 5-1 and in the top 10 nationwide at one point – boiled down to 40 minutes of being tied or a touchdown behind in the final five games.
“What we have really focused on since the season ended was trying to find those 40 minutes,” said Shinnick. “And really trying to find a way to put ourselves in a position where when we got in a close game – this year – we really had an answer for it.”
The Argonauts have won 22 games in the program’s first three seasons – and were runner-up in the Division-II national championship game in 2017.
But that was then – this is 2019. And the top priority is finding a starting signal-caller.
“Sam Vaughn comes off of Tommy John surgery; J.C. Robles came in, he transferred in from Colorado State, and was really with us in spring ball,” said Shinnick. “And then Austin Reed – that we knew about in high school, ended up going to Southern Illinois – came back after one year.”
Also speaking to the media were four Argos players – two offense and two defense. Offensive lineman Devin Gibson has been with the program since day one, and is preparing for his senior season.
“It definitely is a bittersweet moment; I’m definitely trying to make the most of my last season,” Gibson said. “It’s really just about the relationships; making these best friends over the last five years. Football’s great but I’m just going to miss the people.”
One of the major challenges for 2019 is to rebuild the defense, which lost seven starters from last season.
“There were a lot of tackles that are gone,” said the coach. “The good news is, we’ve got a lot of guys back that have played as well that have played a lot of football for us. And I think we’ve got the right mix of transfers in there. With who we lost, they were very productive for us; but who we’ve added, I feel like we’ve got an opportunity to really take two steps forward.”
Linebacker Andre Duncombe, another original Argo, says a goal this year is to stay in the moment – whatever, wherever and whenever that moment is. As an example, he points to last year’s Midwestern State game, which UWF lost 38-17.
“We’re up a couple of touchdowns against Midwestern State, and then they battled back in the second half and we were thinking the game was over,” said Duncombe. “We were thinking ‘if we beat West Al [Alabama] we can make the playoffs. [Midwestern State] punched us in the mouth. I tell the guys, ‘don’t think about next week; don’t think about the first game, think about this practice now. Think about tomorrow, getting better every day.”
West Florida opens the season with two road games – Carson-Newman in Jefferson City, Tennessee on Sept. 5 – a Thursday night -- and Sept. 14 against Shorter University in Rome, Georgia. The home opener is Sept. 21 against Virginia-Lynchburg.