Mercer’s football program has been a crucial part of the school’s spirit and public image since the university revived the long-extinct football program in 2013. While the Bears have been formidable in some seasons, the team has never been truly consistent enough to snag a shot at a Southern Conference title, despite always posing a threat to opposing teams of any caliber. Fans and students are hoping that the 2019 football season will provide another opportunity for the Mercer football program to prove itself in the difficult Southern Conference field of play.
The offense was inconsistent and lacking in some areas over the course of the season last year for Mercer. The team could always put up a fight, but couldn’t close out games for wins. This is exemplified by statistics such as their third-down conversion rate of just 35.88 percent, according to Mercer University. The offense may experience some turbulence this year at the starting quarterback position, however: while returning players Kaelan Riley and Robert Riddle will be duking it out for the starting spot, so will freshman QB Dylan Fromm.
The hype on campus surrounding Fromm’s arrival has been nothing short of buzzing with energy, especially due to the prominent role of Dylan’s brother Jake as the starting quarterback for the University of Georgia Bulldogs.
As a result, head coach Bobby Lamb will be faced with a tough decision.
A few starts from either Riley or Riddle should be expected, but if neither one finds success, Fromm will likely be asked to start, pending pressure from fans and an ineffective offense. This QB position duel will add an interesting wrinkle to the upcoming season for Mercer football, who hopes to make a strong return after a lackluster 5-6 season.
Mercer’s defense will also hope to improve but will have more returning players and momentum to do so, as the defense was more reliable for the Bears last year than the offense. Excluding a particularly overmatched FBS opponent in the form of Memphis, the defense avoided giving up huge sums of points to their opponents over the course of the season.
While the defensive efforts weren’t spectacular, another season with a largely similar roster should provide the Bears’ defense with an opportunity to build off of last season’s consistency and give the offense even more opportunities to improve. With prominent returning starters like defensive back B.J. Bohler and linebacker Will Coneway, the latter of whom led the team in tackles and tackles for the loss according to Mercer University, Mercer’s team will be optimistic and look for an improvement on the defensive side of the football.
Off the Field
This season Mercer is also introducing new things for fans on and off the field. Each home game will include a concert series as well as some other fun things for attendees.
The opening game of the season will showcase a local business during a tailgate on Black Field called “478day.” Toby will also be playing with kids at “Toby Town” at 12 p.m.
The Ford Concert series will showcase local artists from Macon starting at 3 p.m. The series will continue throughout the season and will host artists like Craig Campbell and Molly Stevens.
Mercer has also started a partnership with the Macon Beer Company and will be opening a “Bear Garden.” The venue will offer beer, a bounce house and other amenities.
Overall, Mercer University’s football program is beloved by students and provides an excellent atmosphere on home Saturdays. The team will look to make major improvements on offense amidst competition for the starting quarterback position, and the familiar defense will look to etch a solid season out of the momentum they’ve built since last year. Mercer hopes to continue its respectable status as a formidable foe in the Southern Conference and to continue to enhance the experience for fans.
Micah Johnston ‘22 is a journalism and media studies double major who has written for The Cluster since his freshman year at Mercer. He has written on and reported for Georgia Public Broadcasting, The Macon Telegraph and The Macon Newsroom on a variety of topics. He received the Center for Collaborative Journalism’s Junior Honors Award for the 2020-2021 academic year. Micah’s other interests include obsessively following Braves and Mariners baseball, constantly listening to all kinds of music and probably eating junk food.