By Matt Leon
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Division III Delaware Valley College has emerged in recent years as one of the elite college football programs in the nation. Judging by the preseason prognostications, that trend is expected to continue in 2012.
After going 11-1 and advancing to the second round of the NCAA playoffs last year, the Aggies are the preseason pick to win the Middle Atlantic Conference for a fifth consecutive season. They also have been ranked in the top ten in several preseason Division III polls.
"I think the kids look at that more than we do as coaches, they get excited about it. " Aggies coach Jim Clements says of the preseason hype. "I think it's nice that we do get recognized. It shows that our program has definitely changed a lot over the last decade. And it's a good thing. But it really doesn't matter, for us it's about the end of the year. We have a great opener this year, at Rowan, very good football team, and then we have to get through our conference. So we just take them one at a time, and hopefully we're ranked as high at the end of the year as we were at the beginning of the year and we'll be in good shape."
Listen to Matt Leon's interview with Jim Clements:
Last season, the Aggies scored 35 points a game and Clements has high hopes for his offense again in 2012.
"I think our quarterbacks are very good. (Starter) Aaron (Wilmer) was 'Rookie of the Year' last year, and he just looks great this year so far. Mentally he is a lot more ahead now than he was as a freshman, so we can throw more at him. I think we're deep at running back, I think we've got a lot of good backs. Wide receiver, the guys coming back have done a pretty good job so far."
Wilmer had a wonderful freshman season serving as the Aggies triggerman in 2011. He threw for 2,729
yards and 23 touchdowns while rushing for an additional six scores.
Defensively, Del Val held opponents to 14 points a game last season and Clements talks about what he has seen from that group this summer.
"We look pretty good at safety, we've got a lot of good safeties, young guys, and some corners. A lot of good young, outside linebackers. A lot of young guys that look good, now we just mentally got to get ready, but we're pretty deep in some spots."
Now that opener against Rowan is one of the marquee games on the early season local schedule and Clements says he always likes to challenge his team early in the schedule.
"I think it's benefited us and over the years its benefited our program. We've opened up with a 1-AA team in the past, we've opened up with the #3, #5 team in the country in the past. So we like to challenge ourselves out of conference and Rowan's a great fit for us. We do a really good job recruiting Jersey, especially South Jersey. So for a lot of our kids, it's like a homecoming. They get to go home in front of the family and friends and Rowan has always been a good football team so it gives us a great test to see where we're going to be."
Del Val and Rowan battle in Glassboro on September 1st.
You can follow Matt on Twitter @mattleonkyw.
for more features.