BEREA  Small colleges often build the bulk of their football rosters around local players and the Baldwin Wallace Yellow Jackets embody that philosophy.

With more than a dozen Northeast Ohio natives, B-W has strong local ties that include two former Green High School teammates. 

Sean Nischwitz and Jack Bauer are at different points in their college careers, but they’re happy to be together again just north of where they played together at Memorial Stadium.

“When I was looking at colleges, I actually visited Sean and knew he was going up here,” Bauer said. “He showed me around and we got to hang out a couple of times.”

Bauer is a sophomore still working to earn playing time, while Nischwitz is a senior and a two-year starter who was named the team’s Most Outstanding Linebacker in 2016. He started all 10 games and was fifth on the team in tackles and as one of the defense’s veteran leaders, he’s hoping new head coach Jim Hilvert can help B-W turn things around with a new approach after it went 3-7 last season. 

“It’s already been a little different with a new coach. Practices are different … they’re more intense,” Nischwitz said. “Speaking from the defense’s end, I see defense flying around and running around a lot more and a lot of young guys stepping up.”

Mischwitz admitted that although he knows players aren’t supposed to dwell on last year, he can’t help but think about the fact that the Yellow Jackets didn’t play as well as they could have. They came up just short against a John Carroll team that went on to end Ohio Athletic Conference juggernaut Mount Union’s league winning streak and had several chances to win more than three games.

A seven-point loss to John Carroll and a three-game losing ski against Muskingum, Otterbein and Capital by a combined five points left B-W wondering what could have been.

“We have the same chance as any team in the league and based on our players and our skill, I do believe we have a chance to contend,” Nischwitz said.

The schedule is similar this season, with John Carroll and Mount Union back to back in the second and third weeks of the season. It will test Hilvert’s ability to implement his approach at the college level after leading Cincinnati La Salle to Ohio High School Athletic Association Division II state championships in 2015 and 2016.

For Bauer and Nischwitz, the football part of their schedule has changed, but the academic side remains challenging as well. Coming to college, Bauer knew he would have to earn his way onto the field as a player, but he’s also dealing with a difficult academic slate as a chemistry major.

“One of biggest challenges starting all over (in football on the depth chart),” Bauer said. “It’s definitely a full schedule and I work too so I’’m a busy guy, but I did well last year and last semester, so I’m confident I can keep it up.”

During the summer, Bauer tried to ease his schedule a bit by living on campus and working out at the school with several teammates who were doing the same. He noted that when the academic year begins, “school kind of becomes like a job too” in terms of how he approaches it and the level of dedication he puts into it.

In a way, having a new coach could be just the chance Bauer needs to get his chance to earn more playing time, while Nischwitz is expected to anchor the defense once more.

The duo have a lot of fellow Akron-area teammates by their side as well, with players from Hoover, Buchtel, Stow, North, Mogadore and Copley all on the roster. Those local athletes and the rest of the roster have a lot on their plates when it comes to elevating B-W in the OAC, but as with the start of most any new season in any sport, there is optimism from a fresh start.  

Reach Andy at 330-580-8936
On Twitter: @aharrisBURB