The NAIA released its annual Spring Football Coaches' Top 25 Poll on Monday and Benedictine is ranked 24th with a total of 39 points.
The release of the poll means that the Spring practice season is nearly complete and as such, head coach Larry Wilcox has announced the annual Spring Game will be played at 2 p.m. April 23. Admission to the game is free while it will also be available on BRSNtv for those who can't make it to campus to watch from the stands.
The Ravens went 7-4 last season finishing in a tie for third in the Heart South while also finishing the 2016 season ranked 23rd in the postseason poll released by the NAIA on Dec. 20.
Benedictine returns seven starters on offense, five starters on defense with all four special teams starters returning for the 2017 season. In total, Coach Wilcox returned 54 letter winners from the 2016 season which they finished with two straight wins, including handing Heart South Champion Grand View University their only division loss of the season in Des Moines, 7-3, on Nov. 5.
The Ravens return three first-team All-Heart selections in running back Ejay Johnson, offensive lineman Garrett Bader and punter Sebastian Harris. Johnson averaged 75.1 yards on the ground last season with 11 touchdowns while averaging an additional 15 yards receiving. Bader will be joined on the offensive line by four-year starter at center Zach Fuller while Harris returns for his final season coming off a recording-breaking year in 2016. He set a new record for single-season punting average at 42.9 and was ranked third in the NAIA at the conclusion of the season.
Defensively, the Ravens return corner Steve Williams and safety Chandler Staley. Staley led the Ravens in tackles with 79 while Williams was an honorable mention selection with 38 tackles and a team high five interceptions.
The Spring Game will give Raven fans an opportunity to see the new faces that will be tasked with replacing the likes of All-America receiver Christian Haack, all-conference defensive ends Cameron Hajok and Matt Murillo, four-year starting running back Tyler Henness, all-conference defensive back Shane Baumann and two-year starting quarterback Jacob Koester.
In addition to the announcement regarding the Spring Game, the program has also released their 2017 schedule that includes three television games and five home games. The Ravens open the season on Aug. 26 in the Heart Game of the Week at 11 a.m. against Missouri Valley College. Their additional home games feature Evangel University (Sept. 2), Baker University (Sept. 23 - Family Weekend), Culver-Stockton College (Oct. 21 - Homecoming) and Grand View University (Nov. 4 - Senior Day). The remaining two TV games are on the road against Central Methodist University (Sept. 30) and William Penn University (Oct. 28).
Additional events surrounding the remainder of the home football schedule will ba announced later this Spring or over the Summer.