September 30, 2009 7:50:00 AM
Through four games this seasson, the only direction the Kentucky Wesleyan football team can go is up.
That''s because the Panthers have lost their first four games by a combined score of 177-58.
But Kentucky Wesleyan senior linebacker Kevin Baldwin isn''t letting his team''s slow start get him down.
Baldwin, a 2006 graduate of Columbus High School and a transfer from Itawamba Community College in Fulton, believes the Panthers are capable of salvaging what''s left of the season.
"The first four games were the toughest part of the schedule, but the rest of the games should be flybys if we just come together and play good," said Baldwin.
Kentucky Wesleyan faced the challenge of playing the first four games on the road, losing 31-3 to Indianapolis, 66-10 to Murray State, 30-25 to Kentucky State and 50-20 to Southwest State.
But Kentucky Wesleyan''s next three games are at home, starting with Central State on Saturday.
Baldwin points to injuries, including to quarterback Chris Owens (fractured foot on the first play of the second game), for the team''s slow start.
"I''m going to stay positive because I feel and I know we have a good team," Baldwin said. "If anybody was there watching the games and watched how we played, the scoreboard didn''t show how we really played. We played better than the score indicated."
Despite the winless start to the season, Baldwin has been a positive for the Panthers .
The 6-foot-1, 217-pounder is second on the team with 29 tackles. He had eight tackles against Southwest Baptist and a season-high 11 against Kentucky State to earn Great Lakes Football Conference Defensive Player of the Week honors.
"Being the player of the week is a good award to receive," Baldwin said. "It tells me I''m doing my job as a linebacker. I need to follow that up and work hard to be the best linebacker I can be."
Kentucky Wesleyan coach Brent Holsclaw expects Baldwin to play like he did against Kentucky State.
"Kevin had a real good game against Kentucky State," Holsclaw said. "We expect that from him week in and week out. He''s really stepped up his game this year compared to last year."
Baldwin, who will turn 22 Tuesday, is already approaching his total number of tackles last season when he had 43 in 10 games (four starts).
He says he''s improved in a number of areas to become a starter his senior season.
"I feel I have improved on reading keys and alignment wise," Baldwin said. "I feel I have improved my open tackling, getting to the ball, and giving 100 percent every play."
Holsclaw says it''s a credit to Baldwin for emerging as a starter this season.
"We''re pretty deep at linebacker, so when you step up into that (starting) group obviously you have some pretty good talent," Holsclaw said. "A lot of it is Kevin''s maturity level. He''s a very mature kid."
Baldwin said the hard work he put in in the offseason has helped him mature.
"Pretty much all I was doing was working out and running and conditioning," Baldwin said. "I pretty much started as soon as last season was over with. We got back (from Christmas break) in January and we started working out hard on conditioning."
Holsclaw says Baldwin has not only developed on the football field, but as a student and person in the community.
"He''s done really well here in the classroom," Holsclaw said. "He''s a very good citizen off the field. He''s exactly what we''re looking for out of a transfer from junior college. It just carries over to the field. He''s responsible on the field. He''s in the right position all the time. He''s a very coachable player. He''s a very unselfish player."
Baldwin is working a double major in Engineering and Business Administration.
He worked as an intern this past year at U.S. Bank in Owensboro, Ky.
"My goal in life is to get in a good corporation or work at a bank," Baldwin said.
Baldwin is one of four transfers from ICC at Kentucky Wesleyan. Wide receiver/quarterback Travis Walker, of West Point, linebacker Kareem Carr, and defensive lineman Quin Barney also are on the team.
Another member of the team is defensive back Anthony Lackey, of Amory.
Walker has played in three games and he is the fourth leading rusher on the team with 85 yards. He has completed 5 of 14 passes for minus-2 yards with two interceptions.