High-powered offense, experienced defense to key Gettysburg

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GETTYSBURG, Pa. – An experienced Gettysburg College football team will aim for its third consecutive winning season while competing for a Centennial Conference title during the 120th season of Gettysburg College football this year.

Coming off a 6-4 campaign in which it tied for third in the conference at 6-3, the Bullets return a strong core of talented players on both sides of the ball.

Gettysburg, which lost a pair of games by a single point a year ago, brings back 11 returning starters, including six from its high-powered Spread Wing offense that finished 11th in Division III in total offense (460.9 ypg) a year ago. Four All-Centennial Conference performers also return for the Bullets.

Buoyed by a successful off-season, Head Coach Barry Streeter enters the 2012 campaign with high hopes.

"We're excited for this season for a number of reasons," said Streeter, who enters his 34th year at the helm and is tied for 10th among current Division III football coaches in career victories (167). "Our off-season went really well. Our spring was probably the most productive one we've ever had, in a lot of areas. We addressed issues in the offseason, from an X's and O's standpoint. Our staff worked diligently to correct situations in all three phases, and we felt like we dealt with them well."

Offensively, the Bullets return nearly all of their starters at the skill positions, including all-conference performers at quarterback, tailback, and wide receiver. However, the team must replace four of its five offensive linemen.

Gettysburg also returns five starters from a defensive unit that held three of its last five opponents to 14 points or less in 2011. Senior Larry DelViscio an all-conference linebacker, leads the way after posting 100 tackles a year ago.

The special teams unit faces the challenge of replacing its only kicker to attempt a field goal or extra point last season. However, Gettysburg brings back its punter as well as an all-region return specialist.

Last season, the Bullets returned only two starters at the skill positions but brought back three offensive linemen. The scenario has reversed for 2012, with all but one starter returning at the skill positions while just one returning starter comes back on the O-line.

Gettysburg features the rare distinction of returning both a 1,000-yard rusher and a 1,000-yard receiver in senior tailback Ted Delia and junior wideout Aden Twer. Along with senior quarterback Kody Smith, sophomore wing back Freddy Caruso senior tight end Matt Brophy, and senior tackle Jake Treinish are also back.

"Skill-position wise, we have players who have performed well for us," said Streeter. "So we're confident that we are going to be productive. The key will be building the offensive line and seeing how quickly they can mesh together."

Smith is coming off an impressive season in which he passed for 17 touchdowns and just four interceptions while sharing time at the position with Kyle Whitmoyer '12. He finished with 1,637 yards passing and rushed for an additional 293 yards and three TDs en route to earning second team All-Centennial Conference honors – the highest all-conference honor for a Bullet QB in 17 years.

According to Streeter, returning a highly-established play caller is critical to the offense.

"You don't have to alternate quarterbacks on the first group," said Streeter. "You know who your guy is. Kody has done well when he has played, so we're confident in him. He has the potential to have a really strong year."

In his top performance of the season, Smith threw for 291 yards and four touchdowns, including a game-winning, 32-yard Hail Mary on the game's final play versus Ursinus.

The backup spot will be decided in the preseason, with four sophomores and two freshmen vying for the position. Sophomore Brian Eliff is the only one of the six who has seen varsity action after playing in two games and completing his only pass attempt last year.

The Bullets led the Centennial Conference in rushing by nearly 45 yards per game last season, averaging 225.4 per outing. Returning to lead the ground game is Delia, who registered an outstanding season in his first year as a starter. Delia ran for 1,071 yards and nine touchdowns while earning All-Centennial Conference Second-Team honors. A big-play threat in the backfield or as a punt returner, he posted the fifth-highest rushing total in school history when he rumbled for 244 yards against Susquehanna.

A number of talented players will compete for the backup position, including sophomore Nick Ulassin, who served in that role last year and rushed for 212 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 42 carries. In addition, sophomore Eddie Hutchins is coming off a strong spring season and could threaten for playing time.

Gettysburg lost its only skill position starter at wing back, where John Pesce '12 graduated. However, Caruso is coming off an outstanding freshman campaign, starting all 10 games and finishing as the team's second-leading receiver (37 receptions, 544 yards, two touchdowns) and fifth-leading rusher (39 carries, 184 yards, two touchdowns).

The second wing spot is up for grabs, but heading into the preseason the frontrunner appears to be junior Peter Fessenden, who impressed the coaching staff in the spring. Classmate Tommy LeNoir is also in the mix after earning a spot on the depth chart last year before suffering a season-ending injury. In addition, a number of freshmen will push for playing time.

The receiving corps, led by two players who have started at some point in their career, is among the Bullets' deepest positions.

Twer is back after an electric sophomore season in which he broke a 47-year-old school record for touchdown receptions, making 12 TD grabs. He also logged just the second 1,000-yard season by a receiver in Gettysburg history, piling up 1,079 yards. An All-Centennial Conference Second-Team pick, he recorded the second- and third-highest single-game receiving yard totals in school history and was on the receiving end of Smith's game-winning heave against Ursinus.

Joining Twer to give the Bullets a strong 1-2 punch at receiver is senior Kyle Davis, who will look to bounce back after an injury-shortened year. He played just two games late in the season but enjoyed a strong sophomore campaign, catching 12 passes for 248 yards and three touchdowns in 2010.

Other talented receivers who could pose a threat include junior Matt Pennella and sophomore Alec Pacelli, who caught six passes for 38 yards and a touchdown last season.

At tight end, Brophy has seen regular action in each of the past two years as part of a three-man rotation. However, he could receive even more playing time this season due to the graduation of Dennis Bazow '12 and Mack Krush '12. Brophy caught three passes for 43 yards last year and hauled in 13 catches for 207 yards and a touchdown in 2010. Junior Patrick McMichael and sophomore Kyle Zahradka, a converted quarterback, provide additional options.

The team's biggest question mark on offense is the line, which graduated four starters, including three-time All-Centennial Conference left tackle James Monreale '12. The lone returning starter is Treinish, who started all 10 games at right tackle and should likely return to the lineup again this season.

The remainder of the line is largely to be decided, though senior Jim Bennett adds a veteran presence. Bennett appeared in eight games last season and started twice at right guard, helping the Bullets to victories over McDaniel and Moravian.

Coming out of the spring, the favorite to start at center in place of All-Centennial Conference selection Tom Piccirillo '12 was sophomore Dan Breen. A number of additional returnees stood out in the spring and will challenge for playing time. Junior Connor Bagnasco and sophomores Mike Calderone, Danny Collins, Matt Gentile, and Michael Reali are among the players who could fill in at any spot on the line.

Though the Bullets lost several key performers on defense and struggled at times last season, the returning cast brings reason for optimism.

Gettysburg brings back two of its top-three tacklers from 2011 along with three additional starters who helped hold their opponents to 12.7 points per game over their final three victories. The Bullets limited Muhlenberg to 10 points and 220 yards, held Moravian to 14 points and 154 yards in a game played through a blizzard, and allowed F&M just 14 points and 93 rushing yards.

"In the offseason I felt like our coaches did a very good job in evaluating exactly what we needed to do to make improvement," said Streeter, on the defense. "And then we implemented that from a personnel standpoint in the spring."

Gettysburg returns two starters on the defensive line, led by senior defensive end Joe Ventresca. He led the team in sacks (8.5) and tackles for loss (14.0) while tying for fourth in the Centennial Conference in both categories and finishing 23rd in Division III in sacks. He will be joined by senior tackle Robert Swierkowski, who notched 32 tackles, including 4.0 for loss.

Streeter also expects senior defensive end Chris Nolan to play a more prominent role after showing strong signs last year, when he made nine tackles and a pair of sacks.

Other experienced linemen who should figure into the action at either tackle or end include seniors Ben Zepnick, who played in seven games and made 11 tackles a year ago, and Mark Wojcik, who is back after missing all of the 2011 season due to injury. Wojcik played in six games and started twice in 2010, finishing with 19 tackles and 2.5 sacks.

Junior Anthony De Rosa also returns to give the Bullets an additional option on the inside after playing in seven games as a top backup last season.

The linebacking corps returns two starters from a year ago in DelViscio and senior Mark Covington.

A two-year starter at middle linebacker and an All-Centennial Conference Honorable Mention last season, DelViscio is coming off an impressive year in which he finished second among the conference leaders in tackles per game (10.0). The first Bullet to reach 100 tackles since 2006, he was also second on the team in tackles for loss (13.0) and sacks (3.5). A leader off the field as well, DelViscio became the first Bullet football player to earn Academic All-America honors since 2002. Senior Dave Wald is also back after serving as the backup middle linebacker in 2011, when he made 28 tackles.

Covington also returns as a two-year starter and has made his mark as outstanding playmaker. Last season, he led the team in forced fumbles (three), was second in tackles (64), and third in tackles for loss (10.5).

The final two linebacking spots will likely be filled by a combination of junior Cody DiAmore, junior Fred Dietz, and sophomore Mike Maguire. DiAmore makes the move from cornerback, where he started once a year ago and finished the season with 17 tackles. A top backup at linebacker in each of the past two seasons, Dietz posted six stops a year ago while Maguire gained plenty of experience on special teams.

In the secondary, Gettysburg returns a pair of cornerbacks who have started at some point during their career, but lost both starting safeties.

Senior DJ Thompson is back after starting eight games at corner in 2011, finishing with 24 tackles. Junior Hugo Nolasco also returns after playing in all 10 games and making one interception. He started six games as a freshman in 2010.

At safety, the Bullets must replace the sixth-leading tackler in school history in Joe Delaney '12 and All-Centennial Conference Honorable Mention Peter Hak '12.

After playing all 10 games as the backup free safety last season, sophomore Gordon Prince will likely start at strong safety this year after posting nine tackles, two pass breakups, and an interception in 2011. Senior Drew Olsen, who served as the team's long snapper in the second half of last season, is the frontrunner at free safety following a strong spring. A number of freshmen will also contend for playing time at the safety positions.

Though the Bullets must replace their kicker, nearly the rest of the special teams unit remains intact.

The lone returning kicker is sophomore Matt Perkins, who handled kickoff duties in five games last season. He could likely take over extra point and field goal kicking as well, but a pair of freshmen will also compete for the job.

Caruso returns after taking over at punter for the second half of last season. He averaged 31.5 yards per attempt and of his 24 punts, only eight were returned for a total of 11 yards.

Delia should continue as the team's punt returner after a breakthrough season last year, when he tied a school and Centennial Conference record by returning three punts for a touchdown. At kick returner, Ulassin is back after racking up 840 yards - second in school history - on a school-record 41 attempts, good for a 20.5-yard average. Other Bullets who could see action as a kick returner are Twer, who made 10 returns for 214 yards a year ago, and Fessenden, who made just one return in 2011 but enjoyed a promising spring. 

Gettysburg's schedule strongly resembles the 2011 version, with only the venue changing for nine of their 10 weekly matchups.

For the first time in 12 years, the Bullets' season opener will not feature Lebanon Valley. This season, Gettysburg will welcome Misericordia University on Sept. 1 in the Cougars first-ever football game.

The team's final nine games will feature Centennial Conference opponents, starting with their league opener at Ursinus on Sept. 8. After hosting Juniata and traveling to Susquehanna, the Bullets will play their Homecoming game on Sept. 29 versus McDaniel.

After a bye week, Gettysburg visits Muhlenberg on Oct. 13 before playing two Friday night games over three weeks, visiting Johns Hopkins on Oct. 19 and Dickinson on Nov. 2 with a home date versus Moravian in between. The Bullets wrap up their season with a home game against Franklin & Marshall on Nov. 10.