By Byron Mitchell '14
WINCHESTER, Va. - New head coach Scott Yoder and the Shenandoah University football team are prepared for competitive competition in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference this fall.
Shenandoah completed its first ODAC season in disappointing fashion. The Hornets finished the 2012 season 1-9 overall and 0-7 in conference play.
The lone victory came over Stevenson in week one.
Yoder, who came to SU after spending 12 seasons as the associate head coach at Hobart College (N.Y.), was named as the third coach in program history in January.
Associate Head Coach Brock McCullough believes the 2013 team will be better prepared and know what to expect from their ODAC opponents after their first run thru the league last fall.
"I expect a stronger showing now that our players have some ODAC experience and knowledge about all our league opponents," McCullough said.
Senior cornerback Sean Blackman is in agreement with his coach.
Hodgin, the offensive coordinator, comes to SU from fellow ODAC school Emory & Henry while Woodard played and coached under Yoder at Hobart.
The former D3football.com All-America will coach the defensive backs in his first full-time coaching assignment.
McCullough was promoted by Yoder to Associate Head Coach and shifted his primary coaching responsibility to the offensive side of the ball to head the offensive line after serving as the defensive coordinator for seven years.
With Hodgin coaching the offense, the Hornets have gone to a spread look and will look to push the tempo on every occasion.
Yoder serves as his own defensive coordinator and has turned the defense into a 4-4 base.
"We have a group of young men returning and a very talented incoming class of first year players," McCullough said.
This season, the Hornets roster will feature a group of gifted freshmen to go along with their talented returners. The squad welcomes 43 new faces (39 freshmen and four transfers) to join their 57 returners.
On defense, the Hornets return a pair of excellent defensive backs.
Two-time all-conference honoree Byron Mitchell, a three-year starter at safety, headlines this group.
Mitchell, who earned second team All-ODAC honors in 2012 after being named first team All-USA South in 2011, is coming off an outstanding season as he finished third on the team in tackles, 61, and was second in the league with three interceptions.
He also came up big on special teams by leading the ODAC in kickoff return yards and recording three receptions for 83 yards on fake punts.
All three of those receptions went for first downs.
Mitchell's classmate, Sean Blackman, returns at the cornerback position.
Last fall, Blackman totaled 48 tackles and broke up four passes. His strong cover skills forced teams to consistently throw away from him.
Following the season, he was named third team All-ODAC.
Headlining the defensive line powerhouse is senior Evan Griffin, who also earned third team all ODAC honors in 2011.
Griffin, also an All-ODAC honoree in both indoor and outdoor track, had 22 total tackles including 8.0 for loss and a second-best-in-league six sacks.
Bookending the other side of the line is Evan's younger brother, Ian Griffin, who had 37 total tackles in his first year as a starter.
In 2011, Smith rushed for a team-best 573 yards and nine touchdowns.
Bell finished second on the team with 19 receptions for 385 yards and one TD.
Last spring, Mitchell, Blackman, Bell and senior defensive tackle Preston Funk were named team captains for the 2013 season.
The Hornets open camp on Wednesday, August 14th.
"I believe the expectations are very high," McCullough said. "Our returning players, transfers, freshmen, and coaching staff are certainly excited for camp."
The season opener is September 7 with a 7 p.m. non-league home game against Gallaudet University.