New Era Set to Begin for Yeomen Football
Oberlin, Ohio – The definition of new is "not existing before". In terms of the 2014 Yeomen football team, that word can be used in many places as it relates to the program.
The Yeomen will be led into the season by new head coach Jay Anderson and play in the new Austin E. Knowlton Athletics Complex. It is not just tangible items that are new with the team, but also its culture. The Yeomen have something to prove this season.
"I believe we can establish a winning football team here at Oberlin," Coach Anderson said. "We are coaching our players to be the best they can be and never give up. The work ethic I have seen from this group throughout camp has really impressed our coaching staff thus far."
Offensively, Coach Anderson will rely on junior quarterback Lucas Poggiali to be the leader of the football team. Poggiali will be orchestrating a new-look Yeomen offense, but Coach Anderson feels that this year's scheme will be best suited for his skill set.
"Offensive Coordinator Bob Saunders has really worked closely with Lucas to make sure he feels comfortable with what we are calling and trying to achieve as an offense," Anderson said. "I really believe Lucas will be prepared to have a breakout season for us."
As a sophomore, Poggiali started all 10 games, throwing for 1,509 yards and eight touchdowns. He also rushed for 255 yards and scored four times on the ground.
In the backfield a dynamic trio of junior Blake Buckhannon, senior Justin Williams, and freshman Khalil Rivers will join Poggiali. Buckhanon is the leader of the group having totaled 1,281 all-purpose yards and five touchdowns in 2013. Williams was away from the team last season, but has a great combination of speed and quickness to be a problem for opposing defenses. Rivers as well as fellow first-year Joseph Myrick will be rotational players and will look to provide an extra spark off the bench.
The Yeomen receiving corps is extremely young with sophomore Justin Cruz being most experienced member of the group. Six first-year players join him at the position. Cruz caught 19 balls for 173 yards and a score in his rookie campaign. Freshman Corey Fussinger has looked good in camp and will continue to battle his classmates to earn the starting spot opposite of Cruz.
"We have some good weapons at the skill positions that will allow us to be creative," Anderson said. "We are definitely young on the outside, but these guys have been quick studies and I am confident they will continue to get better each day."
Keeping the offense flowing will be the job of the Yeomen offensive line, which features seniors Rory Kaip, Josh Guisler and Jake Fannin. Kaip has started all 30 games of his career thus far and hopes to keep that streak intact. Junior Nick Blaszak, who was a preseason All-Ohio and Third-Team All-American, will also be a big part of the unit.
"We have good depth upfront this year, which is always a positive. We really have a nice mix of upperclassmen and young guys with a lot of potential who will be able to learn from the guy ahead of them."
Despite assuming head coach responsibilities, Coach Anderson will continue to run the Yeomen defense as he did as the team's defensive coordinator in 2013.
Oberlin returns seven starters on that side of the ball, highlighted by junior C.J. Ihle. Earning All-NCAC honors in 2013, Ihle was also tabbed as a preseason All-Ohio selection and Third-Team All-American. As a sophomore he led the team with 7.5 sacks and 14 tackles-for-loss.
Joining him in the trenches are classmates Spencer Conley and Markus West, each of whom played in all 10 games in 2013. The duo combined for 61 tackles, three sacks, and 6.5 tackles-for-loss. Five first-year players will fight to fill in the remaining starting spots on the line.
In the second tier of the defensive it is senior Max Schenk who leads the Oberlin linebacker core. Schenk missed most of 2013 with injury, but is poised to end his career on a high note. Sophomore Justin Bute will look to build off his impressive debut season in which he recorded 55 tackles. Junior Dan Bolotsky also came on strong late last fall, finishing with 21 tackles. First-years Preston Wilkey and Drew Nolan could also compete for time at the position.
"It is important for our backers and front five to work together. Last year we did a lot of good things at times, but we still have room to grow at both positions."
In the secondary the Yeomen return starters Adrian Kelly, Tim Kondo, Gabe Edwards, and Ben Venerdi. Kelly is slated to be the team's free safety once again after starting all 10 games a season ago. Kondo, who also started every game, will handle the duties at strong safety. Edwards had two interceptions and 33 tackles, while Venerdi hopes to regain his starting spot that he had for the first five games of 2013.
Sophomores Sam Martin and Brad Cole are also in competition with first-years Dylan Mehri and Bennett Jackson to earn time in the secondary.
"We are young, but eager in the back. These guys have been working hard and are getting better each day."
Senior Erickson Andrews is back to handle the kicking duties. Last year he made four field goals and he enters the season third on the Oberlin career field goals list with 13.
The Yeomen open the season on September 6 at Brockport State University. The following Saturday they will travel south to begin North Coast Athletic Conference play again Kenyon. The Yeomen will finally cap off the Homecoming Weekend festivities when they take to Bailey Field for the first time on September 20 against The College of Wooster.