Bluffton juniors have Beavers primed for 2010
August 19, 2010
By: Erin Oberly, sports information assistant
With returning experience and leadership, coupled with the anticipation of new talent, high expectations are on the horizon for the Bluffton University football team this season. As the season's kick-off on September 4 nears, the Beavers have steadily been proving themselves worthy of competing in a solid Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference this fall. A combination of successful off-season workouts and a core group of returners gives third-year Head Coach Tyson Veidt a substantially confident outlook for the 2010 campaign.
In order for the Beavers to continue on the road to improvement and success, Veidt comments that "our theme for this year is a unified effort, something that we've developed in the spring and will look to carry out in the fall." The Beavers, a team who in the past relied upon the efforts of many incoming freshman, are seeing their greatest number of returners this fall under Veidt's helm, which are led by a group of juniors that have seen the most games played by an entire class.
The defensive line will prove to be a strong point on the roster as a group of juniors return to defend the Beavers' end zone. They have eight starters returning on defense this fall: Steve Sealscott (Van Wert), a free safety and 2009 HCAC honorable mention selection, linemen Jerry Stone (Cardington/Cardington-Lincoln), David Himmeger (Grove City/Central Crossing), Stephen Miller (Logan) and Justin Crosier (Columbus/Hamilton Township). Linebackers Jake Luthy (Ida, Mich./Ida), Geoff Yost (North Canton/Jackson) and Shane Hubbard (Johnstown/Big Walnut) are key defensive returners and have proven to be a reliable unit due to their consistency and leadership over the past two seasons. Hubbard received an All-HCAC nod last season for his 84 tackles, as did Crosier, who also received HCAC acclaim for his 55 tackles, two sacks, and 6.5 TFL's. Junior Jesse Herr rounds out the returning starters as a defensive back for the Beavers.
Offensively, the Beavers will continue to search for a mainstay at quarterback to guide the talented group of receivers led by Todd Trotter (Cincinnati/Aiken University) and Shane Swisher (Findlay/McComb), both juniors, and sophomore Alex Carter (Troy). Trotter looks to continue his success from the 2009 season as he was honored with First Team HCAC accolades for his impressive performance on kickoff returns. Receiver Jason A. Johnson (Lansing, Mich./Lansing Eastern) also looks to make significant contributions this fall as he was second on the team in receiving yards with 240.
Tailback Jason G. Johnson (Cleveland/Collinwood), an HCAC Second Team pick last year, will also lead the charge following a solid 2009 in which he led Bluffton in rushing yards with 396 on 134 carries. Likewise, fullback Jeff Gehring (Parma/Trinity), offensive linemen Russell Krouse (Huntsville/Indian Lake) and Thomas Gingrich (Goshen, Ind./Goshen) look to propel the Beaver offense down the field. Junior Antwane Miller (Canton/Timken), who was sidelined most of last season due to injury, will make his return at tailback. Miller was an All-HCAC Second Team pick in 2008 and will be a valuable component for the Beavers. Senior Aaron Wladischkin (Sterling Heights, Mich/Sterling Heights) will look to reprise his role as tight end for his final season.
According to Veidt, the key to the Beavers' improvement in 2010 will be based on "the amount of returning game experience at every position". The Beavers' spring workouts enabled them to make advancements in every position; experimenting with student-athletes in new positions, working on various combinations, and advancing our fundamentals - something the Beavers have been striving for. Coach Veidt commented that the team was able to immediately "move forward and not spend all of our time in review, unlike past off-seasons." Once again, a large group of freshman will be looked upon to aid in the Beavers' success. However, unlike the past two seasons, the impact may not be as immediate and up-front as Veidt notes, "It's a different outlook for us because we are more experienced than we have been in the past two years but we still have young experience."
The Bluffton coaches will also have experience on their side as Veidt will look to his steadfast coaching staff to guide the young Beavers to victory this fall. With continuing large numbers of incoming freshman every year, the coaching staff, a combination of veteran and new direction, is a vital part in molding and shaping the student-athletes. Assistant Head Coach Chris Kreig will return for his third campaign as offensive coordinator and offensive line coach, Denny Phillips will serve as defensive backs coach for his 22nd season with the Beavers, 21-year veteran Lou Stokes will serve as running-backs coach and Director of Academic Support, Jason Diller as quarterbacks coach, Jeff Richards will direct the tight ends, and Kyle Coleman and Brian Mason will serve as safeties coach and defensive line coach, respectively. Bluffton also welcomes a new member to its coaching staff with Craig Smith II taking over as the special teams coordinator, pass game coordinator and wide receivers coach. Veidt commented that the support of his returning staff is a "definite positive" as the Beavers push forward with their continued building and improvement.
The HCAC will once again prove to be a prolific leader in collegiate football. This year Mt. St. Joseph, Franklin, and Rose-Hulman have been voted to lead the conference, while Hanover, Manchester, Defiance, Anderson, and Bluffton all look to be contenders in the week-to-week Saturday contests. Bluffton will also face Earlham College, the newest addition to the HCAC, for the first time this year in conference action.
The Beavers open their 2010 season in non-conference action September 4 against the Kalamazoo College Hornets in Kalamazoo, Michigan. They then return to Salzman Stadium for their home opener with Trine University on Saturday, September 11. The following weekend they move into HCAC play at conference foe Franklin College on September 18. Other notable games this season include a game on September 25 with conference foe Mt. St. Joseph that will also serve as Breast Cancer Awareness Day, a match-up on October 9 with Manchester College during Bluffton's Homecoming weekend and a November 13 gridiron battle and regular-season finale with rival Defiance College in which Bluffton will recognize its seniors.