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Starting from scratch

What the Tornados lack in size, experience, and depth, they make up for in NFL experience on the coaching staff.
Photo by Meghan Cole

By Andrew Lovell
D3sports.com

Bill Khayat has seen a lot of football in his life. A lot.

His father Eddie won an NFL championship with the 1960 Philadelphia Eagles, the same team he later coached from 1971-72. His uncle Robert was a Pro Bowl kicker for the Washington Redskins in 1960 and received the NFL Alumni Achievement Award in 1998. Bill earned all-conference honors as a tight end at Duke in the early 1990s before embarking on a professional career that led to stints with five NFL teams and eventually gave way to a coaching career.

The Khayat family eats, breathes and sleeps football. There isn't much you can throw at Khayat on a football field that he hasn't faced at some point. That changed when he arrived at Brevard College.

"When I got here the roster, so I thought, was in the sixties," Khayat said. "Well, come to find out it was really only in the thirties."

After stints with the Arizona Cardinals, Redskins, Tennessee State University, and Scottsdale Community College, Khayat was hired on Jan. 12 as the head coach of Brevard, a school of less than 1,000 students in western North Carolina. Instead of inheriting a team with an established core, or even a team with a few notable returners, Khayat found the cupboards virtually empty in his return to the Tar Heel state.

What he originally believed to be a roster of 60-plus -- and later, 30-plus -- was actually just 24. Twenty-four players. What constitutes a starting offense, starting defense, and two specialists for most teams accounted for Brevard's entire roster.

"We had one offensive lineman of the 24," Khayat added.

With the program's transition from Division II to Division III for the 2017 season, and the resignation of former head coach Paul Hamilton in November 2016, the roster has been in flux. Following a considerable initial exodus after the 2016 season, the normal roster fluctuation that all college football programs face was exacerbated. It left Khayat and his coaching staff playing catch-up on the recruiting trail.

"In May of 2017, we were talking to kids for 2017, when most schools are talking to 2018 kids," Khayat said. "We were so far behind, just trying to gather a team. Everybody else had moved on."

Khayat and his staff have reached the sport's pinnacle, but have their work cut out for them at Brevard.
Photo by Tommy Moss

Of the 109 players that committed to Brevard for 2017, 98 arrived for the start of preseason camp this past summer. By the end of camp, after transfers and other normal roster turnover, the final number was down to 84. Of that group, a large majority are freshmen.

"We have thirty players on our two-deep for offense, defense, and specialists that are true freshmen," Khayat said. "It's almost like we're starting a program from scratch."

Only six players on Brevard's roster have three years of college football experience. An additional eight players have two years of experience. The team's starting offensive line in its two first games this season has consisted exclusively of freshmen.

"We have guys that, this time last year, were blocking or tackling 15-year-old kids," Khayat said. "Now you turn around and look at an FCS school like Davidson or a pretty good Division III football team in Emory and Henry, and these guys look like they've been to the gym every day for the past 10 years. That's what we're going against."

Despite the team's youth and inexperience, Brevard has competed admirably against Davidson and Emory and Henry. Brevard trailed Davidson 9-0 at halftime before surrendering 21 second-half points in a 30-7 loss, and trailed Emory and Henry 20-13 at halftime before allowing 28 second-half points in a 48-13 loss.

With so much of the roster in its first or second year on a college football team, Khayat and his staff have focused heavily on fundamentals, attitude, and understanding the game. Some are seemingly simple, like making players understand that weight training and team meetings are mandatory, and others are more intricate, like educating players on the ins and outs of zone schemes.

Players like senior linebacker Jason Niedradka, who leads the team with 30 tackles, and senior tight end Tyler Gregory, who scored the team's first touchdown this season, have proven themselves as steady playmakers, but the coaching staff has filled the leadership void.

Khayat's list of assistants is impressive. Defensive coordinator Kurt Gouveia won a pair of Super Bowls over a 13-year NFL career as a linebacker with the Redskins, Philadelphia Eagles, and San Diego Chargers. Offensive line coach Everett Lindsay played 11 NFL seasons with the Minnesota Vikings, Baltimore Ravens, and Cleveland Browns, starting at all five offensive line positions for the 15-1 Vikings in 1998. Assistant head coach Eric Gallon left Kansas State as the program's all-time leading rusher before playing briefly for the New England Patriots.

Khayat and his staff know winning, are used to winning, and are teaching Brevard's players how to win. Year One for the Tornados won't be judged on wins and losses, but Khayat's staff isn't using that as an excuse.

"All of our coaches have so much success in the game because they're driven, they're competitive, and they just want to win," Khayat said. "That is the greatest satisfaction in football; when it's all over and you've won the game. We don't have a single coach that will ever, ever go into a game coaching to lose."

Brevard, which is transitioning from the triple option to a spread offense under Khayat, opens up its USA South Conference schedule this Saturday at Greensboro (1-1). The wins might be few and far between, if there are any this season, but the lessons learned and the experience gained far outweighs the team's record. Slowly but surely, a foundation is being laid. 

"Everybody's trying to find their own space on this team," Khayat said.

Bridgewater holds off No. 18 Thomas More

Brendon Maturey scored on a pair of one-yard rushes and added a passing touchdown to Rayvon Johnson in Bridgewater's 25-23 win over then-No. 18 Thomas More.

Bridgewater carried a 25-14 lead into the fourth quarter, but had to hold off a late comeback push by Thomas More that culminated with a missed 52-yard field goal attempt as time expired. Bridgewater's upset formula also included a successful fake punt and forcing three turnovers. 

Bridgewater's two wins this season have come by a combined five points. But wins are wins, and against quality opponents like Gettysburg and Thomas More, no one is counting style points. With a Week Three matchup against The Apprentice School on tap, the Eagles (5-5 in 2016) have a prime opportunity to improve to 3-0. 

Muhlenberg stifles Dickinson, improves to 2-0

Mark Riggio rushed for 76 yards and a pair of second-half touchdowns to push Muhlenberg past Dickinson 25-6.

Kwasi Ampomah (two sacks) and the Mules defense held Dickinson to just one touchdown and only 234 total yards of offense. But it was punter Joseph O'Hagan, who downed a pair of second-half punts inside the one-yard line, who stole the show for the Mules. They say football is a game of inches, and O'Hagan proved that to be true. Muhlenberg turned both of its ensuing possessions following those punts into points to clinch the victory.

Muhlenberg hosts Susquehanna, which pushed Johns Hopkins to the limit this past Saturday, at home in a key Centennial Conference matchup this coming Saturday.

Quick count

Karsten Miller passed for 383 yards and four touchdowns, including two to Tyriek Russell, and De'Eric Bell accounted for 153 scrimmage yards and three total touchdowns in Guilford's 56-17 win over Methodist. ... David Tammaro passed for 299 yards and three touchdowns, including the winning eight-yard score to Brett Caggiano, and Mike Kalanik tallied 2.5 of Johns Hopkins' eight sacks in its 38-34 win against Susquehanna. ... Vic Jerald rushed for 161 yards and the go-ahead fourth-quarter touchdown, Kobe Smith added 99 yards and a touchdown on the ground, and Blaise Schillace tossed three touchdowns in Huntingdon's 45-38 win against Birmingham-Southern. ... Josh Breece rushed for 112 yards and three touchdowns, and Walker Brand rushed for 111 yards and four touchdowns as Washington and Lee defeated Sewanee 63-30 for its first win of the season. ... Zack Clifford threw for 347 yards and three touchdowns, including two to Johnny White, in Ferrum's 40-20 win over Apprentice. ... Derrick Yates caught 10 passes for 111 yards and a pair of TDs in Emory and Henry's 48-13 win over Brevard. ... K.J. Pretty tallied 208 yards and a touchdown on eight receptions and Tanner Erisman accounted for four total touchdowns as Franklin and Marshall topped Juniata 52-7. ... Michael Smith caught an 80-yard touchdown pass and Jordan Early returned a recovered fumble 37 yards for a touchdown in Maryville's 24-20 win over Hanover. ... Hayden Bauserman passed for 334 yards and five touchdowns, and Cory Bell rushed for 114 yards and a touchdown in Shenandoah's 61-14 rout of N.C. Wesleyan. ... Stacey Gardner rushed for 153 yards and a touchdown, and Thomas Garlick connected with Jacob Clifford on the winning 14-yard touchdown in the final minute as Ursinus knocked off Gettysburg 35-28. ... Tre Frederick rushed for 218 yards on 30 carries and Joe McBride tossed a pair of touchdowns in Randolph-Macon's 17-13 win against Averett. ... David Chappelea kicked the winning 22-yard field goal with 23 seconds left in regulation as Greensboro upended Gallaudet. ... Matt Cathey rushed for 136 yards and a touchdown as McDaniel topped Moravian 35-14 to improve to 2-0.

Top 25: Johns Hopkins moves up

Johns Hopkins moved up to two spots to No. 14 in this week's D3football.com Top 25 poll following its four-point win over Susquehanna. Muhlenberg, Bridgewater and Guilford also received votes.

Contact me

I'm always happy to hear from you, whether its questions, feedback or story ideas. Please reach out to me by email at andrew.lovell@d3sports.com and follow me on Twitter (@andrew_lovell).

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Columnist

Andrew Lovell

Andrew Lovell is a writer based in Connecticut and a former online news editor for ESPN.com, as well as a former sports staff writer/editor for the New Britain Herald (Conn.). He has written feature stories for ESPN.com, currently contributes fantasy football content to RotoBaller.com, and has been a regular contributor to D3sports.com sites since 2007. Andrew has also written for a number of daily newspapers in New York, including the Poughkeepsie Journal, Ithaca Journal and Auburn Citizen. He graduated from Ithaca College in 2008 with B.A. in Sport Media and a minor in writing.

2012-2015 columnist: Adam Turer
2007-2011 columnist: Ryan Tipps
2003-2006: Pat Cummings
2000: Keith McMillan
1999: Pat Coleman

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November 15, 2016 A proper send-off
November 9, 2016 Deja Mules
November 1, 2016 Uncharted territory

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