/seasons/2011/contrib/20110902l6twt7

2011 Chapman Football Season Preview

More news about: Chapman

ORANGE, Calif. - Turnover can be a crippling thing. Not the fumbles and interceptions, although those turnovers can be maddening in their own right. The topic here is personnel turnover and when a football team graduates 25-plus seniors – starters and veteran contributors – only the programs with depth can rebound and in some cases improve.

Enter the 2011 Chapman University football team, which may do exactly that. The Panthers graduated 25 seniors from last year's team, yet Chapman head coach Bob Owens has this to say about his current squad: "It may be a more complete football team. We think we're bigger, stronger, faster on both sides of the ball."

Several factors provide Owens with optimism that Chapman might get over the 4-5 win-loss hump it's been stuck in the past two years:

  • He's enthusiastic about group of running backs so deep and talented that it may be unprecedented in Panthers history.
  • For the first time in three years Chapman will have the same starting playcaller for a second straight year.
  • And the Panthers' defense – hit hardest by graduation – boasts a ferocious linebacker corps that Owens believes will help limit the opponents' ground game.

The running game will the key to Chapman's success in 2011, both offensively and defensively. Known primarily as a passing offense in Owens' first five seasons, the Panthers' sheer wealth at the running back positions has forced the coaching staff to approach the offensive scheme differently.

Chapman will be led by a pair of seniors Al White and Kevin Krail; the two alone could carry the offense. White emerged as a threat in the middle of last season, topping the Panthers with four touchdowns despite suffering a broken ankle in the sixth game of the year. And Krail's longevity as a backup and kick returner brings experience. But it doesn't stop there.

Freshman Ed Harris emerged last year in the wake of White's injury and sophomore Chad Milburn added a couple touchdown runs of his own in 2010 giving Chapman four experienced ball carriers.

"We've got to find out what Al can do and how much of a load he can carry," says Owens about White's recovery. "The great thing about that position is we don't have to put too much pressure on Al. He's one of the hardest working guys in our program. And without question one of the toughest guys."

Owens also feels confident that his backs will have plenty of room to run thanks to a large, athletic and experienced offensive line that includes All-America hopeful junior LT D.J. Brandel, sophomore LG Justin LaLonde and senior RT Earl Wilson.

"This may be the strongest up front group we've had since I've been here," says Owens. "We have some strength and size with those guys and we believe it will allow us to consistently run the football."

Another key ingredient will be the consistency provided by having an experienced quarterback leading the offensive charge at a position that has been a virtual carousel the past two years. Senior QB Bret Visciglia is expected be the Panthers' first opening day play caller in back-to-back years since 2008 bringing stability to the huddle.

"We're very pleased at how well Bret has worked during the offseason," says Owens. "We think it will be good for the football team to be able to point at that position and say 'that guy's the guy'."

Visciglia passed for 1,182 yards last season and tossed seven touchdowns. He will be backed up by another familiar face in sophomore Michael Lahey , an option-style quarterback who ran for almost as many yards (216) as he passed for (272) as a freshman.

Potential passing targets including senior WR Mike Lambesis, who Owens is excited will have the "chance to be a big player for us and be an impact guy" after making 31 catches for 381 yards and four touchdowns last year.

One who could emerge as a receiving threat is sophomore TE Brian Kirwan, who is making the transition from the quarterback position. A 24-year-old sophomore (because of a minor league baseball career out of high school), Kirwan has added 25 pounds of muscle since last season and, according to Owens, has "huge upside".

"His maturity, quickness, toughness is what set's him apart," says Owens. "He runs good routs and has extremely soft hands."

Where running the ball will be critical to Chapman's success on offense, stopping the run will be the key to its defense. The Panthers allowed over 172 yards per game on the ground and 24.6 points – both five-year highs under Owens. Chapman must also improve those numbers with just four defensive starters returning.

"There are some things we need to make definite improvement on this year and stopping the run is one of those things," says Owens. "The reason we believe the defense will be different this year is that great linebacking corps that will allow us to stop the run. I think it's going to be extremely difficult to run on us."

Those linebackers include juniors Kellen Matsuno and Michael Mehlhaff and sophomore Wade Minshew, the three of which combined for 128 tackles a year ago. Additionally, sophomore Anthony Ferraro has made the move to linebacker after playing strong safety and recording 33 tackles as a rookie. Owens also expects sophomore Samir Hanna and junior college transfer Evan Pesonen (Golden West College) to make big contributions.

Chapman's defensive line is another big, strong and veteran crew anchored by junior nose guard and two-year starter Kevin Anderson who ranked third on the team with four tackles behind the line of scrimmage. The line, which also includes juniors Ross Campbell, Elliot Cooley and senior Stephen Sales, has bulked up and will contribute to a run defense that hopes to improve on its 158th national ranking in 2010.

And while not one member of the Panthers' secondary has played a down of NCAA football, Owens says "We've got some guys coming in we think will do a good job and help stabilize the secondary," including a strong recruiting class at the corner position.

One of the strengths of the Chapman program in Owens' tenure has been on special teams where the Panthers have led the nation in kick returns (in 2009) and currently possess one of the top punters in the nation in senior Jimmy Adranly. Another All-America candidate, Adranly has finished in the top-10 in Division III in punting average each of the past two years, ranking seventh in 2010 with a 42.18 yards per punt average.

"Having a guy like Jimmy is extremely critical to our football team," says Owens. "If you have a guy that experienced he can pin the opponent down in their red zone, that goes a long way in the battle for field position."

Chapman's kick return unit fell back with the pack in 2010, ranking 189th just one year removed from leading the nation, but Owens expects that will be the exception, not the rule.

"Last year was the first year we were very average in kickoff return," says Owens. "We're going to look long and hard and people that can run, get on their blocks, become magnets, stay on those guys and create some run lanes. That's going to be a heavy emphasis for us and we should return to form."

This summer, Chapman officially joined the SCIAC ending the university's longstanding status as an independent. And although the Panthers have played every conference member since 2006, playing those teams as a conference peer gives each contest added meaning this year.

"I don't think you're going to look at a team in the SCIAC this year and say 'those guys are pushovers,'" says Owens about his counterparts. "Who's to say who's going to emerge at the top of the food chain?"

And despite not being eligible to compete for the conference title in its first year as a SCIAC member, Owens believes his team will be among the best. "I think we will be one of those teams that will fight for the conference championship. What is that 'de facto' champions?"

by Doug Aiken
Sports Information Director

Sep. 23: All times Eastern
Final
at Framingham State 50, Massachusetts Maritime 7
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Muhlenberg 56, at Juniata 40
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at Dean 25, Becker 10
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Salisbury 27, at TCNJ 7
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MIT 38, at Catholic 21
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Merchant Marine 56, at Maine Maritime 31
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at Hobart 34, Endicott 17
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at Morrisville State 44, Nichols 22
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at Delaware Valley 27, Stevenson 7
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at Albright 9, Widener 7
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Christopher Newport 16, at Montclair State 8
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at Westminster (Pa.) 41, Bethany 14
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Middlebury 41, at Bowdoin 14
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Williams 24, at Colby 7
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Amherst 36, at Hamilton 6
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Ursinus 35, at Moravian 17
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Trinity (Conn.) 51, at Bates 0
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at LaGrange 38, Brevard 28
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Geneva 33, at Thiel 24
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at Plymouth State 37, Mass-Dartmouth 7
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Kean 28, at Southern Virginia 14
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Frostburg State 24, at Rowan 10
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Union 17, at Curry 14
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at Carnegie Mellon 37, Thomas More 17
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Lycoming 44, at King's 41
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at Western New England 21, Husson 14
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Johns Hopkins 41, at Dickinson 10
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at DePauw 51, Wooster 24
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at Ohio Wesleyan 37, Allegheny 21
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at Misericordia 43, Wilkes 14
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at Alfred 45, Rochester 7
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Wesley 66, at William Paterson 0
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at N.C. Wesleyan 35, Maryville (Tenn.) 25
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Huntingdon 31, at Ferrum 28
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at McDaniel 27, Gettysburg 20
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at Buffalo State 33, RPI 21
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Franklin and Marshall 27, at Susquehanna 24
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at Denison 45, Oberlin 17
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at Northwestern (Minn.) 10, Westminster (Mo.) 7
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at Eureka 44, Crown 20
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at Lebanon Valley 24, FDU-Florham 14
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at Heidelberg 47, John Carroll 21
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at Ohio Northern 35, Otterbein 7
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at Mount Union 55, Baldwin Wallace 7
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at Rose-Hulman 37, Defiance 14
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at Marietta 49, Muskingum 25
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Franklin 59, at Bluffton 30
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at Hanover 64, Anderson 21
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Mount St. Joseph 31, at Manchester 14
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Worcester State 34, at Westfield State 10
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Coast Guard 13, at Norwich 9
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at Fitchburg State 31, Bridgewater State 29
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Wittenberg 48, at Kenyon 11
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at Wabash 25, Hiram 21
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North Central (Ill.) 51, at Millikin 21
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at Millsaps 17, Sewanee 13
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at Rhodes 35, Birmingham-Southern 9
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at Hendrix 36, Austin 24
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at Martin Luther 34, Greenville 20
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Final - OT
at Trinity (Texas) 41, Chapman 35
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at Loras 73, Buena Vista 34
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at Wartburg 30, Washington U. 20
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at Gustavus Adolphus 51, Hamline 7
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Augsburg 48, at Carleton 28
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at Bethel 64, St. Olaf 7
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at Luther 21, Dubuque 17
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at Central 52, Nebraska Wesleyan 27
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Simpson 38, at Coe 33
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Wheaton (Ill.) 40, at Elmhurst 15
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St. Norbert 66, at Grinnell 13
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at Knox 13, Ripon 6
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at MacMurray 32, Iowa Wesleyan 14
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Hardin-Simmons 63, at Howard Payne 3
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Southwestern 37, at Louisiana College 34
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Monmouth 26, at Macalester 0
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at St. Thomas 20, St. John's 17
@ Target Field, Minneapolis
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at Springfield 42, WPI 10
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at Cornell 55, Beloit 36
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at Brockport 28, Utica 14
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at Hartwick 24, St. John Fisher 21
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at UW-La Crosse 41, Carroll 6
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at St. Scholastica 37, Minnesota-Morris 3
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at George Fox 44, UW-Eau Claire 0
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at Western Connecticut 37, Salve Regina 23
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Final
at UW-Stevens Point 41, Adrian 28
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Final - OT
at Wesleyan 24, Tufts 17
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at Averett 35, Methodist 6
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at Berry 28, Centre 14
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at Case Western Reserve 56, Waynesburg 21
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at Grove City 24, St. Vincent 14
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at Illinois Wesleyan 18, North Park 0
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at Mary Hardin-Baylor 50, Texas Lutheran 7
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at UW-Platteville 56, Lakeland 22
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Carthage 55, at Augustana 14
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Final
Chicago 28, at Illinois College 7
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at Sul Ross State 35, McMurry 7
Final - OT
at Wilmington 37, Capital 30
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Lake Forest 42, at Lawrence 26
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at East Texas Baptist 79, Belhaven 40
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Final
Arizona Christian 56, at Whittier 38
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Sep. 28: All times Eastern
6:30 PM
Shenandoah at Randolph-Macon
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Sep. 23: All times Eastern
Final
at Delaware Valley 27, Stevenson 7
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Wesley 66, at William Paterson 0
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at Alfred 45, Rochester 7
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Final
Johns Hopkins 41, at Dickinson 10
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Final
Frostburg State 24, at Rowan 10
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Final
at Heidelberg 47, John Carroll 21
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Final
at Mount Union 55, Baldwin Wallace 7
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Final
Wittenberg 48, at Kenyon 11
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at Wabash 25, Hiram 21
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Hardin-Simmons 63, at Howard Payne 3
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Final
North Central (Ill.) 51, at Millikin 21
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Final
Wheaton (Ill.) 40, at Elmhurst 15
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Final
at St. Thomas 20, St. John's 17
@ Target Field, Minneapolis
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Final
at Brockport 28, Utica 14
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Final
at Case Western Reserve 56, Waynesburg 21
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at Illinois Wesleyan 18, North Park 0
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at UW-Platteville 56, Lakeland 22
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Final
at Mary Hardin-Baylor 50, Texas Lutheran 7
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