Oberlin, Ohio – The upstart Oberlin College football team is looking to make shockwaves across the North Coast Athletic Conference this season.
While the Yeomen are young due to the graduation of 15 seniors from the 2012 roster, this Oberlin team remains talented in all areas on the field.
Offensively, the Yeomen are led by sophomore quarterback Lucas Poggiali . The Sandusky, Ohio, native did see significant time under center last year as a freshman, which will only help his maturation process moving forward. The 6-foot-1 signal-caller played in nine games and made three starts in 2012, totaling 815 yards and three touchdowns.
"Lucas has all of the skills to be a great quarterback," Head Coach Jeff Ramsey said. "He is a tremendous athlete and a hard worker. I expect him to take charge of this offense and take us where we want to go."
Joining Poggiali in the backfield is the running back combination of senior Moses Richardson and sophomore Blake Buckhannon. Richardson rushed for a career-high 620 yards last season, averaging four yards per carry, while scoring five of his six total TDs on the ground. Buckhannon's rookie season was slightly limited due to an injury, but he displayed his toughness by still playing in nine games. The fastest player on the team, Buckhannon brings an added dimension to the offense and is versatile as both a runner and receiver. Creating space for the pair as their lead blocker is sophomore fullback Nick Theofilos.
"We will rely on both Moses and Blake to be the focal points of our offense," Ramsey said. "They are each tough, hard-nosed runners that are capable of carrying the load at any time."
Oberlin's most experienced unit is the offensive line headline by senior center Jim Adkins. The Amherst, Ohio, native started all 20 games over the last two seasons and has 23 career starts to his credit. Junior's Jake Fannin, Josh Guisler, and Rory Kaip, along with sophomores Nick Blaszak and Thomas Firl all have collegiate experience to their credit.
"Each of these guys have been working hard through camp and have done a great job thus far," Ramsey added. "Having experience upfront is going to be a huge benefit and key to our success."
Fifth-year senior Adam Niec is the leader of an otherwise young Oberlin receiving corps. He played in just four games last year due to injury, but he hopes to return to his 2011 form when he caught five TDs and averaged 13.2 yards per catch. Sophomore Stephen Hause is the only other wideout on the roster with a collegiate catch as he snagged six balls for 55 yards in the season finale against Wittenberg last year. However, first-years Larry Leggett and Justin Cruz come in hungry and are ready to contribute from day one. Senior tight end Gideon Reiz has also had a great camp and is ready to factor in on the offense and end his career on a high note.
"I know we are young at receiver, but I am going to look to Adam to help our young guy progress," Ramsey said. "Justin and Larry have adjusted to our system well thus far and I look for Gideon to be an added wrinkle in what we do in the passing game."
Defensively, the Yeomen are young across the board with just four returning starters. Upfront the senior duo of Jake Danko and Kirby Livingston are tasked with slowing down the running game, while also pressuring the quarterback. Together they combined for 102 tackles and eight sacks in 2012. Sophomores C.J. Ihle and Spencer Conley both saw time as freshmen and will be counted on this year to contribute on the line.
"I expect both Jake and Kirby to have career years," Coach Ramsey said. "They bring great leadership to our defense and embody everything we want in a Yeomen football player."
Senior Kyle Kessler spearheads Oberlin's line-backing unit. The Altoona, Pennsylvania, native started all 10 games last season, finishing with 60 tackles, four pass break-ups and one fumble recovery. Junior Max Schenk, who made 21 tackles last season, joins Kessler on the second level. Rookie Justin Bute and Dan Bolotsky will be a part of the rotation as well.
"Kyle was outstanding last year and I look for him to be even better this year." Ramsey noted. "Max is a guy who can be ball hawk and has high upside. Justin has had a strong camp thus far and I am looking forward to seeing him get better each day, while Dan is making the transition from tight end to linebacker and getting better with our schemes each day."
The only returning starter in the Yeomen's defensive backfield is senior safety Zach Kisley. Last season Kisley flustered opposing quarterbacks with his coverage skills. The Libertyville, Illinois, native recorded four interceptions, five pass-breaks and forced a fumble. While Kisley has the most experience, sophomore Tim Kondo did play in all 10 games a season ago and had an impressive freshman campaign with 27 tackles, four tackles for a loss, two sacks, a forced fumble and fumble recovery. Classmate Gabe Edwards saw time in eight games, but will be more heavily counted on this year. First-years Ben Venerdi, Sam Martin and Brad Cole will need to adjust to the speed of the college game as they could all see significant time this year as well.
"Our secondary is a little young with the exception of Zach, but they are a talented group," Ramsey added. "The young guys have a great leader to look up to in Zach and I think Tim and Gabe are ready to step up in a big way."
Junior Erickson Andrews returns to handle the Yeomen kicking duties, while Schenk will once again handle the punting. He averaged 33.1 yards per kick last year and placed 10 balls inside the 20.
Oberlin draws a week one bye and will play 10 straight weeks once the season begins on Sunday, September 15 at home against local rival Case Western Reserve.
Fans should note that all home games will be streamed online free of charge and all 10 games will once again be carried on AM-1320 WOBL with free online audio streams on loraincounty.com.