Football Looks to Break Out in Upcoming Season
Coming off of a 2014 season marred by injuries and inconsistency, Oberlin football’s 2015 team has nothing but confidence heading into their contest with The College at Brockport.
This is due in part to several coaching staff changes headed by second-year Head Coach Jay Anderson. Chief among these changes is the addition of former Baldwin Wallace University Offensive Coordinator Keith Grabowski, who will take the same role with the Yeomen in addition to coaching the offensive line.
In addition to Grabowski, former Case Western Reserve University Coach Ben Lolli will handle the Yeomen’s linebackers and special teams, former Ursinus College lineman Brett Smyers will manage the defensive line and player performance and former Atlanta Falcons Graduate Assistant James Flowers will work with the team’s running backs.
The Yeomen have also brought back 2010–2013 running back Moses Richardson as student offensive assistant coach, former University of Akron player Mike Hayes to assist Anderson with defensive backs and Matt Coyne, hired in March 2015, as recruiting coordinator. Coyne will also work with the team’s quarterbacks.
Anderson said he is looking for his overhaul of coaching staff to translate immediately into on-field success for the upcoming season.
Senior running back Blake Buckhannon was quick to commend the new coaches.
“The new coaches have been great so far; they’ve taught us a lot,” he said. “Everybody in the offense has been picking up Coach Grabowski’s schemes and formations really well so far.”
Leading the Yeomen into the 2015 campaign are four senior captains, quarterback Lucas Poggiali, offensive lineman Nick Blaszak, defensive back Gabe Edwards and defensive lineman Spencer Conley. Anderson had nothing but praise for the group as he looks for them to guide the team both on and off the field.
“We have a great group of seniors. They’re not a very large class, but a very talented class that works extremely hard,” Anderson said. “We have four good captains that understand where we have been and where we are trying to go.”
One of the greatest challenges that the Yeomen faced last season was injury. Buckhannon, junior safety Adrian Kelly, senior defensive lineman C.J. Ihle and senior running back Justin Williams all went down for the year with few replacements. This year, the Yeomen addressed their issue of depth with 15 newcomers: notably, six defensive backs and three wide receivers.
Edwards asserted the important role that the first-years can play for the upcoming season.
“We brought in a lot of freshmen that are going to help us immediately,” he said. “Players at both the skill position and some big men have promise to be good players.”
Underpinning the Yeomen offense is All-NCAC Second Team junior wide receiver Justin Cruz, who set the school record for touchdown receptions last year with 11 in addition to racking up 828 receiving yards.
Poggiali is also leading the offensive attack accounting for 17 total touchdowns — 14 in the air and three on the ground — in 2014. Poggiali’s main source of protection looks to come from Blaszak, who will also help to mentor and guide the rest of the line throughout the season.
On the defensive side, All-NCAC Honorable Mentions Edwards and Conley lead the Yeomen. Other returnees such as junior linebacker Justin Bute, senior defensive back Tim Kondo and junior defensive back Larry Leggett should help to lead the group as well.
While the 2015 Yeomen squad looks to stay healthy and benefit from the knowledge of their new coaches, Poggiali said that success for the upcoming season is dependent on the mindset of the team.
“We need to control what we can control,” he said. “So many times last year we got caught up in worrying about our opponents, and now we just need to worry about executing ourselves,” he said.
Oberlin’s first game is Sept. 5 against The College at Brockport at Bailey Field. Kickoff is at 1 p.m.
The Yeomen hustle during an afternoon preseason practice on Bailey Field in preparation for their first game on Saturday. Expectations are high for new additions to their coaching staff and their increased depth to contribute to the success of their upcoming 2015 season.