Beavers looking to rebuild as they head into 2006 campaign
By Jenna Liechty, sports information assistant
July 28, 2006
As the Bluffton University football team prepares for the 2006 campaign, head coach Greg Brooks will be counting on strong leadership from both players and coaching staff as the Beavers work toward a successful year on the gridiron. After a disappointing 2005 season in which the Beavers finished with 3-7 record (2-4 in the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference), Brooks will be looking for greater commitment and positive leadership among the players. "We must address the issues that arose last season and get back to the very basics of coaching and playing," noted Brooks, who will be entering his fourth season at the helm of the Bluffton football team.
"Keys to this season are going to be building leadership and having people step up where needed, especially on offense," said Brooks. The building of positive leadership both on and off the field will be crucial in meeting the challenges in the season ahead. Although captains have not been named for the 2006 season, Brooks will look for leadership roles to be filled by experienced upperclassmen who display qualities of commitment, integrity and hard work.
In addition to leadership, a focus of the upcoming season will be on change. From
a change in the 2006 schedule, to coaching staff changes, to changes in the make-up
of the HCAC, to changes in the offense, the upcoming campaign will speak volumes about
Bluffton's ability to respond to challenges that lie ahead.
The 2006 Beavers will attempt to strengthen and diversify their offense by making some changes in the lineup as well as in formations. With the loss of experienced seniors Kevin Schelb (Caledonia/River Valley), Brandon Nolin (Geneva/Geneva) and All-HCAC running back Ben Dodds (West Liberty/Bellefontaine), the team will need returning players Jared Owens (Van Wert/Crestview), James Fay (Cairo/Bath), Jeremy Haselman (Leipsic/Leipsic) and Joel Sienicki (Goshen, Ind./Northridge) to create scoring opportunities. Additionally, a large incoming freshman class with a number of offensive linemen has the potential to help fill the void left by graduated playmakers. The Beavers will open up the playbook by spreading the ball around, devising more sets and shotgun plays, and adding variety to their formations. An increase in big play threats will be an indication as to the depth and diversity of the offense.
"There is a big gap in our offense that we must fill," Brooks stated. "Senior Jared
Owens is a great starting point for the offense, while James Fay is solid at center.
With the improvement of Haselman last season, I look for increased contributions from
him this year."
The strength of the 2006 Beavers lies in its defense, as 2005 All-HCAC players Jeremy Anderson (South Rockwood/Airport), Sam McCullough (Bluffton/Bluffton), Kyle Rode (Delphos, Ohio/Jefferson), and Bryan Lloyd (Elida/Bath) return for the upcoming season. "Anderson is a fine football player," Brooks commented. "He could be an All-American by the end of the year. McCullough is a tough, aggressive linebacker who moves well and Rode, only a sophomore, is a hard worker who we will look to for an increased presence up front." In addition, the team will count on junior Ryan Christy (Snellville, Ga./South Gwinnet), who was hampered last season with an injury after being named the 2004 HCAC Freshman of the Year, to solidify the Beavers' pass defense in 2006. Senior defensive lineman Kurt Albers (New Bremen/New Bremen) is also returning inside at tackle.
"Defensively, our greatest gap is depth at the linebacker position," said Brooks.
"We will look for great improvement in our linebacker play as we prepare for the upcoming
Special TeamsWith the graduation of kicker/punter Seth Burkholder (Bluffton/Bluffton), the Beavers are left with a huge gap to fill. Brooks is unsure who will fill these vacancies, but he looks to fill the positions in the first days of pre-season practice with a talented group of incoming kickers and punters.
Coaching StaffAs Brooks enters his fourth season at the helm, several position changes and adjustments have been made within the coaching staff. With the retirement of veteran offensive line coach Lou Stokes, Steve Rogers will move from the defense and take over as offensive coordinator and offensive line coach in his second season at Bluffton. Mark Spencer will lead the defensive line during his second season as an assistant, and Bill Fisher, a former Bluffton wideout, will be the running backs coach for the Beavers. Allen Curtiss, defensive coordinator and linebackers coach; Denny Phillips, defensive secondary coach; and Brett Burkheimer, wide receivers coach, bring a wealth of experience to their respective positions for the 2006 campaign.