Capital University Football File Photo
Each time the 2010 Capital University football team fell, it found a way to bounce back with one play or one game.
Unfortunately for the Crusaders, the ups equaled the downs in coach Henry Stanford’s first season at the helm.
Capital overcame a rash of injuries and youthful inexperience to put together a 5-5 record, including a 5-4 mark in Ohio Athletic Conference play, last season. The Crusaders won their last two games to get back to .500 and gain momentum heading into the long offseason.
Stanford, who took over as head coach after serving as an assistant for two seasons, said last year’s team adjusted well to a new coaching staff and changing roles within the program. With the loss of seven all-conference selections, a number of new faces hope to emerge and keep the Capital football tradition moving forward.
“I was proud of how much the young men fought,” Stanford said. “It was an up-and-down season, but with every tough loss, we seemed to answer the bell soon after. We lost some great leaders due to injury, but we found a lot of freshmen and sophomores to answer the call. Now they have game experience heading into this season.”
Seniors Garrett Bennington (Cambridge, Ohio), Kory Hartinger (Circleville, Ohio), Troy Spiker (Rootstown, Ohio), juniors Tyler Dugan (Columbus, Ohio) and Matt DeMore (Twinsburg, Ohio) will serve as team captains during the 2011 campaign.
“We’ve had great leadership so far, from both seniors and underclassmen,” Stanford said. “Our sophomores and juniors want to start their legacy at Capital, so they’re getting extra reps and doing other little things without questions asked.”
The Crusaders open the season at two-time defending North Coast Athletic Conference champion Wittenberg this Saturday, Sept. 3, for their lone non-conference contest in 2011.
Following a bye week, Capital begins its OAC slate at home against Wilmington on Sept. 17. The Crusaders travel to Westerville on Oct. 15 to take on local rival Otterbein, followed by a home game against perennial national powerhouse and 2010 NCAA Division III runner-up Mount Union.
Although the team will only be able to “defend Bernlohr” – one of the team’s goals – just four times this season, Stanford is confident in his team’s ability to work hard on and off the field.
“We strive to play faster and more physical than our opponent every week,” Stanford said. “I always tell the team we play our best together when we play for each other.”
See below for a position-by-position breakdown of the 2011 Capital football team.
The Crusaders play a spread attack, which features four wide receivers and a one tailback. According to offensive coordinator Robert White, Capital will make a concerted effort this season to balance its traditionally strong passing attack with the run.
“We take what the defense gives us and want to create mismatches,” White said. “Our goal is to put our best players in position to make plays, whether it’s horizontal or vertical (up the field).”
Sophomore Ryan Kremchek (Sylvania, Ohio) inherits the starting quarterback position from Hartinger, who moves back to wide receiver. Kremchek, who has yet to see game action, is an athletic, talented player. White will try to take advantage of Kremchek’s athleticism by moving him out of the pocket and allowing him to run. Senior Chase Carris (Akron, Ohio) is listed as his backup.
Capital coaches feel very good about three players at the tailback position. Senior Josh Anderson (Columbus, Ohio), a transfer from Central State, is listed as the starter, while Bennington is the team’s top returning rusher with 386 yards and a touchdown in 2010.
Junior Casey Meridieth (Toledo, Ohio) will serve as a power option in the backfield.
The Crusaders are deep and talented at the wide receiver position. Fifth-year senior Matt White (Mason, Ohio) and junior Mike Epstein (Toledo, Ohio) return as starters, while Hartinger returns to his original position. White is a two-time All-OAC selection who received a redshirt season after missing seven games a year ago. He has 1,595 yards on 119 receptions in his career. Hartinger has exceeded expectations in camp, while Epstein makes up for his lack of size (5-foot-7, 160 pounds) with hard work and reliability.
Senior Ryan Williams (Bowie, Md.), a transfer from Ohio Dominican, will stretch the field vertically with top-notch speed as the fourth starter.
With DeMore (C), senior Jon Figel (LT; Mingo Junction, Ohio) and sophomore David Howson (RT; Hudson, Ohio) as returning starters, White is confident that new guards Troy Thompson (Jr.; Pickerington, Ohio) and Anthony Colucci (So.; Ashtabula, Ohio) will get better with time.
Sophomore Cody Mackey (Columbus, Ohio) and freshman Anthony Harris (Cincinnati, Ohio) continue to fight for playing time at guard and could emerge as the season evolves.
Capital plays a 4-3 base defense, but according to defensive coordinator Chad Creamer, it more closely resembles a 4-2-5 setup due to personnel.
“We don’t have much size, but we have a lot of speed,” Creamer said. “We’re in a passing league, so our guys up well with the spread offenses and speedy quarterbacks in the conference. We’re not going out to find traditional linebackers … we need speedy guys.”
According to Stanford, the defensive line is the deepest, most experienced position on the team. The 10-man rotation includes eight returning players, and is led by senior Dan Frankart, a 2010 All-OAC selection who will move from tackle to end this season. The Bloomville, Ohio, native led the team with six sacks for a loss of 27 yards last season.
Frankart will be joined on the line by a pair of returning starters in junior defensive end Aaron Knisley (Bexley, Ohio) and junior Seth Nelson (Columbus, Ohio). Knisley, who tied for the league lead with three fumbles forced, will play opposite Frankart at the other end. Nelson, a transfer from Ashland, is a traditional nose tackle who moves well.
Senior Zac Randall (Greenville, Ohio) and junior Jay Bondzeleske (Columbus, Ohio) will split time at tackle. Senior Aaron Rittgers (Pickerington, Ohio), juniors Jason Hutchins (Springboro, Ohio) and Nate Nasrallah (Norton, Ohio) also project to see significant playing time.
Spiker will be flanked by Dugan and senior John Honsberger (Macedonia, Ohio). Spiker moves to the middle after leading the team with 10 tackles for loss at the SAM position a year ago, while Dugan is one of the faster players at Capital and will be counted on to be a leader for the entire defense. The coaching staff is hopeful that Honsberger, a Mount Union transfer in his third season with the Crusaders, can stay healthy after having shoulder surgery prior to the preseason.
Senior Brennan Fraley (Pickerington, Ohio) and sophomore Alex Nyzda (Cleveland, Ohio) will also figure prominently in the rotation. Fraley has experience as a starter last year, while Nyzda is a converted wide receiver. Sophomore Kyle Shaeffer (Pickerington, Ohio) will serve as Spiker’s back-up.
Junior Ryan Neuberger (Milan, Ohio) and sophomore Antoine Roberts (Lithonia, Ga.) return to the defensive backfield as starters. Neuberger finished second on the team with 47 tackles at free safety last season, while Roberts specializes in man coverage and is one of the team’s most talented players. Junior Ted Cox (Marysville, Ohio) and sophomore Andre Cousin (Fostoria, Ohio) will also see significant playing time at the corners.
Senior Kory Conley (Wellington, Ohio) will begin the season as the starter at free safety. The coaching staff likes the fifth-year senior’s size (6-4, 205) and leadership. Sophomore Domenic Hebebrand (Hinckley, Ohio) will see his first varsity action at strong safety. Senior Merrit Zollars (Fredericktown, Ohio) is a converted quarterback and will see time as a third safety.
Senior Nick VanMeter (Marion, Ohio) returns as the team’s kicker and punter. VanMeter made 15-of-18 extra points and 9-of-14 field goals while averaging 33.6 yards per punt in 2010.
Rittgers will serve as the team’s long snapper, while a slew of players will share punt- and kick-return duties.