News

Olivet Nazarene University

2015 ONU Football Season Preview

Contributed by admin on Aug 21, 2015 - 05:39 PM

Picture 0 for 2015 ONU Football Season Preview

OFFENSIVE LINE

Football fans know that an offense is only as good as its offensive line. This season in particular, that thought should excite ONU fans.

A talented group of linemen leads a 2015 ONU offense that looks to continue paving the way for great offensive production. Junior Dan Sullivan(JR/Kankakee, Ill.) is the most tenured member of the offensive line. Part of the core unit from the 2013 and 2014 seasons, he contributed to a single-game team performance of 253 rushing yards. Also returning from the 2014 team is sophomore Zane Burtron (SO/Westfield, Ind.).  

During spring practices, two talented transfers became acclimated to the team's system, while some young players gained more experience. Transfers Isaac Akers (SO/Rockton, Ill.) from Northern Iowa and Jorge Valencia (JR/Corona, Calif.) from Corona, California, bring college experience and talent to an ONU unit looking to make significant upgrades over last year's line. 

Sophomore linemen Gabe Parker and Nathan Wells (SO/Aurora, Ill.) show potential to elevate play, and talented freshmen Trevor Thomas (FR/San Jose, Calif.)Davis Clay (FR/Parker, Colo.) and Andrew Mathena promise to provide punch in their first season as Tigers.

RUNNING BACKS

A trio of accomplished running backs is working to capitalize on the dominance of this year's offensive line. Leading this group is seniorMichael Ho-Lewis (SR/Boise, Idaho), who began last season like the previous four -- successfully leading the ONU RB core. Last year, Ho-Lewis started strong in what looked to be his final season, gaining 144 yards on only 19 carries (7.3 yards per carry). Ho-Lewis' season was cut short after he suffered an injury in the first quarter of game two.  This season, the fifth-year senior and 2013 MSFA Midwest First-Team All-League running back returns with the hope of improving on his already impressive career numbers -- 2,314 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns.

Also coming back from injury is another familiar backfield face in fifth-year senior David Payne (SR/Chebanse, Ill.). A MSFA Midwest Second-Team All-League running back in 2012, Payne missed the 2014 season with a shoulder injury. In spring 2015, he didn't miss a beat, incorporating his physical and versatile style of running. Payne's career numbers going into this season: 1,137 rushing yards, 560 receiving yards; nine TDs.

Motivated by a phenomenal showing in spring ball, sophomore running back Erik Anderson (SO/St. Charles, Ill.) wants a larger role this year after playing in nine games last season. Anderson turned in a 2014 season-high rushing performance in his freshman season, leading the team to a win against Menlo College with a 156-yard, two-touchdown day. That feat earned him MSFA Midwest Offensive Player of the Week honors.

 

WIDE OUTS

The ONU receiving core gets a huge boost with the return of 2013's leading receiver, senior Aaron Salas (SR/San Marcos, Calif.).  Before an injury sidelined Salas for 2014, he registered 390 receiving yards on only 27 receptions in nine  games during the 2013 campaign. Assisting Salas in the ONU receiving corps is sophomore big-play wide out Adam Glanders (SO/Elkhart, Ind.). During his freshman season, Glanders showed an uncanny ability to make the big play in the pass game, racking up a season average of 14.3 yards per catch.

Returning juniors Matt McDivitt (JR/Marion, Ind.)Alvin Best (JR/Portage, Ind.) and Kyle Love (JR/Kankakee, Ill.) each posted a score last season, adding depth to the group this year. Junior Ryan Jennings (JR/Savannah, Ga.) is a big-body receiver building on his contributions in 2014. SpeedyCharles Deloach used the spring to move back to full-time wide receiver. In 2014, Deloach split time between wide receiver and running back. Freshmen Connor Messer (FR/Ashland, Ky.)Emeritus McLeodCameron Straub (FR/Roanoke, Ind.) and Logan Katsetos (FR/Liberty Township, Ohio) showed a knack for big plays in high school and plan to build on that at ONU. Senior tight end Grant Perkins (SR/Sweetser, Ind.) brings skills as pass catcher and run blocker.

 

QUARTERBACKS

Experience and versatility are key for this year's Tiger quarterbacks. Leading the way is senior playmaker Zach Gross (SR/Elgin, Ill.), returning from a 2014 injury that kept him out for eight games. Gross has rushed for 703 yards and six TDs while throwing for 314 yards and two TDs in his career.  After his injury, sophomores Gage Buckley (SO/Lompoc, Calif.) and Derek Durkes (JR/Converse, Ind.) shared QB duty. Buckley threw for 883 yards and five TDs while rushing for 130 yards and two TDs. Also in the QB queue is sophomore Matt Wray, who worked out at the position in the spring.  

 

DEFENSIVE LINE

The 2014 ONU defense made a name for itself by forcing big turnovers in big situations. The 2015 "D" builds on that momentum, led by a strong group of returning lineman up front that features three players who garnered MSFA Midwest All-League selections in 2014.

Seniors Thomas Dexter (SR/Canal Winchester, Ohio) and Ron France (SR/St. Charles, Ill.) return after earning Second-Team honors. The speedy Dexter led the team with 5.5 sacks and 43 tackles on the season. France recorded 27 tackles and three sacks on the season. Senior Chris Aschemann(SR/Carterville, Ill.) split time between the offensive and defensive lines, making his mark as the third Tiger defensive lineman to bring home All-Conference honors last season. He registered 25 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss and three sacks.

Junior Andrew Manganiello (JR/Lemont, Ill.) returns for his third consecutive season at starting nose tackle. Manganiello had four tackles for loss last season. Senior Ryan Smith (SR/Belleville, Ill.) returns for a third season after five tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks last season. Redshirt freshmenJonah Moore (SO/San Jose, Calif.) and Nick Kreig are capitalizing on strong spring practice performances while true freshman T.J. Layne (FR/Morris, Ill.) and Daniel Dunham (FR/Morgan Hill, Calif.) add depth to the already strong group.

 

LINEBACKERS

A versatile group of returning backs coupled with talented young players is filling the void left by the graduation of ONU's NAIA First Team All-American and second all-time leading tackler, Brandon Ruemler.  

Leading the group with experience and playmaking ability is senior Gino Prestia (SR/Elk Grove, Ill.), who had 26 tackles, three fumble recoveries and a 65-yard touchdown in five games last season. Sophomore linebackers are Sebastian Swift (SO/El Cajon, Calif.), who last season recorded 22 tackles, including four for loss; and Corbin Hesterberg (JR/Ogden, Ill.) and Lucas Hughes. Rounding out the group are true freshmen Ben TobermanConnor Dowd and Nick Ratti.

 

DEFENSIVE BACKS

The defensive backfield features senior Lucas Limberg (SR/Rockford, Ill.), who returns after a stellar junior campaign that earned him MSFA Midwest Second-Team All-League honors. Limberg's six interceptions led the Tigers and the MSFA Midwest. Limberg also chipped in 34 tackles and 14 pass deflections. Senior Austin Holton (SR/Nampa, Idaho) brings three years' starting experience, including 37 tackles, two interceptions and eight pass deflections last year.  Juniors Daulton Depatis (JR/Watseka, Ill.)Drew Philson (JR/Horton, Mich.) and Regan Jones logged ample time in rotational opportunities last season and step into larger roles this season. Freshmen Brock Perry (FR/Geneva, Ill.) and Yusuf Hadad represent the youth movement in the squad.

 

SPECIAL TEAMS

The ONU special teams unit returns the pivotal piece in senior Ron France. Last season France blocked four field goal attempts, giving him seven on his career. Joining the block brigade is senior Lucas Limberg, whose blocked kick last season raised his career total to four. He also returned a blocked extra point for a score.  

The kicking unit replaces the team's field goal kicker from 2014, looking to sophomore Nick Paquet (JR/Cadillac, Mich.). Paquet spent last season as the team's kickoff specialist, showing off a big leg and the ability to boom the ball down field. Joining Paquet is freshman Josh Anderson (FR/San Juan Capistrano, Calif.), who made 177 points after touchdown and six field goals in his high school career.

Returning on special teams is junior Derrick Booth, who spent last season at punter. He had a strong inaugural campaign, punting 79 times for 2,971 yards for an average of 37.6 yards per punt. The special teams unit has redshirted sophomores Derek Durkes and Troy Parsons (SO/Scottsdale, Ariz.) for opportunities at long snapper. Providing stability for the kicking unit is incumbent holder junior Matt McDivitt. McDivitt served as placeholder last season for a kicking unit that went 17-19 on extra points and 5 -9 on field goals.

The special teams unit looks to versatile playmakers to provide a spark in the return game. Leading the pack is shifty junior Charles Deloach. Last season he racked up a team-high 392 return yards on 16 attempts, good for a 24.5-yard average. Deloach also had gains of 64 and 57 yards. Also ready at kick return is senior Lucas Limbergwho accumulated 313 yards with season-long returns of 47 and 41 yards.  Senior Zach Gross is another option as he returns from injury. Gross spent time as the team's 2013 kick returner, amassing 393 yards, including returns of 49 and 39 yards.