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Positional Preview - Tight Ends/Wide Receivers

Contributed by admin on Aug 18, 2015 - 10:16 PM
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The seventh of a nine-part College of Idaho 2015 football team preview, focusing today on the Coyote tight ends and receivers.
 
As the 2014 season rolled on, the Coyote passing game evolved, with both the tight ends and receivers becoming more and more involved with the offense.  This season, a balanced attack is imperative to the success of the squad.
 

It starts at the tight end position for the Yotes, as over one-third of all receptions last season were made by a trio of C of I ends.
 
"Tight ends are one of those funny positions now-a-days, most people don't even know what a tight end looks like anymore," offensive coordinator Tim Keane said. "We have some receiver tight ends, we have some that are more fullback type tight ends.  It's fun during the week to game plan to see how we will utilize this group and see how we can create a mismatch."
 
Leading the way is Marcus Lenhardt, who put together one of the best seasons in program history.  The sophomore, who was the Yotes lone representative on the All-Frontier Conference team and earned Preseason All-America honors by multiple minor publications, led the team with 43 receptions for 698 yards and two touchdowns.  His season numbers were second only to the monster 1954 season by NAIA Hall of Fame receiver, R.C. Owens.
 
Cole Maupin had a solid spring will definitely work his way into the rotation, a season after making three receptions, including one touchdown.  Senior Andy Forse served as C of I's long snapper last season but looks to be more involved in the offense, while true freshman Tyler Reay adds to the depth at the position.
 
Ringo Robinson is the top blocking tight end of the bunch, seeing the bulk of his playing time with the run game, but made five receptions as a freshman.
 
"Our returners did a great job this summer working out and I expect big, big things from them," Keane said.
 
In the Yotes three receiver set, a deep group of 19 wide-outs are battling for playing time – a huge mix of returners, transfers, and true freshmen.
 
"So much what we do at the receiver position in our offense is run blocking, these guys need to compete in run blocking to get themselves on the field and then we can find was to get them the ball in the passing game," Keane said. "Our receivers have to be tough and physically willing to block, because it opens up everything in our offense."
 
Returners Austin Diffey, Issac Gonzalez, and Zach Cooper were in the starting line-up most of the 2014 season and look improve on their initial campaign.  Diffey was the Yotes top possession receiver, making 42 receptions for 404 yards and a pair of touchdowns; Gonzalez was the primary deep threat, averaging 17.2 yards per reception; while the 6-foot, 4-inch Cooper made 10 receptions as a big outside target.
 
Fellow returners Levi Elsberry, Charlie Shepherd, and Lance Jones look to be more involved in the offense after being key special teams players in 2014.  Same can be said for redshirt transfers Shane Robinson and Colton Sweesy, who each had previous success at former schools.
 
"These guys have been great, the receivers have got tons and tons of reps in camp, a lot of 7-on-7, a lot of pass routes on air with the numbers we have, which has made each player better," Keane said.
 
Four transfers hope to make an immediate impact and shake up the rotation – juniors Terrence Young, Tyler Higby and Broch Cliff, along with sophomore Domenic Tolliver.  Young, from Diablo Valley College, had a dominant prep career where he had over 1,700 yards receiving and 16 touchdowns; Higby, a two-sport athlete, was a key receiver at Santa Barbara City College; while Tolliver saw action last season at Idaho State and was an All-City selection in Los Angeles as a prep. Cliff returns to the game after some time off, but was a two-time All-Southern Idaho Conference pick at Bishop Kelly High.
 
True freshmen will also be in the mix, as Zach Heinz, John Horn, Haziel Ledezma, Jackson Thompson and Scott Kautz look to get a grasp on the complex offensive scheme.  Heinz had a huge senior season at West Ranch High, making 62 receptions for 847 yards and 11 touchdowns; Horn averaged nearly 24 yards per reception at Yuba City High; Kautz recorded over 1,700 all-purpose yards at Sammamish High; with Ledezma and Thompson both two-sport athletes that won sprint state titles in track and field.
 
"We brought in some new guys into the receiver group and it has been fun to watch these guys push each other in camp," Keane said.
 
The unknown factor will be returning receivers Wes Fitzpatrick and Elijah Carter, who each had season-ending injuries early in the season.  Fitzpatrick was stellar in the season opener at Pacific, making eight receptions for 131 yards, while Carter had 10 catches before he was sidelined.
 
The Coyotes will host an intrasquad game on Thursday afternoon at 2 p.m. in preparation for the season opener, Aug. 29, vs. Eastern Oregon. Admission is free and it is open to the public.


Positional Preview - Special Teams

Contributed by admin on Aug 20, 2015 - 09:50 PM
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The eighth of a nine-part College of Idaho 2015 football team preview, focusing today on the Coyote special teams.
 
Improvement across the board will be the key for the Yotes special teams in 2015, especially in kick coverage, where the squad struggled at times a year ago.  New special teams coordinator Kyle Greenwood has simplified the schemes and responsibilities and looks for a big year from his crew.
 
C of I will have a new place kicker this season, as 2014 starter Luke Taylor did not return for his sophomore season after making 34-of-38 extra points and both of his field goal attempts.
 
Look for redshirt freshman Hartvig Bondo to handle the duties – providing a big leg that could allow the Yotes to attempt field goals at a longer distance (C of I did not attempt a kick longer than 25 yards in 2014). 
 
Bondo will share kickoff duties with two-sport athlete Joseph Bolin, who is also an All-Conference soccer player for the Yotes.  The duo will try to improve on a kick coverage unit that allowed opponents an average starting position on the 38-yard-line.
 
Holders Levi Elsberry and Zach Cooper return, along with long snapper Andy Forse, who will be pushed in camp byTaylor Oppedyk and transfer Michael Daw III.
 
Punter Kevin McLemore will continue to be a weapon for the Yotes after averaging 38.8 yards per punt last season, including 10 balls downed inside the 20 yard line.  The senior used a great combination of traditional and rugby punts last season, but will need help from his coverage teams, as C of I's net punting average was just 26.6 yards.
 
In the return game, the Yotes will have options – a great mix of returners and hopefuls.
 
Cory Brady was C of I's lone punt returner in 2014, averaging 12.5 yards an attempt, while also averaging 21 yards a kick return.  Both Grant Darrington and Elijah Carter also were successful in the kick return game, with Carter providing an 87-yard touchdown in the opening win over Pacific.
 
Returners Shayne Robinson and Marzett Davis will also be in the mix as a deep back.
 
Newcomers Tyler HigbyTerrence Young , and Morris Kroma will push the veterans.  Higby averaged nearly 25 yards a kickoff return and 16 yards a punt return in junior college; Young averaged 24 yards a kickoff return in junior college; while Kroma averaged 17 yards a punt return his senior year of high school.
 
The Coyotes will host an intrasquad game on tomorrow afternoon at 2 p.m. in preparation for the season opener, Aug. 29, vs. Eastern Oregon.  Admission is free.


Positional Preview - Outlook/Opponents

Contributed by admin on Aug 21, 2015 - 11:22 PM
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The final segment of a nine-part College of Idaho 2015 football team preview, taking a look back at 2014, what players the Yotes will need to replace, and a look ahead to the upcoming schedule.
 
A season under their belt, and returning nearly the entire nucleus of a 4-7 squad that played their first game in 37 years, optimism is high for the Yotes. If the C of I offense can become more balanced to take pressure off the quarterback position and if the defense can make adjustments after a rough first year, the Coyotes could prove to be spoilers throughout the Frontier Conference season.  Conference coaches see the potential, voting the Yotes sixth in the preseason coaches' poll.
 
The big unknown was the entirety of the Coyote football program 12 months ago, as C of I was embarking on their first gridiron campaign in nearly four decades.  The undersized group of primarily freshmen stunned the football world in September of 2014 – first going on the road to defeat a senior-laden Pacific University team, 35-34, and then returning home to outlast a quality Montana Western squad before a sellout crowd, 31-28.
 
In all, the Coyotes opened the season 3-1 – including rolling up over 500 yards of total offense in a victory over Montana Tech. The team pushed their record to 4-2 in October, using a last minute touchdown and a last second goal line stop to defeat Montana State Northern, 35-31.
 
However, the rigors of the brutal Frontier Conference schedule caught up with the upstarts – five total games against Top-20 teams, including three of the final four weeks of the season – as C of I closed the season on a five-game losing streak.
 
The Yotes offense was solid, averaging over 200 yards rushing per game and had three different players record 100-yard rushing games.  The defense, which had eight freshmen starters, struggled against the potent offenses in the loop, allowing 492 yards per game – including three games against Top-5 clubs in which they rolled up over 600 yards in total offense.
 
In all, the offense should not skip a beat, as all 11 starters return and 27 players with game experience provide a solid group to begin with.  Key recruits in the back field and at the skill positions will make the Yotes even more explosive.
 
Defensively, the Coyotes will need to replace sack leader Tyler Andreason and linebacker Kyle Cothern, who each did not return this season.  However, nine starters return and 24 players with game experience is a good base to begin with.  Recruiting focused on the defensive line and secondary, which should help the club be more physical up front and have more size and speed in the among the defensive backs.
 
The 2015 schedule is a mirror image of last season, as C of I will play the same eight teams – including six home dates at Simplot Stadium, where the Yotes posted a 3-2 record and averaged over 4,500 fans per game.
 
The Aug. 29 opener vs. Eastern Oregon (will also travel to EOU on Nov. 7) is the earliest start date in program history.  The Mountaineers (8-3) are coming off their best season in program history and open 2015 ranked No. 13 in the NAIA Top-25 poll.  The offense revolves around returning quarterback Zach Bartlow, who passed for 2,318 yards and added 523 yards on the ground, while All-America receiver Jace Billingsley had 637 yards receiving and 891 yards rushing in 2014.  The EOU defense is paced by end Kyle Lanoue and corner Byron Benson, who each earned All-Conference honors.  The Mountaineers return five starters on offense and six defensive starters, but will need to replace four of their five offensive linemen.
 
The Coyotes will play back-to-back home games for the first time since starting 1977 with three consecutive dates at Simplot Stadium, hosting former Northwest Conference rival Pacific on Sept. 5.  The Boxers (6-3) rallied from a 0-2 start last season to earn a share of their first conference title since 1952 – including a six-game win streak.  Quarterback Warner Shaw threw for 1,814 yards last season, but lost his top three receivers to graduation.  Defensively, All-NWC picks  in linebacker Jack Perez and end Jeff Bajoma return to anchor front seven.
 
A week later, the Yotes hit the road, making the first of three trips to Montana, meeting Montana Western (will also host UMW on Halloween).  The Bulldogs (6-5) played two tight games against C of I last season, rallying for a last minute November home win.  Western will have to replace signal-caller Tyler Hulse, but leading rusher Sam Rutherford, who ran for 1,063 yards in 2014, is a good base to build on.  The Bulldogs also return two of the top linebackers in the Frontier Conference in All-Conference picks A.J. Wilson and Joe Coker.
 
Homecoming hits Caldwell on Sept. 19 and the Coyotes did not duck the competition, as defending NAIA champions and preseason No. 1 ranked Southern Oregon heads to town (C of I travels to SOU on Oct. 24).  The Raiders (13-2) return six offensive and seven defensive starters, but have to replace all-everything quarterback Austin Dodge, who passed for 5,607 yards and 52 touchdowns in 2014 and established career NAIA records for passing yards and touchdowns.  Gone are the top-two receivers from a year ago, but SOU returns 1,000-yard rusher Melvin Mason along with Matt Retzlaff, who had 56 receptions.  Defensively, linebacker Joseph Lenlofi anchors an underrated Raiders defensive unit that came up big in the 2014 postseason.
 
C of I closes out the first half of the season on Sept. 26 at Montana Tech, as the Orediggers (1-9) look to rebound after a rough 2014 season.  Gone is the all-time leading rusher in Tech history in Pat Hansen, while Montana State transfer Quinn McQueary will battle Dawson Reardon and Andrew Loudenback for the quarterback spot, after the returning duo combined for over 1,700 yards and 16 touchdowns.  Defensively, All-America linebacker David Meis is the key component of the Digger front seven.
 
Following a bye week, the Yotes make the 700 mile exodus to Montana State Northern for their first ever game at Blue Pony Stadium.  The Lights (3-8) struggled last season due to a coaching change just before the start of fall camp and never fully recovered.  Frontier Conference rushing champ Zach McKinley, who tallied 1,425 yards in 2014, will be Northern's featured back, while All-Conference defensive end Tyler Craig leads a defense that held the Yotes in check in the second half of last season's wild 35-31 C of I win.
 
C of I returns home on Oct. 17 for a meeting with Rocky Mountain, as the Bears (5-6) are coming off a disappointing 2014 season.  Rocky will break in a new quarterback this season, but whomever wins the job will have two-time All-America receiver Andre McCullough to work with, as McCullough is coming off an 87 reception season, good for 1,161 yards.  All-Conference safety Eric Buer and defensive lineman Brendon Johnson key the Bears defense.
 
After return meetings against SOU, Western, and EOU, the Yotes close the season Nov. 14 against perennial Frontier Conference power Carroll.  The Saints (10-2) won the 2014 conference title and advanced to the national quarterfinals, where they were eliminated by Southern Oregon in a blizzard, 42-40.  Carroll returns six starters on each side of the ball – including quarterback Mac Roche, who passed for 2,942 yards and 28 touchdowns, completing 67-percent of his attempts.  Defensive backs James Dowgin and Shayne Durbin are key to the Saints success, as Carroll must replace two-time All-America linebacker in Sean Blomquist.
 
The Coyotes open the 2015 season next Saturday afternoon, hosting Eastern Oregon at 1 p.m.

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