Part nine in a ten part series previewing the 2014 St. Xavier Football Tigers: New Coaches
Adam Billings: Offensive Line
Bart Bruner: Defensive Coordinator
Too hard to choose, honestly.
Neither were on the St. X staff last year, but they both bring more than enough coaching experience to the table.
In year two of the Will Wolford Era, we are focusing on two new additions to his staff. Both of them should have significant impacts on the direction of this year’s team.
Adam Billings returns to Poplar Level Road after resurrecting the football program at Elizabethtown High School. He will be tasked with coaching the offensive linemen. Billings has experience as a player on the O-Line, and he knows how important his guys are. He won two state championships as a player at St. X under Mike Glaser and has held several coaching positions at schools in Tennessee, North Carolina, and Kentucky.
Billings brings out the best in his players, and the Tiger Offensive Lineman are already enjoying his tough and enthusiastic coaching style.
Bart Bruner returns to the St. X coaching staff as the head of the defense. He is a well-known figure, and many players already view him as the perfect fit.
“Coach Bruner is a great teacher,” linebacker Kyle Oliver said during the spring. “He is a good leader and a very intense guy. We all respect him greatly.”
Bruner’s energy and grit will certainly prepare the Tiger Defense for all the battles they will have this coming season.
Tiger Nation can be sure to see both coaches racing up and down the sidelines and shouting commands this fall.
Next up: Team Preview
Part Eight: Special Teams
Part Seven: Wide Receivers
Part Six: Defensive Backs
Part Five: Offensive Line and Tight Ends
Part Four: Defensive Line
Part Three: Running Backs
Part Two: Linebackers
Part One: Quarterbacks
Part eight in a ten part series previewing the 2014 St. Xavier Football Tigers: Special Teams
With Football being a game of inches, every phase of the game is extremely important to the outcome of the game. Many times, the Special Teams unit is over looked as a key component to a championship team. At any level, it is teams with great special teams play that usually sets them apart from average teams and puts them on the same level as great teams. This year’s Tiger Football team has arguably one of the best Special Teams groups it has had in recent memory.
Jack Werner 6’3, 185 lbs. Sr.
Ben Logsdon 6’3, 160 lbs. Sr.
Mason King 6’4, 178 lbs. Sr.
Michael Bennett 5’8, 155 lbs. Sr.
Kicker Ben Logsdon said he is most likely “three weeks away” from being 100 percent after battling mono. The sickness caused his spleen to rupture, which required emergency surgery. However, he is recovering and will be back on the field.
Logsdon’s kicking on the field will be limited to extra points early this season once he has fully recovered from the surgery, but seeing #15 run out there to finish off a drive will be a moment Tiger Nation will remember.
Fellow senior Michael Bennett will handle the kickoff responsibilities and longer distance field goal kicking for the Tigers. Bennett holds the nickname “Big Foot” because of his smaller stature, but tremendous kicking ability.
Punting for the Tigers this year will be Mason King, and his great power will be a weapon for St. X. Getting things started in the punting game will be long snapper Jack Werner. Werner is a great talent at the long snapping position and could see interest from colleges if he decides to pursue the game of football any further because of his length and developing speed.
All in all, it is safe to say that the Tiger Football team’s special teams unit is one of the best in the state and will keep the Tigers in a lot of games and potentially win them in the clutch moments of the season. Look for big things out of this group in the fall.
Next up: New Coaches
Part seven in a ten part series previewing the 2014 St. Xavier Football Tigers: Wide Receivers
Jaylon Hibbs 6’0, 178 lbs. Sr.
Andrew Walker 6’2, 160 lbs. Sr.
Mason King 6’2, 164 lbs. Sr.
Griffin Ackerman 5’10, 175 lbs. Sr.
Michael Ackerman 5’7, 158 lbs. Sr.
Jack Werner 6’3, 185 lbs. Sr.
J.R. Johnson 5’3 105 lbs. Sr.
The position with the most turnover heading into 2014 is the Wide Receiver spot by far. Nine members of the Class of 2013 saw playing time at this position last season and leave huge shoes to fill for those heading into their Senior year this season. Jaylon Hibbs is one that will be a major contributor to the receiving group this fall and one that will excite members of the Tiger Nation with his big size and play making ability.
Hibbs along with cousins, Michael and Griffin Ackerman, look to lead the passing attack, running crisp routes for fellow Senior, Quarterback Noah Houk. Junior Colin O’Daniel is another name to remember when looking at projected contributors who will make an impact on the offensive side of the ball.
Overall, it will be another Senior led position in 2014 without much experience returning from the 2013 campaign, but after watching spring practice and hearing reports of how things are going this summer, there will be plenty of things to cheer about with these pass-catchers this upcoming season!
Next up: Special Teams
Part six in a ten part series previewing the 2014 St. Xavier Football Tigers: Defensive Backs
Tyler Boarman 5’11 168 lbs. Sr.
Jackie Arnold 6’0, 173 lbs. Sr.
Davey Sermersheim 5’10, 155 lbs. Sr.
Brandon Blaser 5’9, 155 lbs. Sr.
Ty Spalding 6’0, 160 lbs. Sr.
This group should be the most interesting to keep tabs on this fall. A lot of playmakers will be defending opponent’s wide outs this season, like senior Tyler Boarman, who saw a lot of time last year at the safety position. He will be the leader of this secondary and the unit as a whole. Look for Boarman to have a break out season and most likely get some looks from colleges due to his play.
Jake Ballard is a junior that played on the JV level last season but stood out to the coaching staff in the spring earning him first team reps in the spring game two months ago. Ballard is a big body that will be able to move quickly in order to play the run or go up and knock down a jump ball to a taller receiver.
If you look above, I listed all Seniors in the “Depth Chart” category. This group has played together now for four years and will look to play as one in hopes of winning the program’s first state championship since 2009. With the help of some younger players like Ballard and Ian Kania, this could be a really good group of defensive backs for Coach Bart Bruner, who returns to the coaching staff as defensive coordinator.
Next up: Wide Receivers
Part five in a ten part series previewing the 2014 St. Xavier Football Tigers: Offensive Line and Tight Ends
Matthew Boeckman 6-0, 295 Jr.
Michael Sehlinger 6-2, 245 Sr.
Nathan Scheler 6-2, 270 Sr.
Palmer Thompson 6-2, 260 Sr.
Tyler Haycraft 6-4, 265 Sr.
Davis Kannapell 6-3, 220 Sr.
Two experienced guys in Nathan Scheler and Tyler Haycraft return as starters for the Tigers on the offensive line. They will anchor the offensive attack and be the key to success in bringing along the other three new starters who fill massive shoes in Ryan Karrer (Lindsey Wilson), John Kurtz (Cincinnati) and Austin Askin (Eastern Illinois).
New offensive line coach Adam Billings has made an immediate impact this off-season in helping bolster the technique and toughness of this group. His head coaching background will certainly be an important asset to the coaching staff and really assist in the development of the big guys leading the way for the Tiger Offense.
At the Tight End position, three guys will see quality minutes: Davis Kannapell, Noah Gruneisen and David Palmer. They can all block well and step into the flats to receive a pass from Noah Houk if needed as well.
Next up: Defensive Backs
Part four in a ten part series previewing the 2014 St. Xavier Football Tigers: Defensive Line
When building a defense, the guys up front are the foundation of stopping an offense. The 2013 Tiger Football team had a lot of talent at that spot a season ago and will be a challenge for those still on the roster to fill that production. With that being said, there are more than a few members of this year’s team ready to fill those shoes. Let’s take a look at the 2014 Tiger Football Defensive Line.
Ethan Adams 6-3, 220 Jr.
Tucker Donlon 6-1, 260 Jr.
Will Edwards 6-0, 205 Sr.
Christian Fell 6-2, 270 Sr.
Patrick Zehnder 6-1, 225 Sr.
Carson Kehres 5-11, 315 Sr.
Tucker Donlon and Ethan Adams will be forces to be reckoned with on the Tigers’ defensive line this season. Depth will be the thing to look at heading into the season because with good teams on the schedule, there are formidable offensive lines that these guys will go up against on a week-by-week basis. Their toughness will be a strength of this group and will be fun to watch. Carson Kehres has phenomenal tweets, but will also be a big contributor to the run defense this season.
Next up: Offensive Line and Tight Ends
Part three in a ten part series previewing the 2014 St. Xavier Football Tigers: Running Backs
Taijon Smith 5-9, 170 Sr.
Chase Rowan 5-11, 167 Jr.
Wes Taylor 5-9, 160 Sr.
John Martinez 5-9, 160 Jr.
Jack Doherty 5-11, 205 Sr.
The running back position will be crucial to the success of the Tiger Football Offense. Smith and Rowan show signs of being capable of having break out seasons in 2014.
The two had great running backs to learn from as underclassmen in Charles Walker, Austin Davis and Treyveon Purcell, who carried almost all of the load in the running game in 2013. Rowan and Smith had carries in the majority of games which will help them with experience this season as they take the reigns. Rowan tore it up on the JV level which hopefully will help his transition be more smooth heading into his junior season and first full varsity year.
Houk has a great arm, but the success of the air attack will rely heavily on the success of the running attack. The Tigers must get a lot on the ground to help open the flood gates of the air-it-out offense Houk loves.
Keep your eyes on sophomore-to-be Blake Roshkowski. He has a Varsity ready build that has a lot of athleticism and a state title already under his belt as a member of the Tiger Lacrosse team this spring. He may be a nice change up to the running styles of Taijon and Chase.
Next up: Defensive Line
Part two in a ten part series previewing the 2014 St. Xavier Football Tigers: Linebackers
LOLB: Clark Campbell
SLB: Kyle Oliver
MLB: Connor Barnes
ROLB: Dylan McFarland
SPRING PRACTICE BATTLES
Barnes is safe, but seniors Trace Amshoff, Parker Maddox, and junior Logan Butler will be seeking to unseat one of the other seniors at the top of the depth chart.
There’s no hiding from it; replacing Andrew McCormick, Spencer Foy, Wes Parker, Malik Carr, and Evan Caffee all at once is almost an impossible task. Faced with the daunting proposition of filling the shoes of one of the best linebacker corps in recent Tiger Football history, this year’s linebackers have their work cut out for them. However, there is more than a fair share of bright spots.
You couldn’t choose a better rock to start the reloading process than Connor Barnes. He’s big (6’2″ , 190 lbs.) and quick with superior instincts off the snap of the ball. When we talk about a middle linebacker, he is essentially the heart and soul of the defense, the quarterback on the other side of the ball. The middle linebacker is the coach on the field during games, and all the other players on defense play off of him. You can’t really have better intangibles than Barnes possesses. He’s enthusiastic yet humble, and all he wants to do is get on the field and in the weight room and get better, faster, and stronger. He’s also dealt with injuries for multiple periods in seasons prior, so he is used to toughing it out while being nicked up. If you wanted to make a mold of what an inside linebacker should be, you make a mold of Connor Barnes.
Sam linebacker Kyle Oliver candidly summed his thoughts on his role: “A linebacker’s job is to set the tone.” And, wouldn’t you know it, Oliver can definitely set a tone for the defense. He’s a bit undersized (6’0″, 190 lbs.), but what he gives up in size he more than makes up for with pure grit. He is tough as nails and shies away from no one; his game isn’t always pretty, but it’s effective. Plain and simple, this is a guy you want to go to war with.
The most interesting two players to watch, however, may be the two outside linebackers. Although Clark Campbell is a senior, he is still a newcomer in the sense that this season will be his first playing on the defensive side of the ball, as he bounced around the wide receiver and running back positions in his first three seasons. He could become a stalwart from his position on the left edge of the defense, as his elite athleticism will make him a demon coming off the edge. Although he might need to add some weight to his body over the course of the season to have better bulk and avoid injuries, Campbell has major potential; he has the speed and agility to cover tight ends or even slot receivers one-on-one, while still packing enough power to shed blocks and make plays in space against an opponent’s running game. His pure quickness and athleticism could prove to make him a ferocious pass-rusher, too. We will have to see just how defensive coordinator Bart Bruner utilizes Campbell, but one thing is for sure; Coach Bruner should be extremely excited to plug this athlete into the defensive equation.
In addition to being critically-acclaimed for his numerous vines, Dylan McFarland also has the potential to become an absolute stud on the right side of the defense. Of all the linebackers, McFarland most closely resembles the pillars that are graduating from a size standpoint (6’2″, 202 lbs.). The thing that could potentially turn McFarland into a star is his deceptive speed and agility for his size; as a junior last season, McFarland was able to make some huge hits covering kickoffs because he was able to generate such a huge amount of force in such a small amount of time using his size and speed. Much like Campbell, McFarland could potentially supply valuable versatility as a guy who can be a monster stopping the run, blowing up blocks and neutralizing an entire side of an offense line, and also pin his ears back and be an animal rushing the passer.
While these linebackers don’t bring to the table the size that characterized last year’s group, they do bring just as much, if not more, speed and quickness to the equation. Barnes and Oliver are guys who can cover sideline-to-sideline, and the outside linebackers could become downright scary. If I’m Coach Bruner looking at this group of guys, I am licking my chops and chomping at the bit to see just how good the group can get.
As long as Barnes stays healthy, this unit could shape up to be a pretty darn good linebacker corps. Without a doubt, the x-factor is the outside linebackers. Campbell and McFarland have the ability to take this group to the next level and change the way teams approach the Tiger defense as a whole, and they are excited to start to bring that vision to life. In the words of Campbell, “I think we are going to shock a lot of people.”
Next up: Running Backs
Part one in a ten part series previewing the 2014 St. Xavier Football Tigers: Quarterbacks
The signal callers are arguably the most important part of a team. They are the leader on and off the field and is who everyone looks to when a big play needs to be made. Tiger Football has a great one stepping into graduated B.J. Nagle’s shoes this season. Houk had significant playing time during 2013 as he went back and forth with Nagle under center, but this season the team is his. All off-season long, you could find Noah putting in extra work with the wide receivers and running backs along with his father, legendary St. X quarterback Jeff Houk, who is an assistant coach for the Tigers.
Noah Houk 6-4, 190 Sr.
A.J. Breit 5-11, 150 Jr.
Desmond Ridder 6-3 160 So.
Corey Chitwood 5-10, 150 Jr.
SPRING PRACTICE BATTLES
Backup QB: Will A.J. Breit or Desmond Ridder come out on top?
“With it being St. X High School and St. X Football, every year it’s state championship or bust.” – Noah Houk
St. X will be in good hands with Houk. On just the first practice of the season, you could already see him driving balls into tight windows with pinpoint accuracy and solid velocity. Ridder mentioned that his biggest goal of the spring is to improve his footwork since it is crucial for quarterbacks because the way they move their feet directly affects the velocity and accuracy of the throw. To be consistently accurate and precise with passes, a quarterback has to have proper motion from the ground up, so it’s great to see Ridder and the guys are focusing on key areas of their games.
Breit is making the jump from JV to Varsity, and he mentioned his biggest goal was to get bigger and stronger to help his transition to the much-faster pace of varsity high school football. One thing the coaching staff really stressed during the first spring practice was “throwing the receiver open.” This takes a sharp mental clock and chemistry with receivers, so as spring practice moves on, look for all the quarterbacks to improve in this area as well as they begin to build a relationship with their receivers and backs.
All in all, it was a promising start for the Tiger Quarterbacks. They will continue to progress without doubt as the season gets closer and closer, and Coach Houk will have these guys ready to come out guns-a-blasin’ when St. X opens their season against Ballard on Friday, August 22nd at Br. Thomas More Stadium.
Next up: Linebackers