Frostburg, Md. ...
The Frostburg State University football team will be looking to return to its winning ways in 2001 after last year's injury-riddled 4-6 finish that snapped the program's string of 11 consecutive winning seasons.
While second-year head coach Rubin Stevenson returns 23 letterwinners and 13 starters from a squad that dropped three games by 10 points or less a year ago, health may be of more importance than experience as the Bobcats chase their second Atlantic Central Football Conference title in the last three years.
"Health will be the key for us this season," Stevenson said. "If we avoid major injuries, we should be more productive than last year."
The Bobcats hope the increased production begins with the offense, which sustained several key injuries along the line and in the backfield and averaged just 15.5 points per game. This year's unit features a projected starting front line that could rank among the best in school history.
Senior Phil Wagner (6-4, 255) and junior Matt Smith (6-0, 300) will protect the left side and give the Bobcats a solid and experienced tandem.
Wagner saw substantial action last season, starting several games at tackle, while Smith, a second-team All-ACFC selection at guard last season, has started all 21 games in his career and brings strength and experience to the front line.
Junior Ryan Long (6-5, 260) will handle the starting center duties. Long will also serve as the team's long snapper as he did a year ago.
The right side will feature sophomore guard Jason Cutsail (6-1, 280) and junior tackle Chris Golliday (6-1, 270).
Cutsail enjoyed a solid rookie season after being inserted into the starting lineup due to injuries.
Golliday, who underwent major back surgery in the spring of 2000, returned sooner than expected and played the final three games last season, where he graded out as the team's best offensive lineman over that span.
Depth up front will be an issue, and several young players will be looking to compete for back-up roles.
Senior Andrew Dinbokowitz (6-5, 235) returns at the tight end spot after starting all 10 games last season and catching 10 passes for 88 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He is a solid player with good size, hands and speed, and should be among the top tight ends in the league.
The Bobcats will once again be young at the wide receiver position after losing leading receiver Reggie Brown (18 catches for 295 yards and three touchdowns) for the year with an injury suffered during the spring track season.
Junior Aaron Deeb (6-0, 185) and sophomore Anthony Long (6-2, 182) will be two of FSU's primary targets.
Deeb ranked third on the squad in both catches (11) and receiving yards (107) last season and hauled in his first career touchdown in the Bobcats' 13-0 win over New Jersey City. Long, a transfer from Liberty University, will be looked upon to step in and produce right away.
Sophomore Billy Trentzsch (6-3, 180) and freshman Randy Belt (6-0, 190), who transferred from Virginia State in the spring and is also a pole vaulter on the track and field team, are among several young receivers expected to battle for playing time.
The Bobcat running attack will be led by senior DeNelle Hale (5-9, 170), who returns as the team's featured back after struggling through injuries that limited him to just 56 carries for 136 yards and a touchdown last year.
Hale looks to return to his form of 1999, when he earned second-team All-ACFC honors after leading FSU with 209 carries and 957 yards while adding eight touchdowns.
A host of young and untested players will battle for playing time behind Hale, including sophomores Ed Kearney (5-9, 165), Alvin Akintimehin (5-9, 180) and Tim Pearson (5-7, 160).
Among the team's biggest uncertainties is the fullback position, where the Bobcats will have to replace the graduated Phil Swann and Chris Perkins, who combined for over 500 rushing yards and four touchdowns.
This spot will be looked at heavily during the preseason, with a number of candidates vying for the starting role.
An area of confidence is at quarterback, where junior Grant Burrough (6-3, 195) returns as the scheduled starter.
Burrough stepped into the starting lineup in the final three games when senior Billy Jackson was injured, completed 26-of-56 passes for 261 yards and three touchdowns and guided the Bobcats to victories over New Jersey City and Greensboro. He will be among the keys to the team's offensive success in 2001.
"Grant has all the tools," Stevenson commented. "He's got a great arm, he's tall, he can run the football and he's not scared to get hit. It's his time to be the player we think he's capable of being; he's got the potential to be one of the top quarterbacks to play at Frostburg State."
While Burrough has the advantage of game experience, he may be challenged by red-shirt freshman Chris Chavis (6-1, 170) and incoming freshman Michael Pfisterer (5-10, 180).
Chavis showed a lot of promise before getting injured in preseason camp last year, while Pfisterer earned first-team All-Met honors after becoming Maryland's high school career leader in passing yards (over 6,700) and touchdowns (70).
Defense has been a stalwart of Frostburg State football in each of Stevenson's nine years as the unit's coordinator, and the Red and Black should again rank among the nation's best in 2001 despite losing six starters.
The Bobcats, who have led the ACFC in sacks in each of the last two seasons, will feature another strong defensive front led by junior end Allen Jordan (6-2, 225).
A first-team All-ACFC and honorable mention All-ECAC Southwest selection last year, Jordan posted 72 tackles and led the ACFC with nine sacks and 21 tackles for loss. His excellent speed and power, as well as top intensity, will again make him a force up front.
Joining Jordan on the opposite end will be junior Ron Luczak (6-2, 230), a smart and technically sound player who earned All-ACFC honorable mention recognition last season after recording 58 tackles, including 14 for loss and four sacks.
"Allen has a motor that never stops, and Ron is always around the football," said Stevenson. "I'd rank those guys as one of the top pairs of defensive ends in the country."
Freshman Jared Toler (6-3, 265), who played in the Maryland/Virginia Super 44 All-Star Game, will battle for playing time at the defensive end spot, as will several other newcomers.
Junior George O'Brien (6-4, 235) is the frontrunner for the starting nod at defensive tackle. He moved from the end to the middle of the line late last season and showed marked improvement with five tackles, including two for loss and a sack.
Senior Kurtus Ormberg (6-1, 218) is the leading candidate to start at nose guard after appearing in three games and recording six tackles last year.
Freshman Vince Parker (5-11, 235) will also battle for time.
One major change for the Bobcats will be at linebacker, where Stevenson loses all four of last year’s starters from an area that has been a traditional strength of the FSU defense.
Senior Jed Smith (5-7, 180), sophomore A.B. Wilson (6-1, 190) and John McGraw (6-0, 185) will battle for the outside positions. Each saw limited action last season (combining to play in six games) and will be looked upon for quick development and strong production.
The inside spots will feature a combination of junior Junior Carmona (5-11, 201), sophomores Andrew Siebert (6-0, 220) and David Lightner (5-10, 210) and freshman Tom Maholchic (5-9, 205). Carmona, Siebert and Lightner saw limited action a year ago.
"We'll be young and inexperienced at linebacker with four new players," said Stevenson. "We'll probably have more speed and overall athletic ability than last year, but just very little game experience."
The Bobcats took another hit with the loss of career interception leader Brian McElhenny (19 picks) to graduation, but they do return solid experience with fifth-year senior Derek Kirk (6-0, 170) at one of the cornerback positions.
Kirk earned All-ACFC honorable mention honors after tying for third in the league with 10 passes defended and finishing tied for fourth with four interceptions. He will be counted on for strong play and leadership.
A young group of returning players as well as several newcomers will be vying for the other cornerback position as well as the free safety spot.
Special teams will also receive a long look during the preseason, as Long and Hale are the lone returners.
Long will again handle the long-snapping duties, while Hale will double as the team's punt returner after his 15 returns for 117 yards a year ago. Carroll, Kirk and Pearson also saw action as kickoff and punt returners last season and may do so again in 2001.
The kicking duties are yet to be determined, but coaches expect freshmen Nick Quisgard (6-0, 165) and Jarred Boehner (5-10, 167), an All-Met honorable mention selection, to battle for the starting punter and kicker spots.
While uncertainty surrounds several positions heading into preseason camp, one sure thing is that Frostburg State will again face a very challenging schedule.
For the third straight year, the Bobcats open against a Division I-AA opponent, as the Red & Black visit Marist College to kickoff the year. FSU then hosts perennial power Allegheny before hitting the road against 2000 NCAA playoff participant Brockport State.
The tough road continues with games at both defending ACFC champion and NCAA playoff participant Wesley and league newcomer Apprentice, home contests against Chowan, Catholic and Waynesburg, and the season-finale against state rival Salisbury in the Third Annual Regents Cup to be played at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C.
Without a doubt the Bobcats have a daunting task ahead of them.
"We certainly have our work cut out for us," said Stevenson. "Marist is a big, physical team; Allegheny, Catholic, Wesley and Brockport are all playoff contenders; Waynesburg's always been a tough opponent for us; and Salisbury is our traditional rival.
"We need to stay healthy, and our offense may have to tow the line while our young guys on defense mature. We want to get back to the winning ways for which Frostburg State football is known."
For further information on this release, contact:
Office of Sports Information
Frostburg State University
101 Braddock Road
Frostburg, MD 21532-2303