FROSTBURG, Md. -
After a disappointing 2-8 season a year ago, Frostburg State has almost nowhere to go but up in 2005. With 13 returning starters, including eight on defense, sixth-year Head Coach Rubin Stevenson and the Bobcats will look to rebound and challenge for their fourth Atlantic Central Football Conference title in the league’s six-year history.
The FSU defense, boosted by the return of senior All-American defensive end Kevin Culbert (Purcellville, Va./Loudoun Valley), should be the strength of the team this fall.
Culbert, who as a junior earned several All-America honors after making 80 tackles, including 22 for loss and 10 sacks, was a pre-season All-America selection by three organizations last year.
However, his season came to a quick end thanks to a hand injury he suffered against SUNY Brockport in the third game.
Culbert was on pace for another stellar season with 32 tackles, including 10.5 for loss and 3.0 sacks, before the injury. He earned ACFC Defensive Player of the Week honors after making 14 tackles, including 5.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks, in the season-opener against Apprentice.
Senior nose tackle Justin Bressler (Hollywood, Md./Leonardtown) and junior defensive end Ryan Cutsail (Middletown, Md./Middletown) will join Culbert to give the Bobcats one of the most experienced lines in the conference.
Bressler played in all 10 games last year, starting eight, and made 28 tackles. Cutsail has started all but one of his 19 collegiate games and is a two-time All-ACFC pick. Last year, he made 49 tackles, including a career-high 10 against Salisbury in the season finale.
The defensive front will have excellent depth with sophomores Gabe Ellis (Laurel, Del./Delmar) and Kyle Steele (Fallston,Md./North Harford).
Ellis, who started the final seven contests in place of Culbert, earned second-team All-ACFC honors after posting 51 tackles and 3.5 sacks. Steele saw valuable playing time and posted four tackles on the year.
The linebacker unit took a major hit with the losses of James Clash (graduation) and Mo Fokou (transferred to the University of Maryland), so Stevenson will look to senior Chris Lentz (Ashburn, Va./Broad Run) to lead the way from his inside spot.
Lentz, who has started each of FSU’s 30 games in his career, earned All-ACFC honorable mention honors last year after leading the Bobcats with a career-high 90 tackles, including 8.5 for loss and 3.5 sacks.
He posted a season-high 14 stops against Maryville to earn ACFC Defensive Player of the Week honors and had 13 tackles versus both Buffalo State and Wesley.
Junior Lathon Romaine (Chantilly, Va./Lake Braddock), who started five games and made 27 tackles last season, is the likely starter at the other inside position.
Junior Dan Nice (Mount Joy, Pa./Hempfield) is the frontrunner to fill Fokou’s outside spot and is pound-for-pound one of the strongest players on the team. Last season, he played in eight games and made 13 tackles.
Coaches will look to senior Mike Davis (Chesapeake City, Md./Bohemia Manor) to step up in place of Clash. Davis made 10 tackles, including 2.5 for loss, in limited action and was instrumental on special teams.
Redshirt freshman Brandon Wheelbarger (South Riding, Va./Broad Run), who missed last season with an injury, and promising freshman Kevin Glascock (Welcome, Md./Lackey) will also add quality depth to the linebacker corps.
Senior safety Jon Menz (Sykesville, Md./Glenelg) and junior cornerback Vincent Thomas (Upper Marlboro, Md./C.H. Flowers) return to lead the defensive backfield after starting every game last season.
Menz posted 52 tackles and paced the Bobcats with three interceptions. His best performance came against Waynesburg when he had a career-high 11 tackles to go along two pass breakups and an interception. Thomas made 20 tackles and added four pass breakups and an interception a year ago.
Sophomore Johan Owens (Baltimore, Md./City College) is the frontrunner for the other corner position after gaining valuable experience last year. In five games, he had eight tackles, one interception, one pass breakup and one forced fumble.
The other safety spot will be a battle among several candidates.
Sophomore Najier Frazier (Bowie, Md./Duval) made 20 tackles in nine contests last year, sophomore Palestine Croswell (Germantown, Md./Northwest) had three stops in five games and sophomore Jim Robertson (Sussex , N.J./High Point) had eight tackles in six appearances.
Junior Steve Skipper (Oakland, Md./Southern Garrett) and sophomore Derek Schrader (Meyersdale, Pa./Meyersdale) will also challenge for time.
Many questions surround the offense, which averaged just 12.7 points and 255.5 yards per game in 2004. Offensive coordinator Mike Silecchia joined the coaching staff just a week before the start of preseason camp, and the Bobcats simply needed time to adjust to new terminologies and philosophies.
Improved play over the final three games of the year as well as a strong spring practice season has given FSU reason for high expectations in 2005.
The front line should be strong with the return of four starters, but the Bobcats will have to adjust to the graduation of left tackle Jared Toler, a four-year starter and three-time first-team All-ACFC pick.
Junior Frank Boka, Jr. (Leonardtown, Md./Leonardtown) will move from his guard spot to fill the void. Boka has started 14 games over the last two seasons and has excellent footwork for his size (6-5, 340).
Senior Dave Kenderdine (West Lawn, Pa./Wilson) moves into the left guard spot after starting there the final two games of 2004, while junior Pete Wilson (Street, Md./North Harford) returns at right tackle, where he has started each of the last 19 contests.
Senior Jack Hopkins (Mount Airy, Md./Linganore) will anchor the line from the center spot, where he has six career starts. He is pound-for-pound one of the strongest players on the team and was the regular the final two games of last season.
The right guard position will be a battle between junior Glenn Jones (Campbell Hall, N.Y./Goshen Central), junior Bennett Carroll (Towson, Md./Towson ) and sophomore John Valcour (Sterling, Va./Park View). Several promising freshman should add depth along the entire line.
The quarterback position will be another contest in preseason camp, with junior lefthander Jimmy Ward (Poolesville, Md./Poolesville) having the advantage of experience as he started all 10 games last year.
Ward completed 140-of-283 passes for 1,544 yards but threw just 10 touchdown passes and was picked off 14 times. He will look to build upon his final three contests of 2004, during which he threw for 584 yards and five scores.
Ward will be challenged by sophomores Andre Dixon (Washington D.C./Eleanor Roosevelt) and Josh Hager (Baltimore, Md./Eastern Tech), who both showed promise towards the end of last season. Dixon has excellent running skills and can handle the option very well, while Hager is a proven winner from his high school career.
Freshman Kevin Wolpert (Columbia, Pa./Hempfield), a transfer from Millersville, will also compete for time.
Several players will battle at running back for the right to replace Mike Kitchen, the team’s leading rusher each of the last two seasons.
Sophomore Jimmy Meetre (Mt Airy, Md./South Carroll) was limited to just two games due to injury in 2004 but is a strong and physical player who was impressive in last year’s preseason camp. Talented sophomore Shanorm Young (Baltimore, Md./Baltimore Polytechnic) was moved from linebacker to running back in the spring and should push for time as well.
The fullback spot will be another heated competition in camp. Junior Antoine Lewis (Baltimore, Md./City College) is the team’s to returning runner from last year, having gained 31 yards on 13 attempts. He showed flashes on special teams, where he returned 13 kickoffs for 213 yards.
Sophomore Mike Perlozzo (Sayre, Pa./Athens), a transfer from Virginia Tech, should also see time after a strong spring.
The Bobcats suffered another key loss at wide receiver with the graduation of Adam J. Snyder, and a handful of young players will be looked at to step up and replace his production and leadership.
Junior Fred Howze (Upper Marlboro, Md./From the Heart Catholic) started all 10 games last season and caught 24 passes for 287 yards (12.0 average) and one touchdown, while classmate T. J. Changuris (Frederick, Md./Seneca Valley) had 13 receptions for 106 yards.
Juniors Bobby Alkire (Lonaconing, Md./Westmar) and Mike Gray (Baltimore, Md./City College) and sophomores Dan Duncan (Lonaconing, Md./Westmar) and Damian Shorter (Waldorf, Md./Lackey) will all look to make an impact.
Duncan saw time on the junior varsity last season, while Alkire (quarterback), Gray (defensive back) and Shorter (quarterback) are making the switch from another position.
The tight end spot will be open to competition with 11 candidates. The options are plenty, but none of the players are proven.
With so much to decide on offense, special teams play could be key to FSU’s success this season. Senior Chris Martin (Cumberland, Md./Fort Hill), who converted 3-of-6 extra point attempts and 1-of-2 field goal tries last year, and redshirt freshman Tom Vanik (Baltimore, Md./Catonsville), a transfer from Millersville who had a good showing in the spring, will compete for the punting and placekicking duties.
Young, junior Dorsey Walker (Temple Hills, Md./Oxon Hill) and freshman Desmond Wars (New Windsor, Md./Westminster) will battle at the kickoff and punt return positions.
The Bobcats will have to find answers to all of their questions quickly if they hope to have success against another difficult schedule. Four of FSU’s first five games are against ACFC foes, with the lone non-conference contest in that stretch the home-opener versus perennial regional power Montclair State.
FSU could face stiff challenges from schedule newcomers Thomas More (away) and Seton Hill (Homecoming), and a road game at Westminster is followed by the home finale against Waynesburg. The Bobcats then close out the regular season with their annual showdown against defending conference champion Salisbury in the Regents Cup Game.
"Our schedule is demanding as always, and our run through the first five games will answer a lot of questions," said Stevenson. "We must focus on competing in every game if we want to be successful this year."
For further information on this release, contact:
Office of Sports Information
Frostburg State University
101 Braddock Road
Frostburg, MD 21532-2303