Monday, October 20, 2014

OU defense shines in spring

By Greg Mast/Herald Sports Editor | 4/21/2014

Spring football is a time for growing. Not only as individual players, but also as a unit.

Ottawa University football coach Kent Kessinger felt the Braves accomplished that goal in its 15 practices and spring game.

Spring football is a time for growing. Not only as individual players, but also as a unit.

Ottawa University football coach Kent Kessinger felt the Braves accomplished that goal in its 15 practices and spring game.

“In areas we had our returners, you could see a lot of growth,” he said. “The whole team progressed.”

Kessinger said the defense is ahead of the offense as the spring practices closed April 12 with the spring game.

“Defensively, we are going to be very good,” Kessinger said. “We don’t lose much playing experience.”

The defensive line showed its strength in the depth department. Kessinger said the group can be two-deep and not show a lot of drop off.

“That is a huge change for us,” he said. “We put a lot of scholarship dollars into our defense.”

The defensive backfield appears to be strong led by senior DeVontae Corbitt, who earned all-conference honors last year.

“He has to be that guy that can lead from the back end for us,” Kessinger said. “He has to get us into a lot of different adjustments. He is most comfortable at safety.

“Coltin Ghumm has been tremendous for us. CJ Whittington has had a good spring, That is a big help.”

The offense needed to find some linemen and receivers, but also give all the returners more work in the system. Kessinger said senior quarterback Michael Behr has a firmer grasp of the offense now.

The Braves had three junior college transfers to work into the offensive line mix.

“I am happy with the way they performed,” Kessinger said. “The OL group that is where you win or lose football games. That is an area of concern. How they are going to grow and meld together?”

Behr has better understanding where the receivers are supposed to be in certain situations.

“He understands the concept,” Kessinger said. “We need to build through the summer time. We are trying to break in receivers. That is going to be a key for us. Get timing with the quarterbacks. Offensively. I was happy with the way spring went.”

The deepest part of the team is at running back led by senior All-American Luke Lundy.

“We can go five guys that are solid,” Kessinger said. “We added a couple of young guys. Dexter Hayes and Tanner Staats had great springs. The key with those guys, we have to get them all touches. We will run two-back stuff.”

Kessinger said the depth will allow Ottawa to mix things up offensively.

“On offense, you have to have multiplicity,” he said. “Tanner can be a swing guy for us.”

Ottawa, 8-4 last year, will need to become stronger with the schedule that includes five ranked teams in the NAIA spring poll. Ottawa is ranked No. 14.

Ottawa opens the season with No. 5 Baker at home. Next is No. 11 Benedictine, plus games with conference foes Tabor (No. 8), Sterling (No. 15) and Friends (No. 19).

“We play a lot of good guys right off,” Kessinger said. “It gets our guys are ready for the conference. It is going to be wide open. Tabor, Sterling and Friends will be strong.”

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