Saturday, April 19, 2014

OU football coach touts Braves’ new recruits

By CLINTON DICK, Herald Staff Writer | 8/7/2013

Ottawa University’s head football coach spoke highly of the Braves’ incoming recruiting class Wednesday at the 2013 Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference Football Media Day at the Marriott Hotel in Wichita.

“We feel as a staff this is one of the best recruiting classes, especially from a freshman standpoint, that we’ve ever had,” Kent Kessinger said. “They are talented. They gotta learn our system.”

Ottawa University’s head football coach spoke highly of the Braves’ incoming recruiting class Wednesday at the 2013 Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference Football Media Day at the Marriott Hotel in Wichita.

“We feel as a staff this is one of the best recruiting classes, especially from a freshman standpoint, that we’ve ever had,” Kent Kessinger said. “They are talented. They gotta learn our system.”

The new recruits will be a key component of this year’s Braves football team as they look for their third consecutive KCAC championship. In Kessinger’s ninth year as Ottawa’s head coach, the Braves went 8-3 and 8-1 in the KCAC last season. They also were picked second in the conference in both the media and coaches preseason polls at the media day.

Kessinger noted the Braves are expected to return about 35 to 40 lettermen this year after graduating 23 seniors from last year’s squad. He addressed one of the more pressing issues on the offensive side of the ball — where Ottawa returns six starters from last season — at the quarterback position.

“We are going to have to fill the quarterback spot, which somehow we’ve figured out how to do over the past couple of years,” Kessinger said. “We have a couple of guys who went through spring football with us.”

While there now are four quarterbacks on the Braves’ roster, Kessinger spoke of two who are in the running for the starting job: Michael Behr and Marshall Wethington. Behr is a junior transfer from Antioch, Calif., and previously played with Los Mendanos College. Wethington is a true freshman recruit from Wamego High School. Kessinger spoke highly of Wethington at the conference saying, “He can compete right away.”

The hole at quarterback comes after the loss of previous senior quarterback Shane Gimzo, who led the team in rushing last year with 754 yards and 13 touchdowns and passing with 2,355 yards and 24 touchdowns.

Of the returning offensive starters, three are on the offensive line, and the Braves also return their top two receivers, Jon Hilliger and Travis Adamson, both of whom are team captains, Kessinger said.

Hilliger enters his senior season at wide receiver and was a first team All-KCAC selection following a stellar performance last season. Hilliger led the team in receiving by a country mile with 93 receptions for 1,115 yards and 14 touchdowns. Adamson, also a senior, was second on the team with 43 receptions for 563 yards and three touchdowns. Both helped lead the Braves’ offense, which finished second in the conference scoring offense and fourth in total offense per game.

Kessinger did not talk much about the Braves’ defense, which was seventh in the KCAC last season in total defense. Both Jake Grantz, senior linebacker, and Weston Coomes, senior outside linebacker, will be team captains this year, he said.

The Braves have a tough schedule ahead of them this year, Kessinger said.

“We report this week and get ready for the toughest schedule I think I’ve ever been associated with at Ottawa University,” Kessinger said.

Ottawa’s non-conference schedule begins 6 p.m. Sept. 7 at Baker University in Baldwin City, followed by a rematch of last year’s playoff game against Missouri Valley College 6 p.m. Sept. 14 in Ottawa. Missouri Valley College ended the Braves’ season last year with a 56-21 win. The first KCAC game is scheduled for 7 p.m. Sept. 21 against Bethany College in Lindsborg.

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