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Ottawa University

The Ottawa Braves have been the gold standard in the KCAC over the last five seasons, finishing in first three times and second twice.  If anyone knows what it’s like to play each game with a target on their back, its coach Kent Kessinger and his Ottawa Braves.  Brave’s fans have become accustomed to the old adage “we don’t rebuild, we reload”.  That task, however, will be markedly more difficult this year than in the recent past.  The list of impact players that are gone now from the Braves program is incredible.  Leading that list is last year’s KCAC Player of the Year Shane Gimzo.  Gimzo now calls Warsaw, Poland home, where he plays pro ball for the Warsaw Eagles.  In addition to Gimzo, there are 5 other first team KCAC players who have graduated, one second team selection, and 5 more that were honorable mention.  That makes a total of 11 graduated players from last year’s squad who received all conference honors. Add to that 10 more seniors listed on last year’s roster, and you are looking at replacing 21 seasoned football players.  Replacing that amount of quality players is a huge task, but it is a challenge that coach Kessinger is up for.  “Going into this season, we will have a few questions to be answered.  We are replacing a good number of players from our 2012 KCAC Championship team, most notably will be at the quarterback position.  We have quite a few good prospects to compete for our starting positions from the junior to the freshman class.”  Historically, OU has been blessed with some great talent at the QB spot.  In order for them to continue that success, filling that role will be crucial in the operation of Kessinger’s spread offense.  One plus is that whoever that new QB is, they will have the advantage of working with two seasoned and decorated senior wide recievers in Travis Adamson, Byers, CO, and John Hilliger, Van Nuys, CA.  Adamson is in his fourth year in Kessinger’s system, while Hilliger is coming off a first team all KCAC performance in 2012. These two should be a huge help in bringing along any new personnel in the offense.  Another plus that should ease some of the pressure of all turnover on offense will be a strong returning core of offensive linemen.  Seniors Kodee Wood, Salina, Ks; Sal Esquivias, Bonita CA; and Jonathon Spotville, Gardena, CA, will provide an anchor of stability that will be a huge help for this offense in their transition to new personnel.

Coach John Homolka enters his fifth season as the leader of the defense that last year ranked 7th overall in the KCAC, giving up 357 yards per game.  In order for the Braves to stay on top of the KCAC heap, the defense will need to step it up a notch to take some of the pressure off of the offense while they develop.   Five key returners sprinkled among all positions will give some consistency in the bringing along of new personnel.  In the backfield, senior Weston Coomes, Phillipsburg, KS, and junior DaVonte Corbitt, Dallas, TX, look to make an impact, while sophomore Zach Lanning, McPherson, KS, returns on the defensive line.  Senior linebacker Jake Granitz, Northridge, CA., rounds out the list of returners on the Braves defense.

Coach Kessinger says “On defense, we feel that we have filled positions that we have due to the graduation of some of our key players in 2012.  We have a number of returners that know what it takes to be successful in our conference and we believe the most talented recruiting class that we have had in the past 10 years.  We have a difficult task ahead of us in regards to winning a third straight KCAC championship and our schedule looks to be the toughest in several years.  Our guys are excited about the challenge and what the 2013 season can bring us.”  

Highlighting that touted recruiting class are Luke Lundy, Josh Stangby, Darrious Pitts, Michael Behr, Marshall Wethington, Dayton Walter, Bryce Boland and Vincent Wurst.

The biggest understatement from Kessinger may regard the schedule.  Right off the bat in ’13, the Braves face Heart of America Conference powers Baker (#14) and Missouri Valley (#3).   Then, they run thru the 9 KCAC games, ending up with a re-match from last year’s battle with Tabor (#19) at home to finish up the season in a game which may have huge implications.

In summary, the Black and Gold machine in Ottawa faces some of the biggest challenges they have seen in recent years.  OU fans hope that the stable base that has been set in place in that time frame will provide a platform for success that will see them through the tough task ahead.