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Season Preview: Defense will set the tone for the Gallaudet football team in 2011

Season Preview: Defense will set the tone for the Gallaudet football team in 2011

WASHINGTON, D.C. – It was a hard luck first season for Gallaudet University football head coach Chuck Goldstein as the Bison posted a 5-5 overall record and went 3-4 in the Eastern Collegiate Football Conference (ECFC) last year. The Bison lost all five games by eight points or less as Gallaudet found itself in every single game it lined up for. In 2011, the Buff and Blue return 17 starters and 21 letterwinners from a year ago. GU's strong suit will be on defense where eight returners are back while the offense will be young but talented.

"This team grew a lot last season as played our second year in the ECFC. We battled every game and made several comebacks but also fell short several times," said Goldstein, who enters his second season at the helm and his third year with the program.

"Of course it was frustrating to lose the games we did but I like to look at the positives that we could build off of as we prepare for this season. Hopefully, we can turn some of those near misses into wins this season."

OFFENSE

The most rebuilding that needs to happen for the Bison is on the offensive side of the ball, as Coach Goldstein will need to find a quarterback to lead the way after the graduation of Jimmy Gardner. The Bison have several weapons on offense and some talent on the offensive line that should help pave the way as Gallaudet gears up another season of the triple option.

"We are excited to see who is going fill-in the holes we have this year on offense," said Goldstein. "It is going to be a competitive camp especially at the quarterback and offensive line positions."

GU's Phillip Hayes runs down field against Maritime Upfront the Bison return four-year starter and All-Academic Caleb Hinton (Knoxville, Tenn.) along with sophomore Chris Langan (Burtonsville, Md.), who was an All-ECFC honorable mention selection. The Bison surpassed 290 yards per game on five different occasions last season and ranked 11th nationally with an average of 261 rushing yards per game. Gallaudet finished third in the ECFC in rushing offense in 2010.

"Hinton is a solid lineman for us. He is a smart kid that has been selected to be one of our captains this season. Langan's skill level is off the charts at our level as he posses the size and skill needed to excel at this position," said Goldstein.

Three different freshmen will be competing for two starting jobs including Tyler Snider (Thornville, Ohio), Shawn Madden (Cincinnati, Ohio) and Seth Matlock (Malvern, Ark.).

Under center the competition at quarterback pits juniors Anthony Palmer (Unadilla, N.Y.) and Gabriel Paulone (Fishers, Ind.) against freshmen Quentin Williams (Chesapeake, Va.) and Ben Coleman (St. Paris, Ohio). Palmer saw limited action last year as he came into five games and completed 6-of-15 passes for 76 yards and one interception while he rushed 12 times for 13 yards.

At running back junior Phillip Hayes (Baton Rouge, La.) returns as the top rusher from last year as he started all 10 games for the Bison last year. Hayes racked up 418 yards on the ground and scored six touchdowns. He also hauled in seven catches for 63 yards. For his performance Hayes was selected to the all-conference first team offense.

"Hayes is entering his third season in the program and understands the system we are running. He has been committed this off-season and we expect a big season from him," said Goldstein.

Joining Hayes in the backfield will be fellow junior Ryan Bonheyo (Frederick, Md.), sophomores Mike Hangte (Hutchinson, Minn.) and Nick Elstad (Colorado Springs, Colo.) along with freshman Vianney Boum Yamb (Silver Springs, Md.). Last year, Hangte tallied 50 carries in nine games for 228 yards while Boneheyo rushed 21 times for 47 yards and one score in eight games.

Junior wide receiver Ryne Worsham (Chicago, Ill.) had a breakout season as the Bison aired the ball out more last season where Worsham became the main target of Gardner's. Worsham hauled in 24 passes for 685 yards and nine touchdowns. His longest touchdown reception was a 98-yard against Norwich. He was the third leading receiver in the ECFC and was named to the all-conference second team for offense.

"Ryne was a big surprise for us last season and he excelled as the season went on. We hope he can continue this year where he left off last season," said Goldstein.

Sophomore Josh Hanna (Burrell, Pa.) and freshman Clarence Johnson (St. Louis, Mo.) add depth to the position. Hanna saw action in eight games in 2010 as he made five starts.

DEFENSE

GU's Tom Pangia makes a tackle On the defensive side of the ball the Bison return a lot of experience and talent that should help dictate the outcome of most games. The GU defense starts with junior linebacker Tom Pangia (Hammonton, N.J.) as the third-year starter returns as a co-captain for the defense. Pangia was named to the All-ECFC first team defense last season for the second straight year. He was ranked 77th in the nation for tackling and was sixth in the conference. Things do not stop with Pangia as he is surrounded by a lot of playmakers.

Upfront on the defensive line will be anchored by seniors Jon Van Wey (Alexandria, Va.) and Shawn Holder (La Mesa, Calif.), junior Kevin Allen (Houston, Texas) and sophomore Adham Talaat (Springfield, Va.). Van Wey was selected to the all-conference second team defense last year after he finished the year ranked 49th in the nation for tackles for loss with 10 for 46 yards. He was ranked fifth in the conference for sacks. Goldstein considers the defensive line the most exciting group because of their size, speed and depth. Junior Jarred Pearce (Reno, Nev.) will see action on the line as well.

At linebacker lined up next to Pangia will be senior Tyrone Primous (Lynwood, Ill.) and freshman Jaris Alleyne (Waldorf, Md.), who was heavily recruited out of high school. Sophomore Matt Harris (Lynchburg, Va.) and freshman Nico Santiago (Moorestown, N.J.) add depth to the position.

The secondary will be lead by senior co-captain Neal Dimarco (Brigantine, N.J.), junior Shelby Bean (Arvada, Colo.), junior Tony Tatum (Gardendale, Ala.) and sophomore Charles Hamlin (Leonardtown, Md.). Tatum was named the ECFC Rookie of the Year last season and was named to the all-conference second team for defense. Tatum along with Pangia and Bean made the incredible interception play against Castleton State on September 25 that went viral on YouTube as millions viewed the play. Depth at defensive back freshmen J.J. Rogers (El Cajon, Calif.) and A.J. McCrea (Decatur, Ga.).

"We have the experience and depth on defense that will allow us to try different things that we haven't been able to do in the past," said Goldstein. "We hope to bounce back in the national rankings for being a stingy defense."

SPECIAL TEAMS

It was an up-and-down year for Gallaudet's special teams in 2010. Senior kicker Justin Wilson missed the first three games of the season as the Bison dropped the first game of the year 35-34 against Merchant Marine, a game where it couldn't attempt any point after attempts and only converted 1-of-5 two-point conversions. Factor in no punting or kick-off game and an average starting position around midfield for Merchant Marine and it was a recipe for disaster for the Bison. GU got things straightened out when Wilson re-joined the team and he finished out his senior year with making 4-of-7 field goal attempts and 21-of-30 point after attempts. He was named to the all-conference honorable mention list. Goldstein will turn to freshman Yamb and junior Pangia to share the kicking responsibilities.

Hayes, will handle the return game once more, after he fielded 12 kickoffs for over 300 yards in eight games started last season. He had a season best 74-yard return against Norwich on October 9. He averaged nearly 26 yards per kick-off return, which ranked 27th in Division III. He was the fourth best return specialist in the ECFC with his return numbers.

"Hayes is one of the top kick-off and punt returners in the country. He will have better production this year due to the work he has been doing this off-season with strength and conditioning coordinator Stephon Healy," said Goldstein.

SCHEDULE

GU celebrates a big play last season Coach Goldstein stepped up the non-conference section of the Bison schedule for 2011 as Gallaudet starts the season at home against Otterbein University from Westerville, Ohio, and member of the Ohio Athletic Conference. That is the same conference that perennial NCAA Division III powerhouse University of Mount Union hails from. The Purple Raiders from Mount Union have won 10 national championships and 19 consecutive OAC titles. Otterbein was selected to finish fourth in the OAC in 2011. The Cardinals will travel to Washington, D.C., to begin the season on Saturday, September 3, at 1 p.m. at Hotchkiss Field. GU will have a quick turnaround as the Bison host cross-town rival Catholic University of America on Friday night under the lights at Hotchkiss for a 7 p.m. game on September 9. After a bye week the Bison will conclude the non-conference and September part of the schedule with a trip to Newport News, Va., on Saturday, September 24, for a 1 p.m. game against the Builders.

The month of October finds the Bison in Paxton, Mass., to take on the AMCATS of Anna Maria College on Saturday, October 1, at 1 p.m. This is the conference opener for the Bison as it begins its third season in the Eastern Collegiate Football Conference (ECFC). GU returns home for the first time in a month, as it will host Husson University on Saturday, October 8, at noon. The Bison have won the past two meetings against the Eagles. GU will hit the road and travel to Northfield, Vt., on Saturday, October 15, to go up against Norwich University at noon. The Bison have lost the past two meetings against the Cadets by eight and seven points, respectively. A joyous atmosphere will greet the Bison on Saturday, October 22, as the annual Homecoming festivities will commence as Becker College pays a visit to Hotchkiss Field for a 1:30 p.m. game. GU has outscored the Hawks 77-12 in the past two wins against Becker.

Gallaudet has a very tough ending to the 2011 regular-season, as the Bison will have to go through three of the top four teams from last year in the ECFC. GU will make a return trip to the state of Vermont to go up against Castleton State College on Saturday, October 29, at noon. The squads have split the past two pairings against one another. Gallaudet will then travel to Newton, Mass., to face Mount Ida College on Saturday, November 5, at noon. GU has not beaten Mount Ida since the ECFC was formed. The Bison conclude the regular-season just like it did a year ago as Gallaudet host defending ECFC champion SUNY Maritime under the lights at Hotchkiss Field on Friday, November 11, with kick-off slated for 7 p.m. GU lost a tough 21-14 game against the Privateers last season as they went onto the NCAA tournament.

SUMMARY

If the Bison can survive its non-conference schedule in September it should set them up for a good start to the conference slate in October. Gallaudet's season will come down to the final three games where the Bison hope to be in position to win its first-ever ECFC championship. If last year was any indicator it shows that the Buff and Blue can play with anybody in the conference. A few breaks, here and there, and the Bison could had been celebrating the conference title last year. Coach Goldstein and company hope luck is on their side in 2011 as a talented Bison squad, led by the defense, prepares for another season.

"Our expectation is that we are going to compete in the conference. Our goal is to win the conference championship," said Goldstein. "We are still going to be young but we are going to be exciting. We will compete in each game."