Centre ready to turn corner

August 17, 2004


This could be the year that the Centre College football program may finally "turn the corner" the way coach Andy Frye envisioned five years ago.

The Colonels are coming off an 8-2 season and have experience at almost every position, one reason Frye does not anticipate having to count on any true freshmen for major contributions when the season opens Sept. 4 at Bluffton.

"I think we are turning the corner. This is the vision I had for our program," said Frye. "Our kids want to compete in the postseason, something Centre College has not done since 1921. But we think we have the team that has a chance to do that."


Centre barely missed the playoffs in 2001 when it finished 9-1. The same was true with last year's 8-2 team.

The one way to assure having a playoff berth is to dethrone Trinity as Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference champion.

"To win our conference, we have to beat one of the best teams in Division III," Frye said. "The last three years we have been getting more recognition, which helps if you want an at-large playoff berth. But if we can just continue to develop our program and hopefully get some more recognition, then we have a realistic shot at being in the playoffs."

One reason is senior quarterback Brian Behrendt, who completed 203 of 332 passes for 2,118 yards and 21 touchdowns with only eight interceptions.

"We have an outstanding quarterback," Frye said. "He's learned to be more patient and he understands the offense a lot better now. He's also assertive enough to do some things on his own now. He's more spontaneous with the offense."

He could have Centre's most athletic group of receivers ever for targets this year. Senior David Crowley caught 46 passes for 567 yards and seven touchdowns last season. The other receivers are less experienced, but athletic.

"They are maybe even better speed-wise than the group we had last year and could be the most athletic group we've had," Frye said.

One rising star could be sophomore Adam Clark, who had five catches for 70 yards last season.

"He's 6-4, weighs 210 and is our third fastest player (4.5 seconds in the 40-yard dash)," Frye said. "He triple jumps and high jumps on the track team. He has big hands. He could be very good."

Centre has to replace versatile running back Lorenzo Engleman, who had a combined 1,769 yards rushing and receiving last year. Junior Adam Blandford gained 258 yards and averaged 6.7 yards per rush as Engleman's backup last year. The Colonels should also get a boost from the return of former Danville standout Jeremy Britt, who did not play football the last two years.

"Adam is one of our fastest players and Jeremy is more of an elusive runner who makes you miss and will really help us," Frye said. "They should be a good one-two punch and competition should bring out the best in each of them. If we develop a good running game, it will really help our offense."

Frye likes his offensive line, which returns all but guard Patrick Newman.

"They are not real big, but they are fast and strong," the Centre coach said. "They have a little nastiness about them. They come at you. They are the kind of guys you hate to play against."

Centre's defense allowed 23.3 points and 328 yards per game last year. Frye hopes to improve on that behind a group of talented linebackers. Seniors Brian Downs (85 tackles, one blocked kick), Jarrod Zywein (65 trackles, eight tackles for loss) and Nathan Fell (60 tackles, two forced fumbles) are being counted on to help offset the graduation of safety John Ortega, the team's top tackler.

Frye is also tinkering with a 3-5 defensive alignment that will allow him to take advantage of his depth at linebacker.

Junior Chad Loveless (41 tackles), sophomore Jacob Coleman (29 tackles) and senior Brandon Cain are the most experienced secondary players.

"Loveless could be as good as Ortega and Coleman could be an outstanding cornerback," Frye said. "Cain is steady. He's smart and will never be out of position. He won't make mistakes."

Sophomore Brian Dougherty and junior Adam Priestwood return to the defensive line. Dougherty was second-team all-conference as a freshman when he was fifth on the team in tackles with 48 and Priestwood has increased his weight to 280 while maintaining his speed.

The Colonels will be without junior Justin Atkins, a former Danville all-state lineman. He'll miss the season while studying out of the country this semester.

"It hurts not having Justin because you hate to lose that experience, but it happens," Frye said. "However, that does make depth a bit of a concern along with seeing how the linemen adapt to us tweaking our overall scheme a little bit."

Still, Frye is going into this season optimistic about his team.

"I like our team. We think we have the right pieces in place for a successful year," Frye said. "We think we are where we need to be, but until the season gets going, you just never know for sure."|None|***

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