Offseason huddle up: What’s happened in January
The Division III football season starts in August and wraps up nicely by the end of December. While the intensity is scaled back during the offseason months, there are always things happening. Here’s an attempt to chronicle, and start a centralized conversation (there’s always activity on D3boards.com, of course) about some of them.
Mount Union wide receiver Jasper Collins played in the East-West Shrine Game, the only D-III player to do so. Although he didn’t come out of the regular season with the biggest buzz as the next pro from D-III, at the moment he’s looking like the player most likely to be drafted.
In Josh Buchanan’s Jan. 24 Top 100 small-school prospects, Texas Lutheran kicker Allen Cain is the highest-ranked D-III player at No. 35, and is a name D3football.com had been hearing as someone with an NFL future since his junior season. But kickers tend not to get drafted. Collins is at No. 41, and on Jan. 25, Buchanan tweeted that Collins was the highest-rated small-school player on his board yet to be invited to the NFL combine. (Here’s his list of players who have been invited)
RPI QB Mike Hermann (No. 59) and Cal Lutheran WR Eric Rogers (No. 79) are the other D-III players on Buchanan’s list, which is consistent with what we’d heard when we’d done our own reporting on it. During the playoffs, we featured Collins, and in Kickoff ’12, we spoke with Cain, Hermann and Rogers.
HIRING: The coaching carousel keeps spinning, although I guess at this point it’s slowed down some. Even D-III die-hards are often unfamiliar with the names of rising assistant coaches. When Isaac Collins left national quarterfinalist Widener for the job at D-II Seton Hill (Pa.), he left behind a team that’s playoff-ready if it can find a quarterback to replace Chris Haupt.
TCNJ offensive coordinator Bobby Acosta got the job. I know next to nothing about him and don’t have an opinion on the hire. But what was interesting were two names tweeted out by Widener broadcaster @b34curran as finalists for the job: Case Western Reserve coach Greg Debeljak and UW-Whitewater defensive coordinator Brian Borland.
Borland was a holdover at UW-W from the Bob Berezowitz era and masterminded the defenses of all four Warhawks national champions. I’d never realized he was looking for head coaching jobs, but it tends to be a natural progression for successful coaches. Sometimes particular jobs open up that are appealing, or life circumstances or behind-the-scenes conditions at work make a job switch appealing to a coach the same way it would to those of us in regular employment. Passing on a man who played a large role in winning four D-III titles and seven straight Stagg Bowl trips puts a lot of pressure on Acosta and Widener.
Debeljak, the head coach at CWRU, went 48-6 with the Spartans from 2007-11 before going 6-4 this season and has had a successful nine-season run in Cleveland. Also a pretty accomplished coach for Widener to pass on.
I understand as well as anyone that D-III ADs hire leaders of men first, and winners second. Acosta must be an impressive guy, moreso than just having ties to the region and having had some success at TCNJ. I’ll be interested to see how quickly Widener starts next season. Several of their stud players return, and if they adapt to the new coach quickly, they could again be a force.
Elmhurst also made a coaching switch when Tim Lester, who lifted the program from mediocre to the playoffs, left to become quarterbacks coach at Syracuse. There are Western Michigan ties there, and it made sense for him to go. It also made sense for Elmhurst to stay in-house and hire Joe Adam. Players almost always want the new coach to come from within, so that move I imagine is well received. It’ll also keep the Elmhurst recruiting pipeline going — Adam ran both the defense and coordinated recruiting. One interesting player is already in the Elmhurst program though — Josh Williams, Gagliardi Trophy winner Scottie Williams’s younger brother, started out at UW-Whitewater before joining his brother in the backfield. Scottie is graduating, so Joe Adam will have to move the program forward without with the 2,000-yard rusher.
QUICK HITS: According to the East Texas Baptist website, wide receiver Kwame Spikes played in three D-III-friendly all-star games: The National Bowl, all-American Bowl and the Dream Bowl. That might not be unprecedented — and who’s to say he didn’t play in the D-III Senior Classic as well — but it’s the first time I’ve heard of a player participating in that many. I always thought two was the limit. …
St. Thomas coach Glenn Caruso picked up his third Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year award back at the beginning of the month (Here’s his acceptance speech). Perhaps since the Tommies made the Stagg Bowl this was his best work, but he’s been a coach on the rise for several years now. It would be nice if the award acknowledged the next coach on the rise, or someone who did a lot with less talent this year. The other finalists, UW-Oshkosh’s Pat Cerroni, Lake Forest’s Jim Catanzaro, Concordia-Chicago’s Lonnie Pries and Coe’s Steve Staker, each had strong resumes as well. I’m a voter for the award, and I enjoy Coach Caruso. But I would also like the award to show the full spectrum of coaching excellence in D-III. …
It can be tough to keep track of the D-III postseason events, with limited publicity and history. But the inaugural Dream Bowl took place in Salem this year, giving D-III players at least five postseason opportunities now (including Tazon de Estrellas, D3 Senior Classic and the others mentioned above). I don’t know much about how it went, but here’s SUNY-Maritime cornerback Jeremy Garcia’s take on the experience.
YOUR FEEDBACK: What else has attracted your attention so far this offseason? Leave in the comments, or shoot me an e-mail for the next blog post.
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