Shamrocks look to overcome inexperience
Jared Nunn (right), a guard, is the only returning starter on offense for Coffman. Sam McCollum (left) will take over at a tackle spot. Buy This Photo
Reloading will be the primary goal for the Dublin Coffman High School football team.
The Shamrocks have only one returning starter on offense and four on defense as they work to reach the Division I playoffs for the fifth season in a row and for the 11th time in 13 seasons.
Last season, Coffman finished 9-2 overall after losing to Hilliard Davidson 17-14 in the first round in Region 3. The Shamrocks tied the Wildcats for the OCC-Central Division title at 6-1, a game ahead of Olentangy Liberty and Upper Arlington, both of which went 5-2.
"We have had some big senior classes before but so many contributed," coach Mark Crabtree said of the 33 players in the 2013 graduating class. "We lost a lot of starters and a lot of our depth."
James Walsh left to play at Boston College after starting at quarterback the past two seasons. Last year, he was 128-for-213 passing for 2,038 yards with 16 touchdowns and eight interceptions and rushed for 558 yards and eight touchdowns on 109 carries.
His protection on the line, including current Ohio University player Zack Murdock, is gone except for guard Jared Nunn. The 6-foot-1, 327-pound senior is the only returning offensive starter.
Junior Ben Beckett (6-0, 177) has an edge in experience over sophomore Gunnar Hoak (6-3, 178) in the competition to start at quarterback in the Shamrocks' spread, shotgun offense.
"Beckett has the inside track because of his experience, but Gunnar is pushing him," said Crabtree, who is in his 13th season. "I'm pretty happy with both of them.
"Both have pretty good arms and decent speed. They aren't in the same category as James as far as speed, but they can run. They both have an idea of what's going on and how we want to execute the offense."
Joining Nunn up front will be senior tackle Andrew Friend (6-1, 218), junior tackle Sam McCollum (6-3, 270), junior center Evan Crabtree (5-10, 220) and junior Corey Williams (6-0, 264).
"We had a great senior class last year and they taught us that we can never give up (and) that we have to keep fighting," McCollum said. "They were really good at working with the underclassmen and I know that will make us better players this year."
Running backs are senior Aaron Pape and junior Dre Kendrick. Pape (5-11, 177) ran for 156 yards and one touchdown on 24 carries last season, and Kendrick (5-7, 163) added 104 yards and one touchdown on 25 carries.
Wideouts include seniors Terry Glenn and Koi Turner and juniors Chase Granlund, Kyle Marcinick, Shaun Rankin and C.J. Saunders. Glenn (6-1, 158), the son of the former Brookhaven, Ohio State and NFL wide receiver of the same name, is the top returnee with four catches for 68 yards and one touchdown.
Seniors Adam Striker and Dave Watson are tight ends, with juniors Alex Berling and Gage Hisey also lining up at the position.
"We might not have the varsity experience, but we have been playing together since middle school, or even in DFL (youth football)," Evan Crabtree said. "As a starter you have a bigger role, which is pretty great. It's exciting to see what we will be able to do."
The four returning defensive starters are all seniors in linebackers Jackson Hayes, Dalton Maynard and Erik Stein and lineman Kwabena Amponsah. Stein had 46 tackles, five tackles for loss and three sacks a year ago.
Joining Amponsah on the defensive front will be seniors George Boatang, Jake Franklin and Jordan O'Dell and juniors Kyle Hogan, Tyler Pajk and Terrance Rudolph.
Other linebackers include senior Dalton Maynard and juniors Josh Febus and Josh Greenwalt.
In the defensive backfield will be seniors Tyler Jester, Christian Mayola, Rankin and Clay Raterman and junior Gavin Mulqueen.
"(Last year's seniors) taught us how to have fun in football and how to be good leaders," Boatang said. "You don't always have to be vocal (as a leader), but you can just go work hard and lead by example.
"I have been waiting for years for my chance to play and it's exciting. I want to make the most of it."
Senior John McGue looks to handle kicking and punting duties following the graduation of first-team all-state performer Grant Coffman.
"These kids had a good offseason in several areas," said coach Crabtree, whose team opens Friday, Aug. 30, at home against Dublin Jerome. "It's not always about how much stronger you get -- which is important -- but it's also about the level of commitment to play in a program with high expectations."