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January 2020
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Otterbein Cardinals Football forgetting about 2-8 2018 campaign; looking for improvement this season

WESTERVILLE, Ohio – Otterbein has embarked throughout a very determined and workmanlike offseason after a frustrating campaign in 2018, striving to turn around some unfortunate results as another competitive schedule awaits.

The Cardinals finished with a disappointing 2-8 record last fall, its worst output in 16 years, after dropping two games in the final 10 seconds and another by less than a possession. Otterbein had previously finished at .500 or better in all but one season under now eighth-year head coach Tim Doup.

Otterbein opens the season with nearby Ohio Wesleyan once again before launching another challenging OAC slate with home games against Baldwin Wallace and John Carroll.

“The mood has certainly changed,” head coach Tim Doup said directly. “Our kids want to prove themselves, our coaches want to prove themselves, and nobody wants another season like last year. It was a trying and difficult stretch, but I think our guys have come together as a result of that. Our staff has done some different things in the offseason and we are all hungry.”

Otterbein was forced to begin rebuilding in 2018 after losing a slew of key performers from the 2017 season, including eight All-Ohio Athletic Conference standouts and other key contributors. The Cards had 25 freshmen or sophomores on the final two-deep roster last season and, as a result, are expected to welcome back 15 total starters (nine on defense, six on offense).

“Losing close games is tough, but the bottom line in our world of sports is that you either win or lose,” Doup explained. “We were unfortunately on the back end of some narrow losses last year and hopefully our young guys took that as a learning experience. We won’t dwell anymore because it’s time to get back to work, keep improving and use those situations as fuel going forward.”

A quartet of returning All-OAC selections are back to help lead the charge, three of those on the defensive side of the ball with one at each level; nose guard Nigel Chatman, inside linebacker Ryan Tuchow and free safety Niall Lewison.

Tuchow broke through to rank fourth in the league in tackles (94) and sixth in tackles for loss (15). He had double-digit stops in five games, including a career-high 17 against Heidelberg, to accompany four sacks and other key plays. Chatman turned heads in his first season for Otterbein, ranking tenth in the league in tackles for loss (10) and also registering 5.5 sacks. Lewison, a MAYO Clinic Comeback Player of the Year nominee, returned after missing a full season due to injury and contributed mightily. He ranked fifth in the league for most pass breakups, seventh with 86 total tackles and blocked a field-goal attempt in the closing seconds to beat Ohio Wesleyan.

Outside linebackers Colton Miles and Jacob Tiell are other returning starters to a defense that ranked top-four in the OAC for fewest total yards, rushing yards and points per game last fall. The duo combined for 110 tackles (14.5 for loss) as first-year starters on the edges.

“I feel good about our returning talent on defense but we still need to fill some holes,” Doup explained. “We have to get better and more balanced from both sides of the ball. It was the opposite two years ago in 2017, when our offense ranked high in scoring and our defense struggled a bit. We need to figure out a way to get all units, special teams included, in the top half of the league. That usually wins you some football games.”

Senior punter Luke Green-Lauber returns after cracking through for second team All-OAC status as a first-year starter. He ranked second in the league with a 39.3 net average, coming in only behind Heidelberg All-American Austin Baker, and downed 20 punts inside the 20-yard line.

Otterbein will be looking to turn around some frustrating offensive numbers after implementing many new faces, averaging just 13 points and 254 total yards per game a year after posting 35 points per contest. The 2019 effort will be made easier with nearly everyone back, beginning up front as five starters return to the offensive line. Senior Winston Spiker has started all 30 career games, classmate Jared Conover has 19 starts across the past two seasons, Josh Davis started all 10 last year, Nick Hopper started the final seven as a true freshman and veteran Anthony Andrews started five before an injury.

“Spring ball went well for those guys and we did a few different things,” said Doup, who oversees the offensive line in addition to head duties. “We still need to get better, but they all have extensive varsity experience in the trenches together at different spots. It will be a matter of gelling more consistently and being able to run the football. I’m excited for them to lead the way and create opportunities for our skill guys.”

The Cards will likely feature another quarterback competition in camp, as gunslinger Bryce Hall appeared in every game (starting the final two) last season as a sophomore but will be pushed by other potential signal callers. Whoever earns the nod behind center will stand beside a new primary running back after the departure of fifth-year senior Dakota Smith.

Almost all weapons in the passing game are expected to return. Speedy slot receiver George Redding led the club with 24 catches last year, Reed Tucker hauled in 23 for 288 yards in his first year after transferring from Ashland, while Dylan TuggleDom RossJacob Leonardi and Casey Cook all gained some key experience. Junior Tyler Ronk started almost every game at tight end.

“It comes down to how hard everyone worked in the offseason,” Doup said. “I’m excited for camp and I know a lot of other pieces of this puzzle are too. This senior class has harbored some feelings of redemption.”