Tradition • Character • Service

Tradition • Character • Service

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Hillsdale Daily News: Holes to Fill in Secondary for Chargers

By Ryan Czachorski, Sports Editor, @czach1r

HILLSDALE — A lot of things have to go right for a team to win a conference championship like Hillsdale did in 2011.

Defensively, there was one thing the Chargers struggled with and overcame all year long: turnovers.
“The biggest thing is getting the football back. We just didn't generate many turnovers,” said Hillsdale Head Coach Keith Otterbein. “I don't think there was probably too many conference champs who were -3 in the turnover margin. We know there's a big area for improvement there.”
Hillsdale forced just 14 turnovers in their 11-game schedule last season, a number Otterbein says has to go up.

The lack of forced turnovers got Hillsdale into a number of shootouts, where the defense bended and luckily didn’t break most of the time.

In their first six games, Hillsdale allowed 31.5 points per contest. It resulted in two losses: a 20-17 loss to Ferris and a 43-42 loss to Ohio Dominican.

The defense found its stride down the stretch, allowing 12.5 points per game in the final five despite a 27-24 overtime loss to Wayne State.

Otterbein said he’s not sure what impact it will make, but forcing turnovers will help the defense as a whole.

“I don't know how it'll correlate, but I know you have to be in the positive (turnover margin),” he said.

There are some big shoes to fill, particularly in the secondary. Nick Hixson, Joe Vear and Tyler Sandner all graduated, leaving Ben Karaba as the only returning starter at the wide cornerback position.

Still, Otterbein likes the players he has in the secondary.

“There's a mix of early young guys, true freshman, and a couple guys that have played a little bit,” he said. “We're as good athletically as we've ever been in the secondary.”

Steven Harding will play opposite Karaba at boundary corner after having five tackles last season.
Nick Galvan will return after being plagued with injuries after a strong 2009 season where he recorded 69 tackles, two sacks, 11 pass breakups and three interceptions.

He sat out the 2010 season entirely and played in only two games in 2011, recording seven tackles. He will play safety.

From there, Otterbein mentioned Daniel Pittman, Tim Moinet, Aaron Hess, Austin Koneval, Todd Frickey and Joe Duff as players who will vie for playing time.

“Finding the right combination of guys quickly is the big key, we've got to shuffle the deck and figure out which cards we're going to play,” Otterbein said.

But with all the uncertainty in the backfield, the front seven looks as strong as ever. Brett Pasche, Steven Embry and Devin Moynihan will anchor the linebacking corps. The three juniors combined for 264 tackles, 10 sacks, 28 tackles for loss and an interception last year.

David Bakker is the lone graduate who saw significant playing time in 2011, and Otterbein said the key to the front seven will be its depth.

“We have more of those solid type players that go on a rotation,” he said. “We'll play eight or nine guys on the defensive front. There's no superstar guy that's emerged at this point, but a lot of guys we feel good about.”

Vear was a major cog in helping stop the run from his safety position, but Otterbein thinks his team can shut down the GLIAC’s rushing attacks.

“The experience of the linebackers will help stop the run,” he said. “The secondary will help stop the run.”

The defense will be key in a conference that features strong offenses from Grand Valley State, Saginaw Valley State and Wayne State, along with a crucial season-opening game at California (Pa.)
That game kicks off at 5 p.m. on Aug. 30.

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