WATERVILLE, Maine --- The Colby College football team will have a season of change during 2012, with a new head coach and three new assistant coaches.
The Mules open the season Saturday at 1 p.m. at Williams College. The game will be Webcast at http://www.teamline.cc/sportpage?teamcode=0126&eventcode=20. Also, Time Warner Cable is broadcasting the game live for their customers in Maine and parts of Western Massachusetts.
The Mules finished 3-5 last season after starting the season off 0-4 against a brutal schedule. Colby then won three straight games before dropping its season finale.
New head coach Jonathan Michaeles is a familiar face, returning for his ninth year at Colby after handling a number of jobs for the team. Last year he was the offensive coordinator, recruiting coordinator, quarterbacks coach, academic coordinator, and led strength and conditioning.
While longtime defensive coordinator Tom Dexter returns for his 24th season, Michaeles gives way to newcomer Steve Opgenorth as the Mules' offensive coordinator in 2012. Meanwhile, Matt Hanhold will lead the defensive line and Travis Lueck takes over as receivers coach.
Colby does head into the new season with a number of key players gone from a year ago. It will be up to senior captains John Gilboy and Phil Amato to keep the Mules together. Gilboy returns on the offensive line, while Amato (27 tackles, four pass break-ups) is back again as a defensive back.
The Mules return the most players on defense and have their top three tacklers returning from a season ago. Henry Nelson had a brilliant first year, taking over as middle linebacker and leading the Mules in tackles with 59. He also forced two fumbles, had one sack, and one interception.
Meanwhile, Derrick Beasley and Christian Romano will return along with Amato, Jason Buco, and Zach Padula in the defensive secondary. Beasley was an All-NESCAC player after the 2010 season and was strong again last year with 55 total tackles and one interception, while Romano was third on the Mules in total tackles with 48 and led the team in interceptions (3) and interception return yards (74). Padula (25 tackles) and Buco (10 tackles, 1 fumble recovery) both had solid first seasons with the Mules and will be counted on in 2012 as will junior Daniel Maddox (13 tackles). Buco showed his athletic talent last year by leading the baseball team in batting average and earning All-NESCAC honors in his first season.
Two-time All-NESCAC selection Ryan Veillette anchors the defensive line after leading the Mules in tackles for loss (6.0), sacks (5.5), and finishing sixth in total tackles (38) from his end spot. Lester Batiste is the other starting defensive end and was sixth in total tackles (30) and was tied for second in sacks (2.0). CT Harris was solid in quality minutes with 17 total tackles, including four for loss and two sacks, and senior Cody Anderson added 13 stops. Paul Spada and Mike Wincek will take over at the defensive tackle spots.
Nelson is the only starting linebacker from a year ago, but Tony Atkinson (9 tackles), Mark Vargas (8 tackles), and Patrick Harper (8 tackles) all saw solid minutes off the bench.
Likely no team in the NESCAC will have less experience at quarterback than the Mules. None of the three quarterbacks on the roster -- sophomore Connor Emmert and first-years Justin Clero and TJ Hallock -- have thrown a collegiate pass.
Sophomore running back Luke Duncklee was second on the 2011 team in all-purpose yards (63.2 per game), second in rushing (240 yards), and first in yards per rush (5.2). He also led the Mules in kickoff return yardage (232 yards). Spencer Gopaul was second in yards per carry (3.7) and added about 150 yards a year ago.
The Mules lost five of their top six pass catchers from a year ago, but returner Michael Lahiff was tied for second in total receptions (21) and was third in receiving yards (228). Duncklee, with great speed, may see some time at receiver. Indigo Dow (3 catches, 33 yards), Kyle Roth, Andrew Martinez, and Andrew Jones also return from last season.
Giboy, who plays right guard, is the only returning starter on the offensive line. However, Connor Clancy, Paul Gallagher, Jeff Lamson, Tom Abare, Ben Brauer, Drew Gibbs, and Harold Irving all worked on the offensive line last season. David Von Euw could see time at tight end this year after playing on the offensive line last year.
While the Mules will have to find a new punter this season, Colby should be set with their kickers. Senior David Bendit was 3-for-4 in field goal attempts, had a career-high best 61.2 yards in kickoff average and had four touchbacks. Sophomore Louw Scheepers made his lone field goal try of the year and was at 56.4 in kickoff average. Sophomore Ryan Grunseich and first-year Connor MacLaverty are Colby's lone two punters on the roster, but Scheepers could punt as well.