As summer break winds down and the August heat begins to cool, the buzz around campus is starting to center around one thing in particular; Friday Night Lights and games on the gridiron will now take up our weekends as the 2012 RMU football team looks to make a successful run at a conference championship.
The expectations are high as the team looks to bounce back from a shaky 2011 season where their youth really showed in some tough games. “We were really young last season,” said assistant coach John Banaszak. “We took our lumps but gained valuable experience. Our expectations are much higher for this year.”
Leading the offense this year will be senior quarterback Jeff Sinclair. Sinclair, a three-year starter, is coming off a 2011 season in which he threw for over 1300 yards and 11 TDS in limited action. He was sidelined with a knee injury for the final 3 games of the season.
“I was back in the spring and the knee feels good. It is 100% again.” Sinclair was the key component to an offense that average 283 yards per game last season. “Over the offseason, we realized that we can’t accept a 2-9 season again,” stated Sinclair.
“We’re shooting for a better result this year.” The senior quarterback has also impressed his coaches this summer as well. “Jeff is back into his old form,” said Banaszak. “He’s healthy and we expect big things from him and the passing game this year.”
Anchoring the offensive line will be junior tackle AJ Dalton. Dalton, an All-NEC selection, will be a key factor in the Colonials run game. “The whole offensive line has stepped up into a leadership role this year,” said Sinclair. “We have a lot of leaders on both sides of the ball.”
On the other side of the field, the colonials are led by senior defensive end Nolan Nearhoof. Last season, Nearhoof tallied 60 tackles and 7.5 sacks for a defensive unit that returns their top 4 leading tacklers from last season. “Our expectations start with winning our first game against North Dakota State,” said Nearhoof. “They will have 20,000 fans up there. It’s going to be huge.” North Dakota State is the defending national champion from last season.
A victory from the Colonials would be an enormous accomplishment for the RMU program. “It’s a great benchmark for us to see where we’re at.” Also returning for the RMU defense are defensive backs Cameron Chadwick and DJ Meyers.
Leading the team in tackles last season, they will be very important in the defense’s effort of decreasing their points allowed average from 28 year ago. “It’s big having a lot of people back,” said Nearhoof. “Cam and DJ were new guys last year and experienced a learning curve. It will be great to see where their experience has got them.”
The 2012 football team looks the get back to their old ways of dominance over the NEC, but they will need to prove their competitors wrong. Picked to finish sixth out of nine teams in the conference, the team doesn’t feel they have been given the respect they deserve. “It’s a slap in the face to be predicted to finish 6th in the conference,” said Sinclair. “It absolutely provides motivation for us.”
The Colonials have five home games at Joe Walton Stadium this season, starting off with NEC foe Albany on September 9. Only time will tell if this year’s team will be able to prove everybody wrong, but they definitely have the potential to do so.