Coach Rick Chamberlin saw Andrew Holderer finish his interview with local media Wednesday outside the Frericks Center and wondered if the new starting tight end for the Dayton Flyers had said he was going to make everyone forget Adam Trautman.
Of course, Holderer did not do that. And of course, Chamberlin was joking.
No one’s going to forget Trautman, the highest-drafted Pioneer Football League player in history, anytime soon — especially if he has a breakout season, as many experts are predicting, in his second year in the NFL with the New Orleans Saints. Holderer, a senior from Edwardsville, Ill., certainly won’t forget Trautman.
“There’s so much that you could learn from putting on his film or seeing him in practice,” Holderer said. “He’s just a great guy. Every time I had a question or needed help on a drill or something, he was always there. You just soaked up all of his wisdom, and it was just a really great experience.”
Holderer is one of a number of new starters for Dayton, which opens the season at noon Saturday against Robert Morris at Welcome Stadium. More than 30 players listed on the first depth chart are freshmen or redshirt freshmen.
Other than a spring scrimmage in April, Dayton hasn’t played a game since Nov. 23, 2019, when it beat Butler 51-38 to close an 8-3 season. The 2020 season was cancelled because of the pandemic.
“There definitely are nerves,” Holderer said. “It just feels surreal. It’s been so long.”
Here’s a look at the two-deep roster. Players are listed in the order they appear on the depth chart.
Quarterback: Senior Jack Cook; redshirt freshman Cole Dow; and redshirt freshman Ryan VanSchelven.
Cook is a three-year starter who set a school record with 33 touchdown passes, 14 of them to Trautman, in 2019.
Running back: Senior Jake Chisholm; and redshirt freshman Michael Neel.
Chisholm rushed for 1,129 yards in 2019. That was the seventh-best single-season total in school history. He averaged 176.8 yards in five starts.
Wide receiver: Redshirt freshman Derek Willits; and freshman Joey Swanson.
Wide receiver: Redshirt freshman Kyle Hazell; and freshman Jake Coleman.
None of the four receivers listed on the depth chart have caught a pass in Dayton uniform, but Chamberlin sees the position group as a strength of the team.
“We’ve got players that are skilled out there, that are fast, that can catch the ball,” Chamberlin said, “and I know our offense. We’re going to try to get the ball to them in all kinds of ways.”
Tight end: Holderer; and freshman Cade Beam.
Holderer was a backup fullback who saw most of his action on special teams in 2019.
“I’ve put in a lot of work these past two years up until now,” he said. “It’s been a long wait, I’m just excited to get back out on the field and show what strides I’ve made.”
Tackle: Redshirt freshman Brian Stevens; and freshman Connor Muck.
Guard: Freshman Dylan DeMasion; and redshirt freshman Ricky Mysliwiec.
Center: Redshirt freshman Mason McLaughlin; redshirt freshman Marc Rumpke.
Guard: Rumpke; and freshman Jackson Ward.
Tackle: Redshirt freshman David Tkatch; and freshman Conor Clyde.
All five linemen who are expected to start have not played in a college football game. Only seven players on the offense have seen action.
Slot: Redshirt freshman Sam Bubonics; and freshman Tyler Mintz.
End: Redshirt junior Joe Durham; and freshman Chris Pepe.
Tackle: Redshirt junior Kyle Finnick; and redshirt freshman Drew Robertson.
Tackle: Redshirt freshman Sam Schadek; and redshirt junior Jake Lyons.
End: Redshirt junior Mason Stauffer; and freshman Mason Henry.
Linebacker: Redshirt junior Grant Dyer; and redshirt junior Danny Meehan.
Dyer ranked second on the team with 67 tackles in 2019.
Linebacker: Senior Shane Ferrick; and graduate student Ben Schmiesing.
Flyer: Redshirt junior Zach Rumpke; and graduate student Owen Smith.
The Flyer is a hybrid safety/linebacker position. Two years ago, Rumpke took the field when co-captain Andrew Lutgens was injured in the season opener and clinched a victory over No. 14 Indiana State with an interception. Rumpke, who finished third on the team with 66 tackles and led the team with six tackles for a loss, called Lutgens a great teacher.
“He couldn’t have helped prepare me any better,” Rumpke said. “That interception, I was just right where I was supposed to be at the right time, and as the season went on, I think my confidence grew.”
Cornerback: Redshirt junior Logan Tate; and graduate student A.J. Watson.
Cornerback: Redshirt freshman Elijah Smith; and redshirt junior Sam Broom.
Safety: Senior Joe Bubonics; and redshirt freshman Matt Lenti.
Bubonics started the last six games of the 2018 season at cornerback but missed the 2019 season with an injury. He moved to safety, where Dayton had less experience.
Safety: Senior safety Brandon Easterling; and redshirt freshman Logan Dalton.
The Fairborn High School graduate Easterling led FCS schools in solo tackles per game (7.5) and turnovers acquired (six interceptions and three fumbles). He was named a preseason All-American, along with Chisholm.
“He’s just an absolute player,” Rumpke said. “It’s an honor to play alongside him. Great player. He puts his heart on the field, and I love how vocal the guy is, too. I think he’s one of the best motivators and leaders that I’ve ever seen.”
Easterling is one of five returning starters on the defense, along with Finnick, Rumpke, Smith and Dyer.
Punter: Redshirt freshman Drew Neiman; and Dyer.
Kicker: Sophomore Sam Webster; and redshirt freshman Michael Denning.
Webster was Dayton’s freshman of the year in 2019. He made 8 of 9 field goals and 68 of 60 extra points.
Holder: Nieman; and Dow.
Snapper: Redshirt freshman Hayden Snyder; and (short) Marc Rumpke.
Kickoff return: Chisholm; and Sam Bubonics.
Punt return: Easterling; and Sam Bubonics.
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