Dayton Flyers football: Young offensive line key for offense

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Highlights: Dayton Flyers football photo day

UD holds its team photo day two weeks before opener

A Dayton Flyers football tradition, team picture day, returned to Welcome Stadium on Sunday.

» PHOTOS: UD photo day at Welcome Stadium

The Flyers posed in every imaginable sort of group in their red uniforms. Players from Kentucky gathered for a group photo, as did players from Cincinnati and players from the Dayton area. Position groups posed together. Players took photos with their parents. The seniors and other classes lined up for photos. Of course, the entire team and all the coaches took seats in the stands as photographers climbed a ladder to take the complete picture of the 2021 Flyers.

A year ago, none of this happened. The coronavirus pandemic halted many traditions, including team photo day.

This photo day was another sign that the return of football to UD is just two weeks away. The Flyers open the season at home at noon Sept. 4 against Robert Morris.

“This is a day we always look forward to,” coach Rick Chamberlin said. “It’s right at the end of camp. To the guys, it’s a good sign camp is about over. It’s also a day about family. All the families come in and take pictures of their sons and their sons’ teammates.”

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The photos followed a night of football at Welcome Stadium. The Flyers held a scrimmage Saturday night.

“What we’re seeing is the young men we are counting on, they’re playing very well: Brandon Easterling; Jack Cook; Jake Chisholm; and others on the offense on defense,” Chamberlin said, “and we’re seeing growth out of the other guys. That’s what you want.”

One of Chamberlin’s biggest question marks entering the preseason was the offensive line. The quarterback Cook said the five in front of him right now are: redshirt freshman left tackle Brian Stevens, a Milford High School graduate; freshman left guard Dylan DeMaison, of Cincinnati La Salle; freshman center Mason McLaughlin, of Hudson; redshirt freshman Marc Rumpke, of Lexington Catholic (Ky.); and redshirt freshman David Tkatch, of Seneca Valley High School (Pa.).

All those linemen are in their second or third year in the program but none have started. Last season didn’t count against anyone’s eligibility so members of the 2020 recruiting class, like DeMaison and McLaughlin, are still listed as freshmen.

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Stevens and Tkatch are the leaders of the group, Chamberlin said. One of other leaders on the line, redshirt freshman George Fanelli, tore his ACL in practice last week.

“They’re definitely young,” Cook said. “We graduated five starters, so we have five new guys. But we had a lot of practices and fall, spring ball and preseason, and they’ve really developed and got stronger and bigger and faster, so I have full confidence in them this year.”

The last time Dayton played a season, in 2019, it led the nation with 42.5 points per game and ranked ninth in total offense (466.3). That offense had tight end Adam Trautman, who’s about to begin his second season in the NFL with the New Orleans Saints.

Who will be Cook’s top receiving target this season? That will be answered when the season begins. Redshirt freshman Sam Bubonics, of Solon, has been one of the surprise performers among the wide receivers this month, Chamberlin said. Sam’s older brother, senior Joe Bubonics, is the captain of special teams.

Chamberlin said six wide receivers are battling for four wide receiver spots.

“That’s good,” Chamberlin said. “That’ll keep them fresh, and we’ll rotate them in.”

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