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The Buccs lost some significant performers from a year ago due to the graduation of one of the best classes in recent memory. Gone are Logan Brown, Nick Christian, C.J. Potter, Brian Ely, Nick Meyer, Zack Deeter, Dusty Kimmel and others.
Despite the losses, expectations are high once again due to the talent coming back and the potential of those stepping into starting roles.
One of the primary reasons for optimism is the return of senior quarterback Gene Studebaker. A starter at running back as a freshman and sophomore, Studebaker switched to quarterback last season and had a record-breaking campaign. He not only threw for over 800 yards and 8 touchdown passes, he rushed for school record 1726 yards as well. With a year under his belt, expectations for an even better year are very realistic considering he understands the position much better. The coaching staff has a number of options in backing up Studebaker with senior Seth Mohler, and sophomores Andy Sparks and Chris "Cookie" Long.
Behind Studebaker will be senior Corey Patty, who will begin the season as the featured back. He has big shoes to fill left behind by 1200-yard rusher Dusty Kimmel. But, Patty has the pedigree as his father was a dominating back at rival Bradford in the early '80s and his cousin Matt McCord rushed for over 1600 yards a few years ago. Patty has the ability to keep the family tradition alive. Joining Patty in the backfield will be junior Brock Iddings or junior Jordy Burelison. Sophomore Kyle Kanet could also find himself in the backfield as he has proven to be quick and elusive.
When the Buccs throw the ball they will have some capable receivers, including 6'5" senior Seth Mohler. He had a solid year in 2005 despite missing a few games with and injury. Mohler may be a better athlete than his older brother Ross, which is saying a lot considering Ross currently holds every school single season receiving record. Joining Mohler on the edges will be sophomores Andy Sparks and Logan Wolock. Sparks is in his first season as a Buccaneer, while Wolock is a returning letterman from a year ago.
The tight end position is also in proven hands with Drew Craft returning for a third season in the starting roll. Craft has the ability to stretch the defense as he has shown dependable hands over the past two years. The senior is also a solid blocker at the point of attack for the Buccs. Another senior, Derek Brumbaugh, will also see action from the tight end position.
Perhaps the biggest question about the 2006 Buccs is the offensive line. Manned by talented players who possess size and athletic ability, the Buccs will enter the season with an inexperienced group. Notable possibilities to anchor the line will be seniors Tom Sampson and Tyler Kanet. They'll likely be joined by juniors Bryant Hale, Jake Wise and JJ Thompson. Should any of these players fail to fulfill expectations, juniors Lucas Broughman and Jordy Burelison may step in.
Defense has always been a Buccaneer trademark and the tradition is expected to continue in 2006.
The secondary will be in good hands with returning players Seth Mohler, Brock Iddings and Gene Studebaker. Sophomores Andy Sparks and Logan Wolock will push each other throughout the season for a chance to start. If either of them fail to compete, senior Skyler Mitchell or sophomore Cookie Long will step in.
Logan Brown is gone at linebacker, but Jordy Burelison remains to provide stability at the position. Burelison has a nose for the football and has looked impressive throughout two-a-days and scrimmages. Senior Tyler Kanet has also stepped forward to earn a starting spot, while freshman Ben Christian looks like a keeper for the future.
Much like the offensive line, the defensive line will be filled with unproven players. JJ Thompson does return at tackle and Drew Craft returns at defensive end. Both players performed very well on a playoff team a year ago and will be counted on to lead the way in the trenches. Corey Patty moves from defensive back to defensive end, while Tom Sampson, Bryant Hale and Jake Wise battle it out for the other starting positions.
The special teams group will also be interesting to watch in 2006. With just 35 players on the roster the coaching staff would love to see many underclassman step in on Friday nights to give the starters a breather. Many capable players may see action on special teams including freshmen Ben Christian, Jordy Meyer, Steve McQuinn and Teddy Hale.
The kicking duties will once again be handled by Tyler Kanet, while Corey Patty appears to be the choice at Punter.
The return game will be conducted by committee with Burelison, Mohler, Wolock and Patty, but Studebaker has game-breaking ability and could step in.
Logan Wolock has found his calling as a punt returner, but Studebaker, Patty or Burelison are all capable of taking over at a moments notice.
Obviously, there are some unknowns as previously indicated, but Covington has the luxury many programs don't enjoy...stability in the coaching staff.
Kevin Finfrock returns for his fourth season as head coach and has two playoff appearances under his belt. All of the assistant coaches remain with Doug Swartz, Dave Tobias and Tom Barbee providing knowledge and experience.
Another luxury the Buccaneers have is the continued contribution of the volunteer coaches. Glen Hollopeter and Heath Finfrock are former players who understand the Buccaneer tradition. Each has a passion for the game and a love for the kids. Their contribution will continue to pay off in 2006.
Also volunteering once again is the Buccs #1 Fan and Covington icon, Dennis "Scooby" Willoughby. The Scoob provides emotional support and keeps things fun around practices.
The wild card for the Buccs is junior Dan "The Man" Rindler. His spirit and legacy continues to shine bright within each one of the players and coaches. He IS the twelfth man as his spirit is on the field with each and every snap of the ball.