Out of the gate

03/26/03 Don Yeager Jr.

Greetings Greyhounds fans!  Welcome to Out of the Gate, my weekly fan column  devoted to the 2002 NIFL Champion Ohio Valley Greyhounds.

You know, I've seen the slogan on shirts a million times as I am sure we all have.  You see a team's name, then the statement "We don't rebuild, we reload." I was never too sure how much I believed this statement until this past weekend when the Ohio Valley Greyhounds opened up the season against Tennessee in Knoxville.

Record setting running back Birdie Dockery, the NIFL offensive MVP had left for home-state, cross division rival Tennessee.  Jose Davis had gotten his call up to Indiana of the AFL.  The receiving corps lost Bunny Jefferson, Ryan Silvis, and J.T. Kirk, leaving Manny Johnson as the lone veteran.  Did I mention that the league's defensive MVP and record holder for sacks in a season, Dejuan Goulde, was also gone?  Rebuild?  No...Reload.

Replacing Davis under center is last year's back up Shane Franzer.  With his first start under his belt, it's easy to see that this former Ohio Northern Polar Bear is not going to have any problem filling the void at QB.  I can tell you that he has a good arm, and great scrambling ability, as well as a solid set of hands, however the thing that is most intriguing is how he played special teams last year.  This was a back-up quarterback that played every down like it was his last.  He layed guys out on returns and made some of the most ferocious hits I had seen all season.  I think that tackling him may be a tough job for many defenses if he has to run, but when the timing for route patterns is perfected, I see the 166 yards he put up this weekend as a number he will be surpassing by at least 100 yards a game by week 4.

The running backs are also a solid set.  Jason Corie put up 58 yards on 13 carries this weekend, which isn't bad and will increase weekly.  Rashon Spikes is a player that I remember watching in college and I see him making his runs sometime this season and going for a good bit of yards eventually. 

The X factor that people cannot forget is the battering ram we have at full back, the one and only Chris Schneider.  He has good hands to catch balls out of the backfield and on top of that, most people that try to tackle him are left on the turf behind.

The receiving corps looks like another bumper crop of players that could help bring Bonar's mastery of the passing game into the spotlight.  With Manny Johnson coming back, the new arrivals seem to be off to a good start. 

The main target this weekend was Steve Vagedes, another former ONU Polar Bear, who torched the Hawks for 95 yards.  With Willie Austin and John Cooper added to the mix, the Hounds seem to have 4 men who will be able to play the field well and consistently put up good numbers.

The Big Uglies return intact and the three men who were team MVP last season, Blackburn, Hupp, and Whitfield will again guarantee protection for the backfield.  John Wehrle is already in midseason form, booting a 53 yarder in Knoxville, the league's longest since he kicked a 54 yarder against the Greyhounds when he was a member of the defunct Hunnington Locomotives.

The D was superb, even with Big Mike Marshall missing the game with an injury.  Even with the loss of Goulde, recent aquisitions, as well as returning members from last year's squad make this team a very big threat to repeat as champions.  The defense gave up a mere 21 points to a team that I would have easily tabbed as the Greyhounds biggest threat in the division.

April 5th the Hounds will open to what will surely be a raucous crowd hosting Evansville.  I am sure section 213 will be making enough noise for everybody, but with 2000 season tickets sold already, the crowd should be very large.  This game will be an interesting clash and should be another chance for OV to flex their muscles.  We don't rebuild here in the OhioValley, we don't reload either...we just get bigger guns.

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