Small College Sports

Cornell meshes young talent with experienced returners

Rams welcome 27 new players on campus, 17 starters come back from 4-6 squad

Cornell freshman offensive lineman Brock Flack lets the Iowa state flag catch the breeze as he gathers with other Iowans that are players on the Rams football team as they wait for a photo on the Rams’ media day at Van Metre Field at Ash Park in Mount Vernon, Iowa, on Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2018. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Cornell freshman offensive lineman Brock Flack lets the Iowa state flag catch the breeze as he gathers with other Iowans that are players on the Rams football team as they wait for a photo on the Rams’ media day at Van Metre Field at Ash Park in Mount Vernon, Iowa, on Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2018. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

MOUNT VERNON — Uncovered earth flanks the newly renovated grandstands and press box on the home side of Cornell College’s football field.

Construction equipment still trudged through the area Tuesday, continuing the improvement project to nostalgic Ash Park, which serves as home to the Rams’ athletic teams.

If you look deeply at the work, the imported machinery and the future face-lift that was already starting to take place, you can see a parallel to Cornell’s football program.

Nine-year Cornell Coach Vince Brautigam is optimistic about the present and future based on what he has seen in camp.

“I’m excited,” Brautigam said during the program’s annual media day at Ash Park. “We brought in 27 new kids. I think our class has a lot of young talent and can be very good down the road. They’re trying to learn.

“I’m having one of the best times in camp with a team that I’ve had in a long, long time.”

Cornell returns 17 starters from a 4-6 squad a year ago The Rams open the 2019 campaign against Iowa Wesleyan on Sept. 1 at Mount Pleasant, beginning at 7 p.m.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

“I think the older kids learned a valuable lesson last year after a 4-6 season,” Brautigam said. “We haven’t had the typical issues you can have normally in camp. They’ve been focused. Every practice has been a good practice. I’m hoping it can continue to carry on. Their work ethic, it is a fun bunch to coach.”

The offensive line, linebacker corps and defensive secondary are the most seasoned units for Cornell. Seniors Christian Perez, Robert Madole and Colton Clark return up front. Perez, a fifth-year senior, has started all 29 games of career, missing the entire 2016 season to injury. Junior Chris Champion has manned the right tackle spot for 20 consecutive starts.

“The trenches play a big role,” Perez said. “I think the (offensive) line, we do need to take an initiative as far as where we want to take the team.”

They will be counted on to make space for a playmaker in the backfield coming back from injury. Running back Mickey Hines missed all but three games last season, suffering his second major knee injury since his final prep season at Mount Vernon.

Hines had three touchdowns in the shortened season. As a freshmen, he had modest numbers as he returned from his first major surgery, totaling more than 300 yards, including a 35-yard TD run and 62-yard reception.

He said he is strong and ready to be a key figure for the Rams.

“It feels great,” Hines said. “I’ve had to do a lot of work. A lot of work. People were putting in hours and I had to put in twice as many. I have to recover plus get better than the year before.”

Trevhon Porterfield is the top returning rusher with 40 carries for 178 yards and a TD.

“The nice thing with Mickey is we have more than one running back,” Brautigam said. “Trevhon Porterfield got experience last year (and) a couple young guys. He isn’t going to have to take every rep.”

The Rams will turn to a new full-time signal caller. Former Marion prep Isaak Hahn played in eight games last season, attempting just 22 passes for 79 yards. Transfers Blayze Griffis and Devon Mueller also will vie for snaps.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

Thank you for signing up for our e-newsletter!

You should start receiving the e-newsletters within a couple days.

Griffis, a 6-foot, 220-pound sophomore and former Solon prep, transferred from Upper Iowa. He is the son of Rams offensive coordinator Stacy Griffis. Mueller is a sophomore from Henderson, Nev., who began his college career at Concordia (Wis.).

Brautigam said he will determine a starter and backup after the team’s controlled scrimmage Tuesday against Luther in Decorah.

“I think everything will fall in line after (Tuesday),” Brautigam said. “They all bring something different to the table. All three are sophomores. That is the interesting part.

“We’ll see a few more things today and I will be able to determine, who is first, second and third.”

Sophomore wide out Blake Langhurst also joins the Rams roster after running track for Northern Iowa last year. New faces have bonded well with their new teammates.

“The best part about it is they have all meshed,” Brautigam said. “Grass isn’t always greener somewhere else. I think they’ve found something here — the opportunity to play and compete.

"Any time you can bring in good people in, good student-athletes, into a program it’s only a win-win situation. We’ve been able to do that with this group.”

Langhurst becomes part of a receiving group with returners Patrick Brown and Cheyenne Minot, who tallied 328 and 181 receiving yards, respectively. Brown also had two touchdowns. Tight end Tim Monfils bolsters the line and has a big frame (6-5, 245) as a route runner.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

“We have a three-horse race at quarterback,” Brautigam said. “We have some returning wide receivers and some young talent people are going to notice out of the gate.”

Youth could have the biggest impact on the defensive line. Senior Jordan Hardman and junior George Ziama combined for eight tackles for loss a year ago. Brautigam, who also coaches the defensive front, said he could use a seven-player rotation.

“The way those kids play are probably the way our defense is going to play,” Brautigam said. “They are all working hard. It’s going to be a nice rotation of young and old.”

The back seven is nearly intact, including second-team all-Midwest Conference linebacker Zachary Yankovich and second-team all-conference defensive back Milton Spradley. Yankovich has 194 career tackles, including 71 last year. Spradley had 95 tackles, including 64 solo stops.

With nine starters back on defense and hungry young players, they are learning at a faster pace compared to past camps.

“We’ve actually put a lot of our defense in more than we have in camp,” Spradley said. “A lot of the guys are really clicking as a team and defense. It’s crazy because we are way ahead. Our defensive packages are installed and we have a lot of smart guys coming in that know what they are doing.”

Cornell was projected fifth in the six-team Midwest Conference South Division in the coaches’ preseason poll. The Rams are excited to keep working and prove themselves.

“We have to go out there every day and grind on the field,” Spradley said. “Off the field, get in our playbooks. Be at practice, making sure we know what we’re doing, so when it comes to game day we can go there and show what we are and perform at a high-caliber level.”

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

Cornell, at a glance

Coach: Vince Brautigam (9th season at Cornell, 33-46; 28th season overall, 123-151)

Last year: 4-6 (2-3 in Midwest Conference)

Top returners: OL Robert Madole, OL Chris Chapman, OL Colton Clark, OL Christian Perez, WR Cheyenne Minot, TE Tim Monfils, WR Patrick Brown, LB Zachary Yankovich, DB Milton Spradley, LB Devin Roettger, DB Colter McMenimen, DB TRever Greene, DB Aaron Cameron, DB Tylor Fairbanks, DL Jordan Hardman, DL George Ziama, K/P Aaron Nicoll

Key losses: WR Riley Bell, OL Bryson Whistance, RB Devan Clark, QB James Douglas, DL Andrew Joseph, LB Stephen Ruiz

Schedule

Sept. 1 — at Iowa Wesleyan, 7 p.m.

Sept. 8 — Coe, 7 p.m.

Sept. 22 — at Beloit, 1 p.m.

Sept. 29 — Chicago, 1 p.m.

Oct. 6 — Illinois College, 2 p.m.

Oct. 13 — at Lake Forest, 2 p.m.

Oct. 20 — at Monmouth, 1 p.m.

Oct. 27 — Knox, 1 p.m.

Nov. 3 — at Grinnell, 1 p.m.

Nov. 10 — Midwest Conference crossover game (opponent TBD), 1 p.m.

l Comments: (319) 368-8679; kj.pilcher@thegazette.com

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.

CONTINUE READING

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.