Ohio Dominican Football enters 2014 at number 20 in our rankings. Check out our Top 25 Season Preview for more on the top college teams to watch this fall. Can’t find your team in the Top 25? View our full rankings to see where every team stands.
Last Season: 10-1 (9-0) Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference
All-conference quarterback Mark Miller and the Panthers opened their 2012-13 season with ten straight wins, including a blowout over Grand Valley State. They won the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference South Division easily, and earned a first round bye as a 2-seed in their first playoffs since transferring to D2 from the NAIA in 2010.
Going into the game against West Texas A&M, the Panthers knew they would have to control the ball on the ground to keep the number four scoring offense in D2 off the field. With Mark Nichols and Brandon Schoen, Ohio Dominican’s tandem of 1,000+ yard rushers, they should have been able to do it – especially since A&M had one of the worst defenses in the playoff field (#81 rush D, #101 pass D, #60 scoring D). That’s not how it went down though. Schoen and Nichols were held to a combined 110 yards on 25 attempts, just over half of their season average of 215 per game. Despite the lack of production, the Panthers were in the game to the last – Ronnel Spates punched in a 16 yard touchdown right after the two minute warning to bring Ohio Dominican within a touchdown, but the Panthers didn’t let the resulting onside kick go ten yards before they recovered it. West Texas A&M ran out the clock and won 34-27.
-Jake Brandt OL – Second team Daktronics All-American, three-year starter, first team All-GLIAC
-Mark Nichols RB – 203 carries, 1,155 yards, 11 TDs
-Nikko Tanksley LB – 47 tackles, 3.5 TFL, 2 sacks, 1 FR
-Dominic Clegg LB – 40 tackles, 1 INT, 2 passes defensed
-Justin Bell DB – AFCA All-American, Second team Daktronics All-American, 101 tackles, 1 TFL, 2 INTs, 2 FFs, 1 FR, 4 passes defensed
What to Watch For
Senior Moment – Mark Miller threw for the third most yards and fourth most touchdowns in the GLIAC last season, despite attempting the seventh most passes. His completion percentage of 67.5 was second in the conference to Brendan Gallagher of Lake Erie, whose 71.1% completion rate was the second best in all D2 (Miller was 12th). Other than tight end Nate Weeks who graduated in spring, every player who caught 10+ passes last season will be back. Expect big things from the two-time honorable mention All-GLIAC quarterback this season.
Four years ago, Bill Conley took over as the head coach at ODU after 17 years as an assistant at Ohio State where he developed a reputation as one of the best recruiters in the country. His first year as the top man in Columbus was the team’s first season as a D2 program. Ohio Dominican finished 2-8 that season while the coach and his players adapted to their new reality, and it’s been continuous improvement ever since: 7-4 in their second season, 8-3 in 2012, and then in their fourth season, last year, their 10-0 regular season finish earned him a contract extension through the 2015 season and the GLIAC Coach of the Year award. His reputation as a top-notch recruiter has proved true – his team is stocked with young talent.
The defense that finished 16th in D2 in ppg allowed last season (18.1) will return almost every starter. The loss of AFAC All-American safety Justin Bell hurts, but he was one of only three seniors to graduate – the Panthers will be young, experienced, and hungry after their surprisingly early playoff exit a season ago. Expect them to win the GLIAC again in 2014, and get their first D2 playoff win(s?) as well.