Grove City College football coach Chris Smith has been there and done that many times, but when you have to replace an All-American fullback in R.J. Bowers that's quite a chore.
Bowers, a three-time All-American back, has graduated and is off to the pro ranks this season, leaving Smith with the job of plugging 70 percent of his rushing offense from the previous three seasons, as well as 60 percent of his scoring offense. It's not easy to replace a guy like Bowers.
Bowers is one of six offensive starters who won't return this season with quarterback Steve Lacinski, center Shawn Kelly and cornerback Brock McCullough the key starters lost. Bowers holds the NCAA record with 7,353 rushing yards and 92 career touchdowns.
Smith (69-89-1 in 17 years at Grove City) will have five offensive starters returning this season including the second leading running back and three solid offensive lineman, including two All-PAC selections. Halfback Mike Orlando should emerge as the team's top running back after picking up 383 yards in his junior season.
Blockers: Paving the way for Orlando will be a pair of junior PAC second-team selections, tackle Derek Bostick and tight end Mark Byrer. Also back is guard Tony Masterofrancesco, who started every game in his freshman season.
With Lacinski gone, Mike Kashurba is the top candidate to fill his shoes. Kashurba was a two-year starter at free safety before being sidelined with an injury last season. He transferred to Grove City from the U.S. Naval Academy where he was recruited to play quarterback.
The defensive side of the football returns almost everybody with nine starters returning including the entire front seven. Senior inside linebacker Adam Corbett tops the list after recording a team-high 119 tackles last year, just seven shy of the school's single season record.
Senior outside linebacker Jonathan Forbes also returns after leading the squad with 16 tackles for loss and a team-high eight QB sacks.
Senior Jesse Kohser, junior Josh Albright, junior Nick Schneider and sophomore John Bialowas will compete for the other two linebacking posts. Senior Jeremy Young, a PAC second-team pick, and junior Kyle Vuchak return to the end posts, while senior John Baverso looks to reclaim the nose tackle position that he lost to injury last season.
The secondary loses both cornerbacks including Brock McCullough, who represented GCC at the 2000 Aztec Bowl in Merida, Mexico. McCullough was one of 40 Division III seniors who represented the U.S. against the Mexican all-star team. There is no concern at safety, however, with the return of senior strong safety Michael Volchko, a PAC second-team pick in 2000, and senior free safety Josh Sachleben. The two ranked second (86) and third (83) in tackles last year.
Dickinson is opener: The Wolverines, who posted an overall record of 6-4 last season while going 3-1 in the PAC (second place), will kick off the 2001 season at 1:30 p.m., Sept. 1, with Dickinson at Grove City.
Grove City's 2001 schedule shows the same 10 opponents in the same order as last year, but played at opposite sites. Following the Labor Day weekend clash with Dickinson, the Wolverines will play three of their five conference games at home, including an October 6th encounter with defending champion Washington & amp; Jefferson College.
Two weeks later, Grove City will make its first visit to Westminster College's Burry Stadium since 1982.
Smith has a number of outstanding assistant coaches including Bill Jordan, offensive coordinator; Jon Kolb, defensive coordinator; Rob Skaricich, defensive backs; Tom Trimmer, offensive line; Tom Wilson, defensive line; Dennis Bornes, inside linebackers; Garret Schmidt, receivers; Shawn Kelly, offensive line and Jeff Empey, defensive backs.