Carlyle’s Chris Birkner may be in his first year as a head coach at the school, but he is confident the Indians can have a better season in 2015.
The Indians lost key defensive players Ryan Allen and Brent Johnson to graduation, but Carlyle’s offense should be in good shape, with last season’s total points leader Alex Valazquez returning at running back.
With the season just a week away, Birkner said making the playoffs or winning championships is not his highest priority.
“My hopes for the season are to try to keep everybody healthy and eligible, and then just really develop a close-knit team atmosphere where we cheer each other on,” Birkner said. “We do compete for playing time, but ultimately whatever is good for the team is what we’re going to be preaching.”
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As the Indians biggest offensive threat from 2014, Velazquez scored 13 touchdowns, 11 rushing, while compiling 503 yards.
The second-highest rusher last season was Tommy Cummins, a quarterback whose graduation leaves the Indians with an opening at the position. The only returning player who attempted a pass last season was Ryan Rakers, who had two attempts all year.
Whoever is throwing the ball for Carlyle will also be without the Indians’ top wide-receiver Adam Alexander. After a six touchdown, 600 total yard season, Alexander will have to sit out most of the 2015 season with an injury.
Along with losing Allen and Johnson, the Indians’ lost Brendan Pfister to graduation, meaning they will be without three of their four top tacklers from last year.
Velazquez is one of the best defensive threats Carlyle has returning, as he accumulated 58 tackles in 2014.
Birkner said it will be hard to replace the players his team lost, but it will not be up to one player to get that production back.
— Benjamin Levin
at Red Bud
at El Paso-Gridley