FINDING ANSWERS: Kittell happy with RBs, spring game Saturday
When spring practice started a month ago, the University of Jamestown football team had some tough issues to tackle.
Most notably, who or whom, was going to take over at running back.
With Saturday's spring game just two days away, head coach Josh Kittell believes the Jimmies will be just fine on the ground.
The position became a question mark when Keldrick Sullivan opted to leave school despite having two seasons of eligibility remaining following a 15-touchdown campaign. The Jimmies may not have a single workhorse next fall, but the ball will be in good hands. Junior college transfer Jimmy Hatch from California and redshirt freshman Allen Jevning from Brainerd, Minn., have filled the void.
"I'm very pleased with our running back situation," Kittell said. "Both Jimmy and Allen can do everything ... they can catch the ball out of the backfield, they're really good in pass protection, obviously they're both good runners. I've really liked what I've seen from them and our other backs as well."
Saturday's spring game begins at 1 p.m. at the turf field behind the Larson Center. It is open to the public. Kittell said familiarity has bred success.
"From where we were a year ago at this time it's a night and day difference," the head coach said. "They've come a long way in understanding what's expected out of them and what we need to do to get better."
Also this spring, the Jimmies were looking for more explosive plays from their wide receivers. The group has solid performers like Branden Edwards returning, but they're still searching for someone(s) to take the top off the defense.
"We're still looking for that home run guy," Kittell said.
The Jimmies are thin on the offensive line, but what they lack in quantity, they make up for in quality.
"I'm very pleased with those guys," Kittell said. "I think we're going to be pretty good up front."
The big boys will be protecting quarterback Dylan Klatt, who had an up and down junior season, but has all the physical tools needed for success.
"This is the first time he's been in the same system two years in a row," Kittell said. "He's looked really good. He's understanding the nuisances of the offense to where he's going to be able to get us into better situations at the line of scrimmage a lot more. ... I'm really excited about his growth."
Defensively, some familiar names have shined.
Senior defensive back Keith Rogers, who has nine career interceptions, is looking like a lockdown corner.
"He should darn-near be an All-American type player," Kittell said. "He's completely dominated this spring."
Junior D-linemen Zach Phillips and Andrew Jensen are building on their strong sophomore campaigns.
"They're going to be a handful for offenses to deal with," Kittell said of the pair.
Also drawing praise is junior safety Ben Steinolfson, a team captain. The Jimmies have a big hole to fill in the back with the graduation of Kaleb Garcia.
"Ben's playing at a high level," Kittell said of the Steele, N.D., product.
Through 20 of 22 practices, the Jimmies have also stayed healthy.
"We're thin in a few spots, but we knew that going into the offseason," Kittell said. "We have a big freshman class coming in and we're looking forward to getting those kids on campus.
"We feel really good about what we've gotten accomplished this spring and hopefully it carries over into the summer."