Football team set for season as flag-bearers of the new Evangel
September 5, 2013 | Bryce Wilks
When Evangel quarterback Andrew Brimhall takes the field September 14 against Kansas Wesleyan, much will have changed since the conclusion of the senior’s 2012 season. Shifts in personnel and the system installed by new offensive coordinator Dennis Darnell have ensured that.
But amid the changes, Brimhall will have two familiar weapons back by his side: junior running back Otis Brown and senior wide receiver Jesse Vaughn.
Brimhall (honorable mention), Brown (3rd team) and Vaughn (1st team) were each named small college preseason All-Americans by the USA College Football News.
A balanced attack
Evangel’s offense averaged 33 points, 468 total yards and 36 pass attempts per game last season in going 7-4. The problem was that Evangel opponents averaged 34 points per game, in part due to 23 turnovers through the passing game that put pressure on the defense.
Head coach Brenton Illum brought Darnell on board to fine tune the offense with a more balanced attack that should reduce turnovers and help with the time of possession battle. Leading rusher Tommy Meyer graduated, leaving a void for carrying the burden of an emphasized rushing game.
Enter Brown, a junior from Gainesville, Florida who transferred to Evangel in 2012 after starting his college career at Ball State University. He split time at running back and receiver last season, but has been dedicated to preparing for full-time running back duties.
After scoring eight total touchdowns in 2012, Brown was asked to carry the load (and a bit of extra muscle) this year. “I put time into hitting the weight room and added about ten pounds to help with the extra carries” Brown says.
When Brimhall does look to pass, he’ll have a reigning All-American and conference player of the year to target in Vaughn. The Houston native set a new benchmark with 1,283 receiving yards and eight touchdowns in 2012.
“Even though the offense is different, our preparation is still the same,” Vaughn says. “I definitely think we will exceed what we did last year, both on offense and as a team.”
|Sept. 14||at Kansas Wesleyan|
|Sept. 21||at Avila|
|Sept. 28||MidAmerica Nazarene|
|Oct. 12||at Central Methodist|
|Oct. 19||at Missouri Valley|
|Nov. 2||at Baker|
|Nov. 9||at Peru State|
New year, new theme
In preparation for the season, the team has been breaking huddles on the word “Bone.” It’s an acronym created by Illum that means “Brotherhood of the new Evangel.” Illum has shared his passion for being flag-bearers of the consolidated Evangel with players and coaches alike.
“Being an alum, you can see the passion Coach Illum has for this school” Vaughn says. “He wants us to to focus on details and deserve to win based on the way we prepare.”
“Bone is something we used to say when I was playing here in 2010, but it wasn’t really an explained thing,” defensive secondary coach Edward Sands says. “Now with the new Evangel, we’re using it as something to rally around as we coach our guys to succeed.”
The Crusaders, who are picked to finish fourth in the Heart of America Conference preseason coaches poll, will need to finish better than expected to secure the school’s first postseason birth since 2005.
The NAIA’s Championship Series is a 16-team playoff that typically extends bids to the top two teams in the HAAC.
The Crusaders are ranked No. 22 in the NAIA’s national poll heading into the season.
Photos by William Griffin