“Turnover” is a buzzword at every level of football.
However, it takes on an entirely different meaning at the junior college level.
While Erie Community College head coach Dennis Greene concerns himself with interceptions and fumbles, he also has to deal with a slim two-year eligibility window for players. This leads to new players making up about the half the roster every season.
“I’ve coached at three different colleges, all four-year schools,” Greene said. “This is the hardest job I’ve ever had. Just when they’re starting to learn football, they’re gone. Every year I have a brand new team.”
For many players, that window is shortened to one year because of academic troubles. But heading into the 2014 season, Greene said the program didn’t lose any of last year’s players to academic issues. He hopes the stability will help the Kats improve on last year’s 2-7 record.
“The kids that are returning are good students,” Greene said. “Sometimes you have a good player and you lose them academically. We didn’t lose anyone academically. We’ve got a nice little core of guys returning, and it meshes with the guys we’ve recruited.”
The veteran coach will need all the help he can get to handle what he calls a bear of a schedule. Seven of the nine teams the Kats face offer at least partial scholarships to players, which ECC does not.
To deal with this disadvantage, Greene has to recruit and develop better than most schools. He’s encouraged by what he’s seen so far in camp, especially on the defensive side of the ball.
Greene has been impressed by defensive tackle Anthony Zinzak and linebacker Ryan Johnson, a West Seneca East product whom he called the leader of the defense.
The secondary, which features returning starters Debray Williams and Chauncey Kennedy and newcomer Denzel Roberts, figures to be the strength of the unit.
“Our secondary is very good,” Greene said. “They rise above everyone else. As always, the defense is the strength of our team.”
On offense, veterans Michael Wright, Shannon Hightower and Ben Koch (Frontier) should make up a solid receiving corps.
The question is, who will be throwing them the ball? Ryan Dougherty of Bishop Timon-St. Jude and second-year man Carlos Quintero are battling for the starting quarterback spot.
For now, it seems Dougherty has the edge.
“Ryan Dougherty is really pushing the envelope right now,” Greene said. “He could be that guy. He’s knocking at the door. If you said to me ‘Take the field today,’ it would be him.”
The Kats open on the road against the Globe Institute of Technology in New York City on Aug. 30.