AFNORTH Lions2012 record – 1-5Coach – Greg Blankenship (13th year)Returnees – 5 players, 5 startersProjected key players – QB Daniel Cordova (Sr.); WR Victor Black (Sr.); TE Logan Harless (Soph.); DL Mike Graves (Sr.); RB Cullen Ennis (Sr.).Good news – Where most DODDS-Europe programs lean heavily on the run, the Lions have the personnel and organizational will to launch an explosive passing game.Bad news – While the Lion offense lets loose, a defense featuring three freshmen and three sophomores might let opposing offenses have just as much fun.
Alconbury Dragons2012 record – 2-4Coach – Rod Sherenco (1st year)Returnees – 10 players, 5 startersProjected key players – Not provided.Good news – Longtime assistant Sherenco takes over after eight years as a Dragons assistant, bringing a nice mix of familiarity and fresh optimism.Bad news – This year’s field of larger-school opponents might overwhelm an inexperienced team with several players learning new positions.
Ansbach Cougars2012 record – 3-3Coach – Marcus George (13th year)Returnees – 18 players, 8 startersProjected key players – OG/LB Austin Benton (Sr.); OG/LB Josh Pleake (Sr.); QB/DB Bailey Ward (Soph.); TE/DE Jamie Buchanan (Sr.); RB/LB Dorian Jones (Jr.).Good news – Stalwart coach George’s program presents a tradition of excellence and challenges its players to live up to it.Bad news – Past performance doesn’t guarantee success, and the Cougars are still striving to rebuild a championship-level talent base.
Aviano Saints2012 record – 2-4Coach – Rick Dahlstrom (8th year)Returnees – 6 players, 3 startersProjected key players – QB Jake Ellis (Sr.); RB Danny Dinges (Soph.); WR Ryan Perran (Jr.); WR Dallas Arzate (Jr.); OL Germaine Seisa (Soph.)Good news – Aviano has the raw tools of a yard-chewing offensive unit, with quality players slotted at each of the key skill positions and Seisa anchoring the line.Bad news – The Saints lost their two primary heavy hitters on defense, and they’ll need bruisers against the likes of Hohenfels, Ansbach and Naples.
Baumholder Bucs2012 record – 8-0; Division III championCoach – BJ Walker (3rd year)Returnees – 14 players, 12 startersProjected key players – WR/DE Isaak Giefer (Sr.); RB/LB Nobleman Soule (Sr.); RB/DL Austin Van Doren (Sr.); RB/DB Tristan Maddox (Sr.); OL/DL Kris Martinez (Sr.).Good news – The Bucs bring back 11 seniors from last year’s Division III championship team and won’t be overwhelmed by Division II competition.Bad news – The loss of all three of the program’s 2012 All-Europeans, including Stars and Stripes Athlete of the Year Ben McDaniels, leave glaring vacancies for playmakers on both sides of the football.
Bitburg Barons2012 record – 8-0; Division II championCoach – Mike Laue (10th year)Returnees – 17 players, 11 startersProjected key players – FB/LB Devin Billups (Sr.); RB/LB/DB Larry Jackson (Jr.); OL/DL Justin Martel (Jr.); RB/LB Kenny Love (Sr.); QB/RB/DB James Cortez (Sr.); OL/DL Alex Santiago (Jr.); OL/DL Lorenzo Graham (Sr.)Good news – Bitburg is the team to beat until somebody finally does it. This summer’s loss of four All-Europe performers only highlights how much elite talent this program produces.Bad news – A disastrous first half and narrow escape against Naples in last year’s Division II title game might have damaged the Barons’ aura of invincibility.
Hohenfels Tigers2012 record – 3-4; Division II semifinalistCoach – Larry Daffin (1st year)Returnees – 10 players, 3 startersProjected key players – RB David Vidovic (Jr.); WR/DB Gene Toney; QB Clayton Pinero.Good news – The Tigers can draw confidence from a surprise 2012 playoff berth and the reassuring presence of All-Europe backfield beast Vidovic.Bad news – Former Heidelberg coach Daffin will need to quickly assemble a serviceable offensive line to give Vidovic a fighting chance.
International School of Brussels Raiders2012 record – 1-5Coach – Will Vreugdenhil (8th year)Returnees – 15 players, 10 startersProjected key players – QB Marshall Kontos; RB Pearce Keesling; RB Fernando Torrijos; TE Tim Overeem; OL Jay Adamitis.Good news – The Raiders’ core group has been together since ninth grade and is determined to leave on a winning note.Bad news – A rugged early schedule featuring September games against Bitburg and SHAPE might spoil ISB’s positive vibes.
Naples Wildcats2012 record – 7-1; Division II runner-upCoach – Steve Altsteil (2nd year)Returnees – 16 players, 4 startersProjected key players – OL/DL Zane Zimmerman (Jr.); OL/DL Jordan Thurston (Sr.); CB/WR Nick Snider (Jr.); OL/DL Nathan Carnes (Jr.).Good news – Familiar names are hard to find, but the tools of success remain. The team’s combined 28 freshmen and sophomores are big, strong and packed with potential.Bad news – Having lost most of their key players from last year’s almost-championship squad, the Wildcats have plunged abruptly into a rebuilding phase.
Rota Admirals2012 record – 4-3; Division III runner-upCoach – Ben Anderson (1st year)Returnees – 4 players, 1 starterProjected key players – OL/DL Zach Jensen; OL/DL Zach Jensen; RB/LB Jonas CamachoGood news – Rota has long been a problematic opponent in multiple sports, swooping in from Spain and landing blows to the pride of larger schools.Bad news – The Admirals are small in school size, roster size and physical size, and success in the larger Division II pond might be asking too much.
Schweinfurt/Bamberg Razorbacks2012 record – Schweinfurt 3-3; Bamberg 4-2, Division III semifinalistCoach – Jesse Woods (2nd year)Returnees – 7 players, 4 starters Projected key players – OL/LB Roman Zaytdes (Sr.); OL Dong Kim (Sr.).Good news – The Bavarian neighbors turned DODDS-Europe’s tumult into an opportunity, ensuring that both closing schools will have one last team to cheer on.Bad news – While the combination of two .500 teams sounds formidable on paper, the reality is that tiny Bamberg will contribute just a handful of players to a solid Division II incumbent.
SHAPE Spartans2012 record – 4-2-1; Division II semifinalistCoach – Randy Potter (2nd year)Returnees – 27 players, 12 startersProjected key players – QB Brett Cain (Jr.); OL/DL Taylor Ator (Sr.); OL/DL Clay Coon (Sr.); OL/DL Manuel Golmayo (Sr.); RB/WR Conner Manning (Sr.)Good news – The Spartans have a robust and diverse student body from which to draw athletic talent and a core group of experienced players to lead the way.Bad news – For all the good things going on in Belgium, SHAPE is still a step or two shy of joining Division II elites Bitburg and Naples.
Vicenza Cougars2012 record – 1-3-1Coach – Kurt York (1st year)Returnees – 15 players, 8 startersProjected key players – LB Malcolm Harris (Sr.); DL Austin Kelly (Sr.); RB Ethan Fullmer (Sr.); RB Jerome Farmer (Sr.); TE Bryce Fisher (Sr.).Good news – The cumulative eagerness of a pack of talented but frustrated seniors and a hopeful new coach can sometimes dovetail to great effect.Bad news – Naples looms in week one; win or lose, the Cougars will need to glean something useful from a game against the in-country juggernaut.