Division II North

Alconbury DragonsLast year: 2-3 (no postseason)Coach: Rashad Gallon (first season)Returning talent: 10 players, eight startersProjected top players: TE/LB/K Pavel Karamshin (Sr.); OL/DL Chad Hartley Jr. (Sr.); QB/LB Fritz Sherenco (Jr.); RB/DL Chris Dufresne (Jr.); RB/DB Adarius Gallon (Fr.).Key games: Sept. 13 vs. Hohenfels; Oct. 11 vs. Menwith Hill/WoodhamGood news: New head coach and former assistant Gallon has stressed positivity and optimism in preseason workouts, an appropriate tack for a program looking to shake a streak of losing seasons.Bad news: Those good vibes will have to survive a season-opening visit from the reigning European champion on Sept. 13 and a long-haul trip to Rota a week later.

International School of Brussels RaidersLast year: 3-2 (lost quarterfinal)Coach: Will Vreugdenhil (ninth season) Returning talent: Six players, three startersProjected top players: RB John Kontos (Soph.); WR Stefan Anderson (Sr.); RB Loris Hezemans (Jr.)Key games: Sept. 6 vs. Aviano; Oct. 11 at SHAPEGood news: The Raiders emerged as one of DODDS-Europe’s most explosive squads last fall, scoring 40 or more points in four out of five regular-season games. Backfield pair Kontos and Hezemans could keep the scoreboard ticking up this season.Bad news: ISB is all but starting over in terms of roster-building. The quick DODDS-Europe schedule doesn’t have much patience for young teams finding their way.

Menwith Hill/WoodhamLast year: Woodham 4-2; Menwith Hill 2-4 (Independent League) Coaches: Danny Ketch (second season at Woodham); Pete Resnick (26th season at Menwith Hill)Returning talent: 18 players, 13 starters (combined) Projected top players: OL/DL Jonathon Brugman (Sr.); RB/LB Andrew Potter (Sr.); RB Chris Armstrong (Sr.); OL Jordan McCabe (Jr.); WR/DB Josh Penny (Jr.)Key games: Sept. 13 at SHAPE; Oct. 11 at AlconburyBad news: The United Kingdom teams were also-rans in the short-lived Independent League last fall, and will spend this fall adapting a newly-merged roster from nine-man to 11-man football at a higher competitive level. That’s a lot to overcome. Good news: The combined squad features solid coaching, a wealth of returning talent and a two-way lineman ready to do upper-division damage in Brugman. That’s not a bad start.

SHAPE SpartansLast year: 4-1 (lost championship game)Coach: Jay Bodine (first year)Returning talent: Four players, one starter Projected top players: QB Noah Parker; RB Noah Bradsher; LB Jose Luis Delgado; OL/DL Fernando Royo-RubioKey games: Sept. 20 at Naples; Oct. 11 vs. ISBBad news: The Spartans serve as 2014’s annual reminder of the fleeting nature of DODDS-Europe contention. The SHAPE stars that came within a few snaps of a European title have disappeared, replaced by as-yet-unknown commodities.Good news: New coach Bodine is a seasoned veteran who has spent 10 years of his 34-year coaching career in DODDS; if nothing else, the Spartans will compete.

Division II Central

AFNORTH LionsLast year: 1-4 (no postseason)Coach: Greg Blankenship (14th season)Returning talent: Seven players, three startersProjected top players: TE/DE Logan Harless (Jr.); RB/LB Mike Graves (Sr.); RB/LB Spencer Brobst (Sr.); WR/DB Darel Marshall (Sr.); QB/DB Isiah Higgs (Soph.); WR/K Klaudius Karich (Sr.).Key games: Oct. 4 at Rota; Oct. 11 vs. BaumholderBad news: The schedule couldn’t have come out much worse for the struggling Lions, when they’re not facing German behemoths Ansbach and Bitburg, they’re on the road to Aviano, Italy, and Rota, Spain. Good news: The Lions are rather robust at the skill positions with a deep corps of sure-handed receivers, a strong pair of backs in Brobst and Graves and a promising quarterback in Higgs.

Ansbach CougarsLast year: 5-0 (lost semifinal)Coach: Marcus George (14th season)Returning talent: 12 players, five startersProjected top players: RB/LB Dorian Jones (Sr.); QB Bailey Ward (Jr.); WR/DB Brandon Piccinini (Jr.); RB/LB Roger Brownell (Sr.); OL/LB Nick Abel (Jr.)Key games: Sept. 13 vs. Naples; Sept. 20 vs. BitburgBad news: Not much to report; things look pretty sunny in Bavaria. The Cougars will need to replace seven defensive starters, but even that’s not bad by DODDS standards.Good news: Returning touchdown machine Jones leads a strong group of incumbent Cougars eager to resume last year’s abruptly-ended championship chase.

Baumholder BucsLast year: 3-2 (lost quarterfinal)Coach: BJ Walker (fourth season)Returning talent: Three players, two startersProjected top players: RB/LB Anthony Amos; OL/DL Yorel Smalls; QB Kameron Moore; TE/DE Cade Martinez.Key games: Sept. 6 at Bitburg; Oct. 11 at AFNORTHBad news: With an almost entirely new roster, the Bucs will need big steps forward from unproven underclassmen to repeat last year’s playoff bid.Good news: Youth, inexperience and a lack of continuity are issues almost universally shared by DODDS-Europe Division II programs. The Bucs have athletes and will be competitive.

Bitburg BaronsLast year: 5-0 (lost semifinal)Coach: Mike Laue (11th season)Returning talent: 11 players, eight startersProjected top players: RB Curtis Wilson (Jr.); RB John Blake (Jr.); OL/DL Alex Santiago (Sr.); OL/DL Zach Newell (Sr.); OL/DL Joseph Foster (Sr.); QB Dominick Ferneding (Sr.)Key games: Sept. 20 at Ansbach; Oct. 4 at HohenfelsBad news: The Barons saw their nearly half-decade reign as Division II European champions come to a stunning end in last year’s semifinals. While that might serve as motivation, it might have also dinged the program’s confidence.Good news: Bitburg’s era of dominance was built largely around powerful offensive and defensive lines, and the return of seniors Santiago, Newell, and Foster ensure this year’s edition will enjoy that same advantage.

Rota AdmiralsLast year: 0-5 (no postseason)Coach: Ben Anderson (second season)Returning talent: 10 players, four startersProjected top players: QB Estevan Gallardo (Sr.); RB/LB Jonas Camacho (Sr.); WR/LB Patrick Larobis (Sr.); WR/DE Matthew Gramkee (Sr.).Key games: Sept. 27 at Bitburg; Oct. 4 vs. AFNORTHBad news: The former Division III powers continue to face challenges both large (the distance separating them from their three road games in Germany) and small (their overall lack of individual size).Good news: The school’s population is on the upswing, from 212 this time a year ago to 279 at the end of this August, and that trend is expected to continue. Speaking very generally, more kids equate to more athletes and better teams.Division II South

Aviano SaintsLast year: 1-4 (no postseason)Coach: Rick Dahlstrom (ninth season)Returning talent: Six players, six startersProjected top players: OL Germaine Seisa (Jr.); OL Manny Gamboa (Jr.); DB Jamal Thomas (Sr.); DL Matt Lister (Sr.); DB Marcus Brown (Sr.).Key games: Sept. 13 vs. Vicenza; Sept. 20 at HohenfelsBad news: The Saints will have to work around size and speed disadvantages to keep pace with their brutal new regional rivals, all three of whom reached last year’s playoffs.Good news: Aviano dodged a winless campaign last fall with an upset over playoff-bound Italian rival Naples on Oct. 12. Stalwart lineman Seisa and standout defensive backs Thomas and Brown will try to carry that momentum into a new season.

Hohenfels TigersLast year: 3-2 (European champion)Coach: Larry Daffin (second season)Returning talent: 13 players, nine startersProjected top players: RB/DB David Vidovic (Sr.); QB/DB Clayton Pinheiro (Sr.); WR/LB Gabriel Penn (Sr.); WR/DB Marcus Dudley (Sr.); OL/DL Justin Standifer; OL/DL Brett WadeKey games: Oct. 4 vs. Bitburg; Oct. 11 at VicenzaBad news: Upstarts no longer, the champion Tigers have graduated from hunter to hunted. Can the Tigers summon the same hunger that fueled last year’s magical title run?Good news: Where to begin? Vidovic is the most dangerous offensive threat in recent DODDS-Europe memory. The returning core is perhaps the best on the continent. Daffin’s even-keeled style funnels his players’ emotions in positive directions. The Tigers will be very good; the question is, will anyone else be better?

Naples WildcatsLast year: 2-3 (lost quarterfinal)Coach: Steve Altstiel (third season)Returning talent: 18 players, eight startersProjected top players: OL/DL Zane Zimmerman; QB/LB Ty’Rick Riggins (Soph.); DE/TE Nathan Cairns (Sr.); RB Cameron Copeland (Sr.); RB/KR Christopher Greene (Fr.).Key games: Sept. 27 at Hohenfels; Oct. 4 vs. VicenzaBad news: Despite the impressive haul of returning players, Altstiel reports a handful of costly losses due to preseason injuries and PCS moves. A schedule featuring September road games at Ansbach and Hohenfels will immediately test the Wildcat depth.Good news: Teams that find success in DODDS-Europe usually have a mix of proven hands and fresh faces. Naples has the former in two-way roughnecks Zimmerman and Cairns and the latter in Riggins and Greene.

Vicenza CougarsLast year: 3-2 (lost quarterfinal)Coach: Kurt York (second season)Returning talent: 11 players, five startersProjected top players: QB Mario Molina (Sr.); OL/DL Marshall Perfetti (Sr.); OL/DL Randall Bagtas (Sr.); RB Max Monnard (Jr); LB Canaan York (Jr.).Key games: Oct. 4 at Naples; Oct. 11 vs. HohenfelsBad news: The Cougars chased a one-win 2012 season with an above-.500 regular season and playoff berth last fall. But the seniors who turned the program around are no longer around to sustain that momentum.Good news: Senior quarterback Mario Molina is poised for a star-making season, and a strong showing for preseason camp fills the roster around him with good overall talent and depth.

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