Coaching changes haven’t affected RPI football star
TROY Mike Hermann isn’t just a tall, talented leader with a distinctive Mohawk haircut. He’s also versatile and resilient.
The 6-foot-5, 250-pound senior quarterback from Hardeesville, S.C., not only accounted for approximately 85 percent of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute offense a year ago, but he’s also playing under his fourth head coach and fourth offensive coordinator.
For his first two seasons, Hermann directed a run-and-shoot attack for veteran head coach Joe King, who was replaced by Tim Landis a year ago. Landis led the Engineers to a 4-5 record in his only season before resigning for “personal reasons” last February.
That left the door open for offensive coordinator Guido Falbo, who was selected the interim head coach.
But Guido’s reign lasted only a few months, as he left RPI in June to accept a position as an assistant head coach at Division II Alderson-Broaddus College in West Virginia. Stepping in through the revolving door was defensive coordinator Bob Bodor, who will be both the acting head coach and defensive coordinator this campaign.
Hermann simply shrugged off all the coaching moves.
“I’ve been fortunate to have been a starter in his program since I was a freshman. But I’ve already had four offensive coordinators and several head coaches that I’ve played for. I’m not overly concerned about the coaching changes,” he said.
A four-year starter, Hermann was asked to do it all for the 2011 Engineers, and he responded with an outstanding season. He not only completed 172 of 290 passes for 2,054 yards, 14 touchdowns and just eight interceptions, but he was also the team’s leading rusher with 648 yards and an eye-catching 15 touchdowns. He produced 300.2 total yards per game and led the Engineers with 92 points.
Since Hermann is such a focal point of the RPI offense, he was asked if he would be more careful about running the ball so often and instead remain in the pocket.
“The coaches don’t limit me,” he said. “I’ll do what I do in every game, and if that means run, I’ll run. If I get injured, I get injured. We have some young quarterbacks who can take over if I get injured.”
Although Hermann accounted for virtually all of the Engineers’ offense last year, RPI appears to be much more balanced this year. Senior Matt Wood, who ran for about 100 yards as a junior, leads a solid corps of running backs, while LaSalle graduate Mike Blais and Stillwater grad Ricky McBride are a pair of talented tight ends who should see plenty of playing time, along with wideout Austin Caswell, the team’s top receiver last year with 44 catches for 598 yards and five scores. Steven Burpoe was second with 33 receptions for 427 yards and another TD.
“We’re definitely going to use the tight ends more in our offense, and we have plenty of running backs. In fact, I think our running attack will be our strength this year,” said Hermann.
“We have high hopes, and the best thing is that I’m not going to be asked to carry the burden all by myself this year.”
In Bodor, the Engineers have a coach with plenty of experience. He was the head coach at Division III Colorado College from 2003 until 2008, when that program disbanded. He was also the special teams coordinator and defensive line coach at Division II Colorado School of Mines. Previously, he coached at Division III Albion College, where he was the defensive coordinator for five years, and at Hartwick, where he was the defensive coordinator for three seasons. Bodor also coached at Pennsylvania, Columbia and Johns Hopkins.
Bodor sees RPI improving tremendously on both sides of the ball.
“We have 22 seniors on this team, including Mike Hermann. Without a doubt, Mike brings a lot of leadership and talent, and we know his position is so important,” he said. “But we also have 21 other seniors. It’s been a great transition here this summer. Our students don’t get enough credit for their ability to respond to adversity.
“We have very high expectations for this program. We’ve made great strides on both offense and defense every day.”
Among the Section II graduates on the RPI roster are junior defensive lineman Jacob Meyers (Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake), junior tight end Joe Cozzolino (Chatham), sophomore defensive back Connor Young (Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake), sophomore defensive lineman Chris Ohnsman (Ballston Spa), sophomore offensive lineman Jay Yazskanich (Troy), junior defensive lineman Ted Abriel (Bethlehem), sophomore defensive lineman Wade Hansen (Tamarac) and senior linebacker A.J. Monin (Colonie).
8 — ALFRED, 12:30; 15 — at Castleton State, 1; 22 — WPI, 1; 29 — at Merchant Marine academy, 2.
6 — ST. LAWRENCE, 1; 13 — at Rochester, 1; 20 — HOBART, 12.
3 — at Springfield, 12; 10 — UNION, 12.
Home games in CAPS.