College Football: Change? St. Xavier ready to deliver
By Steve Millar For Sun-Times Media September 4, 2013 8:44PM
Nick Pesek, of St. Xavier | File photo
St. Xavier 2013
Coach: Mike Feminis, 15th season (127-43)
Last year: 11-2 overall, 4-1 in the Mid-States Football Association Mideast League, lost in the NAIA national semifinals to Morningside College (Iowa)
Key players: WR Nick DeBenedetti, (411 yards, 5 TDs); LB Zach Dolph (128 tackles, 31/2 sacks); DB Jacob Ghinazzi (76 tackes, 3 INTs); QB Joe Gill (827 yards, 6 TDs); DE Greg Heyward (72 tackles, 7 sacks); OL Tim Ladd; LB Dave Marciano (91 tackles 3 sacks); K/P Spencer Nolen; RB Nick Pesek (1,125 yards, 8 TDs); QB John Rhode.
Sept. 7: Marian (Ind.), 6 p.m.
Sept. 14: at Indianapolis, 5 p.m.-y
Sept. 21: Robert Morris, 6 p.m.
Sept. 28: at St. Francis, 5 p.m.
Oct. 5: Grand View (Iowa), 5 p.m.-x
Oct. 12: at St. Francis (Ind.), 6 p.m.
Oct. 19: at Waldorf (Iowa), 3 p.m.-x
Oct. 26: William Penn (Iowa), 1 p.m.-x
Nov. 2: at St. Ambrose (Iowa), 1 p.m.-x
Nov. 9: Trinity International, 1 p.m.-x
Nov. 16: at Olivet Nazarene, 1:30 p.m.
x — Mid-States Football Association Midwest League game
y — NCAA Division II opponent
Updated: October 7, 2013 12:47PM
St. Xavier coach Mike Feminis knows there’s one obvious question surrounding his team as it prepares to open the 2013 season.
“Who’s the quarterback?” Feminis said. “That’s what everyone wants to know.”
The answer to who’s going to try to fill the shoes of 2012 NAIA National Player of the Year Jimmy Coy? That’s still up in the air.
Feminis, whose team begins the year ranked No. 4 in NAIA, has a pair of quarterbacks, essentially polar opposites, at his disposal.
There’s Joe Gill, a 6-foot-3 drop-back passer and a fifth-year senior who made one start last season when Coy was dealing with a concussion. Gill played in 11 of the Cougars’ 13 games in ’12, throwing for 827 yards and six touchdowns.
Then there’s John Rhode, a dual-threat redshirt freshman and Chicago Heights native who quarterbacked Marian Catholic before transferring to Montini and winning a state title in 2011. He certainly has the talent, but not the experience.
“Joe knows the offense probably better than the coaches, and when we’re going to be counting on a lot of young guys on the line and in skill positions, it’s huge to have that leadership,” Feminis said. “What John brings is a whole set of physical talents. He can run and throw and we’re going to do some things with him that we probably haven’t done with any quarterback here.
“They’re both going to play. The decision will be a week-to-week thing or even a series-to-series thing.”
Gill has waited for his chance, and is thrilled to have it.
“I got to learn from some quarterbacks in Anthony Kropp and Jimmy Coy,” he said. “I’ve learned from the best. I’m just going to do my best and see what happens.”
Rhode, meanwhile, is giddy at the thought of potentially spending four years at the helm of the Cougars’ high-octane offense.
“To get a chance to compete for the job as a redshirt freshman is awesome,” he said. “Not many people can start for two years, let alone four. (Coy) left some big shoes to fill, for sure. Getting to sit and watch him play all year last year, I learned a lot.”
The Cougars return leading rusher Nick Pesek, an Oak Lawn product, but must replace their four leading receivers from a year ago, along with Coy.
So the burden, at least early on, may be on a veteran-laden defense.
“I’m not saying the defense is what’s going to carry us,” senior linebacker Dave Marciano said, “but that’s the mentality we’re going to have to have.”
There will be no time for growing pains as the Cougars open the season at 6 p.m. Saturday, hosting defending national champion Marian University (Ind.) in a showdown between the last two national champions.