OU football's depth gains strength as injured players return

Greg Mast
The Ottawa Herald

Injuries are part of the athletics and teams deal with those at all levels.

The Ottawa University football team withered through the first half of the season battling through a myriad of injuries. Ottawa coach Kent Kessinger feels now with getting closer to full strength and those inexperienced guys gaining playing time should pay dividends the second half of the season.

Ottawa University’s Anterrio White (27) and Nolan Clarke (33) combine on a tackle against Tabor this past week.

“We have been able to give guys an opportunity to grow and learn,” Kessinger said. “As we go into the second half of the season, it should start paying some really good dividends for us. We are back to full strength.”

Linebackers Santino Gee, Jensen Riffel and Oscar Palacios have taken full advantage of their opportunities, Kessinger said.

“Santonio Gee has come into his own on what he can do within our system,” he said. “We have more depth in our defensive line. If we can have depth in the trenches, that makes everything else play better. It makes your secondary better. It makes your receivers and running backs look better.

“The new guys have gotten a lot of reps. They are becoming more confident on what we are doing on both sides of the ball.”

Ottawa travels to Leavenworth to take on Saint Mary (1-3, 1-3) 1 p.m. Saturday.

“Saint Mary’s record is not reflective of their improvement,” Kessinger said. “This will definitely be a challenge. They have had a year to implement their offense and defense system. They will be a different team we will face.

“Everybody wants to bring their ‘A’ game when they play us. It is a competitive sport and you want a bunch of competitors out there.”

Ottawa (2-4, 2-4) is coming off its best performance of the season since the season opener. Ottawa bested Tabor, 45-22. The Braves rushed for a season-best 249 yards.

“We did some really good things,” Kessinger said. ‘Kind of like we started off the beginning of the year when we had good some good offensive and defensive stretches. Hopefully, we can build that continuity from series to series.”

The offense came to life behind a refreshed line and the insertion of sophomore Colton Davis at quarterback.

“We felt we needed to have that dynamic ability at quarterback to get things going,” Kessinger said. ‘It was about this time last year when he popped into the Saint Mary game and had a great showing. Now we have to have guys that can step up in the receiving corp that can fill his spot.

“He has been a Swiss army knife for us. We have to expand some of the things he does for us within the pass game.”