A look at the Oxford Brookes University Panthers ahead of their 2016-2017 Season
Report by Saints veteran Rich Bloomer
The Oxford Brookes University (OBU) Panthers have some work to do after last season. After a disappointing year for a variety of reasons on and off the field, they are looking to change minds.
I’ve enrolled this year as TE/DL and I will be giving my feedback on how the season is going, along with which players you should be watching out for.
OBU Panthers – 2016/2017
|Plymouth Blitz University||11 - 6||OBU Panthers||BUCS - 2A South West|
|OBU Panthers||7 - 21||Gloucestershire Gladiators||BUCS - 2A South West|
|OBU Panthers||8 - 33||Bristol Barracuda||BUCS - 2A South West|
|Bournemouth Bobcats||12 - 17||OBU Panthers||BUCS - 2A South West|
|OBU Panthers||18 - 2||Tarannau Aberystwyth University||BUCS - 2A South West|
|Bath Spa Bulldogs||0 - 40||OBU Panthers||BUCS - 2A South West|
The team continues to be led by Head Coach Nick Wykes, who has recently come off an impressive undefeated winning streak with the Oxford Saints senior team, claiming a National Title.
As part of the Saints, Coach Wykes was the defensive coordinator and created a team that did not leak points, conceding an average of just 8 points a game.
Alongside his responsibilities with the Saints, Wykes is back at the Panthers with defensive coordinator Toby Durant. Durant is another Saints veteran and defensive line coach. He also handles NFL correspondence for realsport101.com and has an impressive knowledge of the game, looking to impart his knowledge onto the students.
Special teams will see the return of Phil DeMonte from the Swindon Storm and will also be supporting our running backs. As for the supporting cast, Mat Paixao (LB), Charlie Waters (CB) Michael Bearman (DB) and Jack Geerthsen (WR) all support their specialist areas respectively.
As for the team themselves, they are looking strong in their pre season warm ups. The team train 3 times a week and works hard in the gym making sure they are ready for what faces them this year.
As we go into the first pre season game there seems to be a dead heat for the quarterback (QB) position.
Jack Gray and Tate Butcher are both returning second year players and looking to fight over the starter spot. Both are very agile in the pocket and look to use their speed to expose weak defenses. Both have similar play styles and it will come down to who can perform in game situations and under pressure.
I have a lot of confidence in them both and at the moment, it looks like it will be made on a toss of a coin!
These boys need protection though. The Panther offensive line (OL) is built around speed and power. Experienced second year OL players like Jamie Pierce, Rob Towler, Luke Withers, Stuart Thorpe and Ollie Lashley are not what I am used to as an OL corp. These guys are quick and they pack a punch. These lads give the QB’s the time they need to find their targets.
Rob Howard has personally impressed me a lot in the pre season and if he sticks to his current rate will be fighting for the OMVP title at the end of the season.
Alongside JJ Gibbs the WR position seems set for the panthers and the rookies will be biting at their ankles to take these two down.
Inside at the TE position you have returner James Whybrow, a skilled big body guy who runs routes like a WR and is a serious vertical threat.
The running game is spearheaded by three very different types of runners. Callum Glass and Cedric Cools are small agile backs and will make players miss tackles.
On the flip side the versatile back of Cameron Christie looks more like a TE than a FB and his height will prove difficult to cover in the passing game.
ROOKIES TO WATCH: This is not a case of the game being sewn up for these returners. The Uni season always brings players keen to try out new things. Arran Gulliver RB and Alex Stafford TE will be getting a lot of reps this year. So watch this space.
On the other side of the ball you have some huge strengths in this team.
The defensive line will cause problems for people this season. The defensive ends play two very different roles and will be used in a variety of ways. Both big highlight material returners and both looking to cause havoc for offensive co-ordinators.
Stuart Thorpe provides a blistering burst of speed backed up with good strengths and a highlight player. Max Honigsbaum provides the strength and power that will stop any tackle in their step. In the middle you have Jake Connolly, this 18 stone veteran will be blocking anything coming up the middle to let the DE duo have a field day.
If a play gets through to the second level they will be met by Jack Shepard marshaling his core of line backers. One linebacker to look out for is Ollie Morgan. This fridge shaped gentleman will be a real threat and I am excited to see how he does in the game!
Alongside him and fighting for reps will be converts Rob Smith and Josh Rowan.
Finally you have the little guys at the back, kept in check by club president Ian Whitehead. The feisty DB controls the secondary and brings a level of intensity that I was not expecting at the University level. This guy is a role model for the University game and I expect a lot from him this year.
Now supported by Alex Wright, previously from the Colchester Gladiators, makes our secondary strong and should not struggle with the passing game. CB’s James McGurk and Ben Smith will be our men out on the island and complete a very strong secondary unit.
Finally every team needs one of those “he can do everything” kind of players and the one to watch this season will be Freddie Kuhle. This DB/DE is one of those players and I am expecting him to bring something different when we need it.
ROOKIES TO WATCH
There are gaps for the rookies to really shine in the defense this year. Tim Edwards LB and Dan Goodchild DB will look to fight the starters for their positions this year. Both very green to the game but showing great potential as the season progresses.
The OBU Panthers open their season to the Plymouth Blitz deep down in Devon. As an undergraduate with the Blitz I should have mixed emotions about this game. However, they changed their team kit to an odd blue colour now, so I have no feelings anymore and we will be looking for our first in the W column.
PANTHERS AT THE SAINTS
The Oxford Saints have been closely tied to the Panthers for many years, seeing a range of uni players joining up with us to try out some senior football.
We look forward to welcoming new Panthers who wish to develop their American Football skills at the next level with the Saints in 2017.
The standout name is RB/TE James Walter, a graduate of OBU who has been with the Saints for several seasons now and is a huge factor in the team’s offense. Watch James Walter open the scoring in the 2016 Division II Final below, catching a pass for a touchdown from QB Destin Maulding.
Walter has rushed for 1,000+ yards in back-to-back seasons, breaking personal records and winning team awards.
On September 11th 2016, he helped lead the team to it’s first undefeated season in club history and a 24-2 victory over the Cambridge Cats in the Division II Final.
- James Walter
- United Kingdom
- Running Back
- Cheltenham, ENG
- Current Team
- Oxford Saints
- Past Teams
- OBU Panthers
|Season||Team||Att||Yds||Avg||TD||Rec||Rec Yds||Rec. Avg||Rec TD|
Many other Panthers have contributed to the success of the Saints in recent years, including Ryan Kingshott (RB), Mike Turner (CB), Ken Snider (DL), Harry Brookmyre (QB), Jake Geerthsen (WR), James Sharples (QB), Bradley Maybury (WR), Dale Hooper (DB), James Ferrigno (RB).
Ryan Kingshott is a dominating force for the Saints and he helped seal the win in the Division II Final. See his big touchdown below: