JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. - This is the fifth part in an 11-part series breaking down all of Carson-Newman football's opponents for the 2018 season. This feature breaks down the Catawba College Catawba Indians.
Aside from the two most recent games, the series of late between Catawba and Carson-Newman has been dominated by the visitors. Prior to the Indians defending their home field in 2015 and the Eagles' upset win over Catawba last year, the visiting team had won five straight games in the series.
That somewhat bodes well for Carson-Newman as the Eagles face a Catawba team that has to fill some gaping holes defensively.
The Indians were stout last year. Catawba edged out C-N for the league's scoring defense and pass defense crowns, while Carson-Newman had the edge in terms of rush defense and total defense.
While Carson-Newman returns everyone from its 2017 defense, the Indians must replace some legends.
Chief among them is Kyle Kitchens. The unholy terror of a linebacker became just the fourth player in Division II history, and second defensive player, to be named to three straight AFCA All-America teams. He was a first team pick in 2015 and 2017 and a second team honoree in 2016.
The senior Kitchens totaled a SAC high 12.5 sacks and had 20 tackles for loss. The SAC Defensive Player of the Year made 53 total tackles, forced a fumble and recovered one. He was credited with 16 quarterback pressures and broke up five passes.
Kitchens posted 216 career tackles, with 71 of those going for losses. He forced seven fumbles and recovered six to go with one career interception, which he returned 90 yards for a touchdown.
"I'm not sure if there is a replacement for Kitchens," Catawba head football coach Curtis Walker said. "He has done so much for our program. As the all-time sack leader and defensive leader of our football team. We feel that we have done what we need to do in our recruiting to sustain a program. With that being said we look forward to Cam Davis to step into that role."
Additionally, Catawba must replace All-SAC first team linebacker Trey Evans; he led Catawba in tackles last year, posting 79 over his 11 games. Among those tackles was 11 for losses, including a pair of sacks. With the departure of Michael Peppers as well, Catawba loses its three leading tacklers from a year ago.
The good news for Curtis Walker is that the entire secondary returns. The Indians picked off 12 passes a year ago led by Chris Page's three. Page also had 45 tackles, the top returner for the Indians in that regard defensively. TJ Lowe-Foston, Mike Miller and Jeremy Addison are all also back to give Catawba a veteran secondary.
The Indians return two-thirds of their front three with the return of Ryan Watts and Jordan Hemmingway. Hemingway recorded 25 tackles with a pair of sacks. He also broke up a pass.
He's not listed as a returning starter, but Omar Staley was one of the top reserves up front in the SAC last year, could enough to earn All-SAC honors. Staley notched five sacks among his 35 tackles. He also blocked a kick.
Offensively, the Indians will have to contend with the departure of last year's first team All-SAC quarterback Patrick O'Brien. He was efficient and effective a year ago, completely 63 percent of his passes (the top ledger in the SAC) for 2,546 yards and 24 scores against just five interceptions.
Reid Carlton has experience behind O'Brien at quarterback, and he was penciled in as the starter for 2017 before O'Brien transferred in for one year from UNC Pembroke.
The Indians have to also replace top receiving threat Sam Mobley, the league's second leading receiver last year produced eight touchdowns and 1,046 yards worth of receptions.
"On offense we lost our quarterback and top receiver," Walkers said. "But felt we had great competition at the quarterback position during spring practice and very excited about our wide receiving corp."
That's the bad news, the good news for Catawba is that whoever the Indians signal caller is should have plenty of time to operate. Walker's unit has four players back on the offensive line, plus all-conference tight end Jordan Osinskie back. Quinzavious Sands is the top returning O-Lineman, earning first team All-SAC honors last year.
Osinskie is the Indians leading returning receiver after catching 30 passes for 400 yards and three scores last year.
The Indians are set at running back with the return of Kenyatta Green. He accounted for 704 yards and eight scores last year.
The Better Know the Opponent Series continues with week six foe Limestone on Wednesday.