Above photo by Russell Marwitz/True To The Cru/russellmarwitz.com
BELTON- It is finally here. Game week has arrived in Belton and so has UMHB football’s 2022 roster. It has been long-awaited, as the defending national champions look to reload and defend their Stagg Bowl crown this fall.
We have put together an overall breakdown of the varsity roster (which we define as those currently listed with a varsity number), highlighting the team’s notable returners, departures, and newcomers, as the Crusaders enter week one and their home matchup with No. 11 Muhlenberg.
The offense returns as one of the nation’s best, with an abundance of talent and experience. Nine starters are back on this side of the ball, many of whom will be in their fifth seasons at the collegiate level.
Preseason All-American quarterback Kyle King, who tied the program’s single-season record for passing touchdowns (35) a year ago, made a name for himself throughout his first full season as the starter last fall, and under the guidance of new offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach, Andy Padron, King is expected to improve even more. Junior Jackson Tingler also returns to the varsity quarterbacks unit, after playing limited reps in six games a year ago.
At the receivers position, both K.J. Miller and Brandon Jordan return, giving UMHB an edge in the passing game. Jordan set a new program single-season record for receiving scores (17) last year, and Miller, from the slot receiver position, recorded a program record with 76 catches. Adding to the returning depth, Romello Cook will be in the mix for a starting spot, after playing sparingly in five games in 2021. In limited action, the Irmo, South Carolina, native tallied seven receptions for 104 yards and a touchdown. Jamaal Hamilton, a transfer from Houston in 2021, is also in the mix for more playing time as he begins his senior year, and had five catches for 99 yards last season. Jerry Day Jr. also had a few notable catches in UMHB’s scrimmage against Monterrey Tech, including a 40-yard touchdown. He gained experience on the varsity roster in 2021, after transferring from Arkansas-Monticello, and also has incredible speed that helps him while running in the open field. D.J. Weaver is also back on the roster for his fifth season, adding to the incredible depth of this unit. He caught nine passes for 92 yards last season.
The running back position sees its top three rushers return, in Aphonso Thomas, Kenneth Cormier Jr. and Montana Miller. Thomas broke onto the scene last year after spending three seasons away from college football, and in 14 games, picked up 1,128 yards on the ground. He posted a team-best 14 touchdowns, and also had four catches for 23 yards out of the backfield. Cormier, entering his junior year this fall, was second on the team in rushing yards, with 849, and recorded nine touchdowns in his first full season at the position, after making the switch from linebacker in the spring. And Miller contributed to UMHB’s rushing success as well, with 232 yards and three touchdowns. He will be a junior in 2022.
Junior Connor Mullins comes back at tight end, the only returning tight end who had a catch last season, with three for 23 yards and two touchdowns. Adam Strawn, who missed the season due to injury, is also back on the roster for his senior year.
The offensive line brings back its entire starting five, led by First Team Preseason All-America center Jeffery Sims Jr. Senior Matt Sanders and juniors Ethan Ruckman, Reuel Tandoh, and Jesse Hoke form a spectacular group of returning starters who allowed just 12 sacks in 2021. Junior Wyatt Crawford, who saw significant action at multiple positions on the line last season, is expected to contribute in a big way, as is Hayes Chizer, who will be in his third year with the program.
Brenton Martin and Gary Ruckman are the most notable departures from the 2021 team, considering both were multi-year starters, and factored into the receiving game. Martin, a receiver, used his fifth year of eligibility (granted by Covid) in 2021, and pulled in 40 passes for 890 yards, which ranked third on the team. He also had eight touchdowns. Ruckman was a veteran at the tight end position, and contributed as both a blocker and pass-catcher throughout the year. He started all 15 games, with 20 receptions, 262 yards and three scores.
Quarterback Ryan Redding also graduated, after five years with the program. Redding, though the backup to King for the majority of the year, played at a superb level in three starts due to King battling injury. The New Braunfels native started the second-round playoff win over Birmingham-Southern, completed 14-of-23 passes for 251 yards and ran for 55 more, accounting for three touchdowns along the way.
The tight end position has gained two experienced transfers, as Riesel, Texas native Will McClintock (Southwestern Missouri State) and RJ Haberer (Bethany College) both joined the program this summer. Both have exceptional skill sets, as each played quarterback at one point in high school, and size to go along with it (McClintock was listed at 6’5, 240 last season, Haberer was listed at 6’3, 240). McClintock has four years of eligibility left, while this is Haberer’s final year of college.
At receiver, two transfers are listed on the varsity roster. Dyrius Toliver is listed as a junior, and comes to Belton after playing at Henderson State. Marvin Young Jr. joins the Cru after three seasons with Prairie View A&M. Keunte Rhinehartt holds the distinction as the lone freshman in the varsity receivers unit, as he makes the transition to college after a stellar career at Cedar Hill High School.
Kenneth Miller Jr., a First Team All-District selection from Manor High School, is listed on the varsity roster along with the three returning running backs. He rushed for 114 yards on 33 carries during his last collegiate season with Northwestern Oklahoma State in 2019.
Jarryd Doucet (Concordia-Nebraska) joins the offensive line, and will provide additional depth to an experienced returning group.
So. Jerry Cephus: QB to WR
Jr. Jackson Tingley: QB to TE
Go to page two (linked below) for a look at UMHB’s defense