Kinnick looking to end playing career in style

Fifth-year seniors — in today’s culture — are often times hard to find.

That’s especially true at the Division II level.

St. Clairsville graduate Matt Kinnick, however, defies that theory.

The former Red Devil, who helped guide his alma mater to the Division IV state championship game in 2012, is embarking on his fifth year at West Virginia State University and is set to be the Yellow Jackets’ starting quarterback for the third straight season.

“Honestly, it’s kind of hard to believe,” Kinnick said of his upcoming final season. “I think we have six, fifth-year guys and we were talking a few days ago and just thinking back to our freshmen years and how much we’ve all changed. It’s really unbelievable.”

Kinnick has been brilliant since ascending to the quarterback job. He had a huge sophomore season, but battled injuries the kept him out of the lineup for a handful of games last season. All told, has thrown for 7,276 yards and 47 touchdowns in 32 career games. Last season, Kinnick was 146-of-248 for 1,979 yards and 16 touchdowns.

Missing two games with an injured finger, Kinnick actually didn’t know how to handle that. After all, it was the first time he’d ever been hurt at any level of play.

“It was the first time I’d missed a game and it was weird,” Kinnick admitted. “I hated every part of it and I don’t want it to happen again. I guess you take (playing) for granted at times.”

Just a few weeks ago, Kinnick was voted a team captain for the second straight season. That’s an honor that Kinnick doesn’t take lightly.

“I am taking it personally to lead this team,” Kinnick said. “I feel like I’ve stepped into the role the way the coaches have wanted me to. Being one of the older guys on the team and being here for so long, the guys are looking at me differently. I take it personally when our offense or defense isn’t playing well. I want to make sure we get it right.”

The Yellow Jackets open the season Saturday against city-rival Charleston in an early Mountain East Conference game.

“We definitely haven’t needed much motivation for the opener,” Kinnick said. “Along with being the opener, when you add in it’s a conference game against Charleston, it’s exciting.”

A relatively private guy, Kinnick didn’t want to disclose his individual goals, but he did admit one major goal for the team.

“We want to be the most improved team in the country,” Kinnick said. “Our new motto is win this moment. We want to win every drill, every practice and if we’re able to do that, we believe wins and losses will take care of themselves.”

The path to this season was slightly different than in years past for Kinnick. Already the owner of an education degree, Kinnick was doing his student teaching during the spring and now working toward a master’s degree.

“I graduated in May with a degree in general science and I am only enrolled in 12 credit hours this fall,” Kinnick said. “I could be done totally with school by next summer if I rush, but it might end up being next winter.”

Though he’s carrying a lighter academic load, all of which is done online, Kinnick’s routine hasn’t changed much. He’s still up early to get a lift in and start preparing for the day.

Kinnick isn’t exactly sure what his future holds. He’s debated teaching and coaching at the high school level and he’s also considered trying to get into the collegiate ranks. But, the time for those decisions will come down the road.

Right now, it’s all about football.

“I am just trying to enjoy every day,” Kinnick said. “There are a lot of things I appreciate more now than I did as a freshman. I know I’ll still be involved with the game, but coachingisn’t the same as being a player. I feel like I’ll have options down the road and I’ll be happy doing either.”

MCKIVITZ READY

After being thrusted into the starting lineup last season as a red-shirt freshman, Union Local product Colton McKivitz embarks on this season firmly entrenched as the Mountaineers’ starting right tackle. He and the entire Mountaineer line are working with a new line coach in Joe Wickline since Ron Crook departed for the same role at Cincinnati.

Wickline was asked about McKivitz during media availability earlier this week.

“As a leader, you can see him start to speak up a bit and say some things and people take heat. The guy has played and is a good football player. I think secondly, from a protection standpoint, he was a little bit sketchy at first but he’s done a better job of using his hands. He’s got some weight distribution things we’re working on, but he’s doing a nice job in protection. He understands the concepts and directions of where we’re going and how we’re getting there, the flexibility to change things at the line of scrimmage just by getting more reps and being an older player.”

TRIP DOWN MEMORY LANE

During Mid-American Conference Media Day last month in Canton, I had the opportunity to sit down and chat with Akron head coach Terry Bowden for a few minutes about his relationship with Bruce Stiles, whom he coached at Salem College in the 80s.

The current Union Local High School head coach played on Bowden’s first team in 1983.

“I just saw Bruce and his wife (Leslie) at the Salem College reunion at Oglebay Park,” Bowden said. “I was 26 years old and Bruce was probably only three or four years younger than me. I was always so proud of Bruce. He was very dedicated, dependable and a hard worker. It’s good to see him doing so well as a head coach. We actually had a lot of Ohio guys on that team and many of them are now coaches in our state.”

BUDDENBURG PREPS FOR PSU

As Akron prepares to make a trip to State College to take on the reigning Big Ten Conference champion, Penn State Nittany Lions, one of their most solid units is special teams. Actually, a player — Michael Buddenburg — with area ties is a key cog in that. The senior, who played his prep ball at Massillon Jackson, is the Zips’ long snapper. He’s the son of Bellaire High graduate, John Buddenburg. He also played for the Zips and was drafted by the Cleveland Browns.

“The long snapper is only noticed when he messes up,” Bowden joked. “We’ve been fortunate that Michael has been solid and consistent. He comes back for another year starting. As a head coach for now 24 years, I’ve seen games where you get a bad snap in a critical situation and lose a game because of it. It’s a critical, critical position.”

STEWART LAUDED

St. Clairsville graduate Adam Stewart, who is the head physical therapist for the Ohio State University football team, was given public praise from one of his top projects, Johnnie Dixon, in an article recently published by The OZone. Dixon, who was recently named a starter at wide receiver, has battled back from multiple injuries to win a job during camp this month.

In the article, Dixon was asked what changed his mind about believing all of the injuries he’s dealt with were his own fault. He said, “My coaches, family, and my P.T. guy Adam Stewart. I owe a lot to that guy. Every day he’s on me, so I owe a big chunk of it to him. He helped me through everything, honestly.”

Stewart, who is a 2010 Ohio State graduate and owns a doctorate of physical therapy from the University of Miami, is entering his third season as the Buckeyes’ football physical therapist.

AREA NATIVES COACHING

While many realize how many former area athletes are playing at the collegiate level, did you know that no fewer than 18 area products are coaching NCAA football this season at either the Division I, II or III levels.

At the Division I level are Bellaire grad Todd Fitch (offensive coordinator, Louisiana Tech), Cadiz grad Jay Peterson (running backs, Eastern Michigan), Union Local grad Dan Carrel (outside linebackers, Houston); Barnesville grad Jay Sawvel (defensive coordinator, Wake Forest); Shadyside grad Louie Matsakis (quality control, Kentucky); Paden City grad Jeff Casteel (defensive coordinator, Nevada).

At the Division II level are Buckeye Local grad Chet Pobolish (offensive coordinator, Missouri Western); St. John grad Bryan Nardo (co-defensive coordinator, Emporia State); St. John grad Matt Nardo (offensive coordinator, Emporia State); Bellaire grad Drew Spencer (wide receivers, Ohio Dominican); Weir grad Quincy Wilson (running backs, West Virginia State); Shadyside grad Tom Keane (running backs, West Virginia Wesleyan); John Marshall grad Zach Amedro (quarterbacks, West Liberty); Wheeling Central grad Curt McGhee (cornerbacks, West Liberty).

Technically not coaching this season, but working to get ready for the future is Martins Ferry grad Zac Bruney, who has been hired as the first head coach in Wheeling Jesuit program history.

In Division III are Buckeye Local grad Corey Fillipovich (defensive coordinator, Wilmington College); Martins Ferry grad Rich Duncan (offensive coordinator, Berry College); Cadiz grad Denver Williams (wide receivers, Trinity College); Bellaire grad Ben Taylor (linebackers, Shenandoah University).

Staskey can be reached via email at sstaskey@timesleaderonline.com or at twitter.com/TLSportsSeth

COMMENTS