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Small colleges: Adam points Elmhurst toward D-III playoff return

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Updated: September 11, 2013 6:12PM

Coming off the most successful football season in school history, a season of change awaits No. 22 Elmhurst College as it plays host to Loras at 7 p.m. Thursday. But new coach Joe Adam expects much will be the same.

“We will maintain the same kind of physicalness and attitude up front,” said Adam, who took over the top job after six years as a Bluejays assistant. “We do like to run the football, and defensively our challenge is to create as many turnovers as humanly possible. That’s what we preach, and that’s what our kids talk about all the time.”

Adam was assistant head coach, defensive coordinator and recruiting coordinator under Tim Lester, who resigned after last season to become quarterbacks coach at Syracuse. Lester went out on a high note as the Bluejays went 10-2 while earning the first NCAA Division III playoff bid in school history and winning their opening-round game over Coe before falling to St. Thomas.

One big reason for the success was running back Scottie Williams, the Gagliardi Trophy winner as the top player in Division III. This season, Josh Williams, a sophomore who ran for 192 yards on 50 carries in 2012, moves into the starting backfield.

“Everyone looks at you having some big shoes to fill at running back,” Adam said. “Josh Williams definitely is going to be somebody to keep an eye on. His personality’s a little bit different. He’s taller, he’s bigger than Scottie. He goes about his business a lot like Scottie in that it’s about the team and not about him.”

Vince Gabrys, named a preseason All-American by USA College Football, is another offensive key.

“He’s a very quiet leader who leads by example,” Adam said. “His position, superback, really is the cog in our offense. He does so many things well. He runs the football, he catches it, he blocks, he protects.”

Adam and his team got to do a little bonding overseas in June with a trip to Greece and Italy. The Bluejays toured Athens, took a cruise to Pompeii, then met Legio Roma XIII, the host club team, in the Roma Bowl. Elmhurst won 74-0. but the score really wasn’t the point.

“It truly meant Bluejays together,” Adam said. “We had about 70 in our travel party. We’re going to do it every three years here [as allowed by the NCAA]. It’s a way to serve a different community, an international community.

“The best part of that whole trip was the day before the game when we had a joint practice. Our players and their players and coaches came together and taught each other. It was an interesting interaction to see our players sharing some of the knowledge that we’ve given them. There’s a little bit of language barrier, but ultimately football is football.”

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