Coaches Joe Loth and Henry Stanford might want to consider entering the legal profession after their football careers are finished.

Coaches Joe Loth and Henry Stanford might want to consider entering the legal profession after their football careers are finished.

Each has made compelling arguments as to why their teams should be contenders in the Ohio Athletic Conference.

Loth has led Otterbein to three straight winning seasons and four overall since taking the helm of the struggling team in 2003.

In his first season as head coach, Stanford led Capital to a 5-5 record in 2010, extending the team's winning or break-even record for 10 consecutive seasons.

Otterbein's optimism is buoyed by depth: Eighteen starters return, nine on each side of the ball, with 53 lettermen.

"We feel real good about our team," Loth said. "Our seniors have taken the leadership aspect by the horns. Leadership is easy to talk about, but it's hard to get. We also have proven commodities at a lot of positions. We have high goals, but our guys are smart enough to know that big games aren't certain weeks of the season. We have to win the day every day, and that starts in practice."

The biggest holes came with the departure of tailback Colton Coy and cornerback Dominic Jones of Brookhaven. Coy set a season team record in 2010 with 1,102 yard rushing. Jones was a D3football.com All-American.

Loth, has confidence, however, in junior running back Cody Green of Northland.

"We're going to miss Colton, but we really like Cody because he can take it the distance every play," Loth said. "Cody will add a different dimension to our team. He is smart and can catch the ball. We can spread things out even more."

Quarterback Austin Schlosser of Jonathan Alder returns for his senior year. He threw for 1,715 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2010.

Despite the loss of Jones, four players who saw starts at cornerback last season, including Anthony Korpieski of Olentangy, return. Korpieski led the OAC with seven interceptions.

Capital anticipates an exciting season as well, with 16 starters returning, eight on both sides of the ball.

"For a coaching staff, the second year is so much better because you have created your footprint," Stanford said. "Your recruiting is extended even more. The players know what you want. It's night and day."

Stanford isn't ready to name a starting quarterback. Marty Assmann of Hartley graduated and Kory Hartinger of Circleville, who subbed for Assmann when he was injured last season, is moving back to receiver. But Stanford said he has plenty of QB candidates from which to choose.

There should be depth and talent at running back with transfers Casey Meridieth (Ohio University) and Josh Anderson of Marion-Franklin (Central State), joining freshmen Michael Elder and Blake Thorne and sophomore Walter Watson.

"We'll be deep and explosive back there," Stanford said. "I am an old Ohio State Buckeye (a former graduate assistant) and I believe in the running game."

The Crusaders were oh-so-close to a winning season in 2010, but close losses to Baldwin-Wallace (10-7) and John Carroll (28-20) helped drop them to .500.

Stanford wants more than another break-even season.

"I'm very excited about this year," he said. "I like this team's effort. I like the way they play fast, the way they play physical football and the way they play as a family. We preach power and speed and they are flying around."

mznidar@dispatch.com