July 30, 2015 by Steven Wartinbee in Preview with 0 comments
Other than Boston Ironside, Denver Johnny Bravo enters the 2015 season with the most significant roster turnover in the Men’s Division. We preview their new, somewhat less star-studded team below.
- 2014 National Champions (def. Ironside 13-11)
- 2014 South Central Regional Champions (def. Doublewide on DGP)
- 2015 U.S. Open Semifinalist
- Return strong core of cutters; add college stars Ben Snell1 & Pawel Janas, among others
- Jimmy Mickle, Nick Lance
- One of the best defenses in the division, highlighted by Ryan Farrell, Stanley Peterson, Henry Konker
- Roster turnover that would cripple a lesser team; lose Kurt Gibson, Brodie Smith, Bart Watson, Brett Matzuka, Jack McShane, and Tim Morrissy
- Loss of significant handler firepower and ability to open the field at any time
- Players stepping into significantly larger roles: Sean Keegan, Owen Westbrook, among others
Johnny Bravo kicked off the 2015 season with a middling performance (by their standards) at the U.S. Open. In their opening game, they were down 10-12 against Truck Stop before Nick Lance led them on a four goal run to take the game. Throughout the rest of pool play, Bravo easily handled a competitive Ring of Fire (14-11), Furious George (15-9) and PoNY (15-8), but fell to German squad Inside Rakete (11-13) after a slow start to the game. Especially against Truck and Ring, Bravo needed some late-game heroics to close out after trading the odd break throughout.
Having done enough to earn themselves a spot in the semifinal against GOAT, Bravo would demonstrate the same lethargic opening that they struggled to overcome against Inside Rakete in pool play: GOAT quickly broke twice to start and never looked back. When reached for comment, Bravo captain Jesse Roehm said, “Our offense struggled against GOAT and in other moments during the U.S. Open. We certainly miss Bart, Kurt and Brodie’s abilities to open up the field. We will continue to tweak the personnel on the O line until we get it right. Colorado Cup will provide us with another opportunity to assess where we’re at.”
As of now, it looks like Owen Westbrook will be responsible for primary handling duties on offense, while Nick Lance marshals the D-line. Lance was Bravo’s best player at the U.S. Open, taking on a leadership role on defense, while coming over to the O-line for must-score possessions. If anything, Bravo was a little over-reliant on Lance’s talents.
While Mickle was a bit quieter downfield than we’re used to seeing from him, he still racked up a team-leading 19 assists on the weekend, often coming into the backfield in the redzone. Expect to see him continue to be a focal point of the Bravo offense, especially in light of their roster shifts. Roehm also discussed Sean Keegan’s probable larger role this season, noting that while he’ll more than likely start most points as a cutter, team leadership sees him becoming involved in handler sets more frequently than in the past.
Bravo will continue to primarily employ split and vertical stacks on offense, looking to isolate cutters like Mickle and Keegan in large spaces to initiate flow. Defensively, the team will use a number of different junk and zone looks, but will ultimately be reliant on tough-nosed, tight defense with an emphasis on switching. We’ve seen Bravo work this type of defense very well, especially when they can manipulate it to keep Lance a threat near the disc, Peterson stalking the deep space, and various other players utilizing their strengths. This weekend’s Colorado Cup will provide a good measure of how well the defense is currently executing.
When asked about how Bravo was planning to deal with the significant roster turnover, Roehm had this to say: “Since Bob [Krier] stepped in as coach five years ago, we have established an identity and culture based on discipline, competitiveness, intensity, and trust. We strive to maintain that culture year to year despite changes to the roster. We are excited by the level of buy-in we have seen from Snell, Lohre, Janas, Delamere, Wheeler, and Wolma. We also plan to fill in the last three spots on the roster from a pool of talented practice players and late tryouts.”
Team leadership also expressed that while they would aim to compete in every game, their focus would be on steady improvement throughout the Triple Crown Tour with the goal of peaking at Nationals in a bid for the repeat. Bravo is especially looking forward to seeing how they stack up against the ever-potent San Francisco Revolver and perennial regional rival Austin Doublewide.
Repeat national champions. Despite their personnel losses, the team is still enormously talented, and their elite defense has the ability to throw wrenches into the works of any offense. Mickle and Lance are among the few players in the world that can almost single-handedly change games.
Quarterfinals exit. It remains to be seen whether the team can cope with the loss of so much talent from last year and still consistently perform among the top 8. It would be a stretch to call 2015 a rebuilding year, but Bravo simply doesn’t have the same number or quality of elite personnel they had available during their championship run last season.
Snell is recovering from an ankle injury sustained while playing for the Raleigh Flyers in the AUDL; it’s unclear when he will be back to 100%. ↩