I was at Monmouth University when Kevin Callahan was introduced as the first-ever football coach and I left feeling like Monmouth landed the right man for the job. As I listened to Callahan speak at Media Day for the 2012 season, the 20th in Hawks history, he is still the right man for the job.

Certainly a lot has changed in the two decades since but it’s clear the 57-year-old still has a will to win and if things come together this 20th anniversary season could be a special one. Coming off a 5-6 season Monmouth returns 19 starters and is poised to make a run at a fifth Northeast Conference Title, even though conference coaches picked them fifth in their pre-season poll.

In their first week of practice Callahan and his coaching staff have been pleased by what they’ve seen and I just get the sense that there’s a quiet confidence that has been missing the last couple of years. Practices have been spirited with players reporting in better shape after an offseason which included training by the former head of the Navy SEALS which was aimed at bringing everyone together.

Senior quarterback Kyle Frazier, who suffered a season-ending knee injury last October has fully recovered and will direct an explosive offense that includes running back Julian Hayes, wide receiver Neal Sterling and tight end Tyler George. Tackle Mike Murphy anchors the offensive line.

The key for the Hawks this fall rests with the defense which was shredded for more than 40 points in each of their last three games. Among the key returners are lineman Mike Upham, linebackers Dan Sullivan and Billy Lauch and cornerback Reggie Hildebrandt Jr. Mitchell Pollard, who was the second leading receiver last season has been moved to the other side of the ball and figures to be a starter in the backfield.

In his media day comments Callahan said that he’s impressed with the incoming freshman and has many as 8 of them could see regular action on the field. Among that group is defensive back Joe Johnson, a former Manchester Township High School star and defensive lineman Dimitrius Smith, who played at Jackson Memorial before attending Milford Academy.

Monmouth opens its season on September 1 at Lehigh University. All their games will be broadcast live on the Shore Sports Network’s WOBM AM 1160/1310.