NAPLES — Rolf Bathold has more than met the expectations of his Robert Morris University position coach.
Co-defensive coordinator and secondary coach Scott Benzel recruited the Lely High graduate, a starting cornerback for the 3-1 Colonials. The 5-foot-10, 175-pound senior was named to the 2010 All-Northeast Conference Preseason Team.
“He’s got a great reputation within the league from the coaches,” Benzel said. “I think he has a reputation within our conference as one of the elite players in the secondary.”
During the recruitment process, Benzel said, he thought Bathold’s experience as a high school quarterback would help Bathold know what to expect from opposing quarterbacks. It has. “His best asset is his vision,” the coach said. “He reads quarterbacks and offenses very, very well.”
Bathold agrees that being a former quarterback has eased his adjustment to college ball.
“As a freshman, it was really difficult because the game was moving so fast,” said Bathold, who has served as a captain for the defense and special teams on a game basis five times during his career. “It’s so easy for me now.”
“You know the tendencies of the quarterback,” Bathold added. “You know what the quarterback is looking for, certain coverages.”
He has preparation in pocket, too. “He puts a tremendous amount of time in film study,” Benzel said.
Bathold reviews game film three hours every weekday, watching before practice begins. He said he’s gotten backup linebacker Sanchez Faugue, a teammate at Lely, to join him and others in the film room. “I’m always wanting to get better,” Bathold said.
Bathold enjoys having Faugue as a teammate again, and has helped the junior get settled in the program, noting that “at first he was nervous.” He reminds Faugue, who has three special teams tackles, to stay focused on what he needs to do to become a starting linebacker.
Bathold's drive has been there since he was young, when he and his football buddies talked about standing out on the field, being the difference makers in the game. “We always wanted to have something special about us,” he said. “I always wanted that competitive edge.”
Bathold earned All-NEC second-team honors for his play last year. He had 53 tackles, fifth most on the team, and tied for the team lead with three interceptions. He led the team and conference with 15 passes defended, and led the Colonials with 12 pass breakups. He added one forced fumble and a blocked kick.
This season, he is fourth on the team with 22 tackles and is second with two interceptions. He had eight tackles in an upset win over ranked Liberty University two weeks ago.
“He’s probably our best all-around player in the secondary,” Benzel said. “He’s quick, good against the running game. He’s tremendous in coverage. He can pretty much do anything.”
Bathold flips from left to right corner, and usually is assigned to cover the opponent’s top receiver. Against Liberty, for example, Benzel said he had coverage on the nation’s No. 1 wide receiver at that time.
Because opponents’ offenses know Bathold’s capabilities, they throw away from him. For that reason, Benzel said, game statistics are deceiving when they show few tackles for Bathold, who last week had just three tackles against Wagner. “As long as I’m getting action on the field, I don’t care,” Bathold said.
Benzel said Bathold has become a bigger, stronger and faster player than he was even a year ago. “He has tremendous lateral quickness,” he said, adding that Bathold’s footwork and burst out of the break allow him to swiftly close on a receiver who has gotten separation. “He is not an all-out burner. He’s got the best feet besides our tailback.”