A pipeline from Cleveland to Akron is developing, with some of the best and brightest the Wildcats have to offer heading to the University of Akron.
Bennett Adler is the most recent Ignatian to join the caravan of Cats heading to play for former Saint Ignatius star quarterback Tom Arth '99, a pupil of legendary Head Football Coach Chuck Kyle '69.
On Sunday, Adler announced his commitment to the Zips, becoming the fourth Wildcat in just two years to head south on I-71, joining Owen Murphy '19, Tony Georges '20, and Connor Francz '20.
"I had a chance to visit in January. I got to meet all of the coaches and I loved the facilities," Adler said. "It felt like a perfect fit there."
Adler developed into a deadly playmaker at defensive end during his time at Saint Ignatius. Adler first made the varsity squad as a sophomore, tallying 5 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, 2 quarterback hits, and 1 one fumble recovery.
"Bennett has worked extremely hard during his time in our football program to develop into the kind of outstanding defensive linemen that as coaches we knew he had the potential to become," said Defensive Line Coach Dave Cicetti. "From the time he was a sophomore, we knew that if he worked hard in the weight room and listened to defensive line technique coaching, that he would have a good chance of being a scholarship d-linemen someday. He has done everything that our coaching staff has asked of him. We challenged him to become bigger, stronger, and faster each offseason, and he did just that."
Indeed, Adler bulked up between his sophomore and junior seasons and became a monster as a junior in 2019.
Adler tallied 19.5 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks, and 1 forced fumble, helping to buoy the defensive line at end. Few were more consistent than Adler.
"He has good explosion and good technique," said Coach Kyle. "He's smart with a good mental approach on the defensive side of the ball. He gets a great feel for what the offensive lineman is trying to do, and he can counter off that. That's a key thing. A defensive lineman has another move to make, not just bullrush."
Adler continued to work hard and developed further into a monster this season.
At times, Adler was simply unblockable this season. The Lakewood native recored 25.5 tackles, along with a team-high 11 tackles for loss and 5 sacks. Adler also forced a fumble. His performance against Euclid stands out as remarkable – 5 tackles, 5 tackles for loss, 4 sacks, and a forced fumble. In one word, he was a weapon.
"In certain situations, I'll make the defensive playcall. Other times, I'll say, 'Hey Dave, what do you like here?' Or, 'Hey John [Pieschalski], what coverage do you like?'" Defensive Coordinator Ryan Franzinger '02 began. "Whenever I would ask Dave, he'd always say, 'Get Bennett on the edge, let him go and rush.' That's where he excelled. He's relentless with good speed and skill. We were confident that we could get pass rush with Bennett, no matter who they had on the offensive line. We'd line up Aidan Hubbard on the other edge, too, and that's how we got some holding calls. In the first game of the season, within the first few plays, Bennett went right by the tackle, and the guy just grabbed him by the back of the jersey. I said to Dave, 'The other team must think Bennett has the football, because they're tackling him.' Bennett got a lot of people's attention."
Adler got the attention of coaches in the Mid-American Conference, particularly Coach Arth.
Despite the shortened season, Adler thrived during his 7 games on the field this year, turning in outstanding efforts. He also did perfectly as the long snapper, an unsung role that is absolutely critical.
The postseason did not end in a trophy ceremony, but Adler is proud of the Wildcats.
"I just wanted to treat it like any other season. Obviously it didn't go the way we wanted it to, but I was just happy we got a season at all," Adler said. "I'm proud of the entire team, I think we performed to the best of our abilities. It's sad it didn't turn out the way we wanted it to.
"It's a brotherhood, I can't put it any other way," Adler continued. "I love every single guy I've ever played with on this team, and I'll remember them forever."
His coaches at Saint Ignatius could not have been more impressed with Adler. His Akron coaches will love him, too, as Adler will keep growing and adding weight to become a beast at the Division I level.
"This year despite all of the challenges that he faced with a shortened offseason due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he came back fully prepared physically to have the kind of outstanding senior season that he had," said Cicetti. "He was very stout against the run and at times unstoppable in his pass rush. He anchored our defensive line, and led our unit statistically in all measurable figures. More importantly, he was an emotional leader for our guys up front. Bennett truly served as a role model for our younger players and embodied everything that we expect from a player in our football program. I know he is going to move on and have a great career as a DI student athlete at The University of Akron."
Beyond being a great defensive end, as Cicetti said, Adler is a great teammate and student, following in the footsteps of his brother Owen '19.
With a 3.66 GPA at Saint Ignatius, Adler is sure to succeed at Akron. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree, as his dad, Chris '89, thrived at Saint Ignatius before heading on to Villanova.
"Bennett was always a great teammate and very cooperative," said Coach Kyle. "Coach Rubino will tell you that he put all the effort needed in the weight room. Saint Ignatius football meant a lot to him, I love seeing that. It's great that this opportunity for him. He's following in his dad's footsteps, too. I couldn't be more proud of him."
Before Adler becomes a Zip, he has a few folks to thank.
"I'd like to thank my family, my coaches, Coaches Rubino and Short, Coach Cicetti, Coach Franzinger, and Coach Kyle, Alex and Dom from NST, and everyone who's helped me throughout this entire process."