New assistants take the reins at CNU, ODU, HU


Christopher Newport's Matt Kelchner unsuccessfully recruited Craig Smith as a player. He gets him a decade later as an assistant coach.

Smith, a Virginia Beach native, will coach linebackers for the Captains. He spent the past three years as an assistant at Bluffton University in Ohio, where last season he was offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.

Kelchner said that Bluffton head coach Tyson Veidt was the NCAA monitor for last year's CNU-Mount Union playoff game. Veidt mentioned to him that Smith was looking to return to Hampton Roads and recommended him highly.

Kelchner knew that Smith was a quality player. He chose Bridgewater over CNU and became an all-conference linebacker, playing on four NCAA playoff teams.

Smith also coached at St. Vincent and John Carroll before catching on at Bluffton, where he moved up from special teams and passing game coordinator, wide receivers coach and strength and conditioning coach.

"He's a good young coach," Kelchner said. "We're happy to have him."


Zbig Kepa and Matt Kelchner have been friends and colleagues for almost 30 years. When Kepa was let go after a lengthy tenure at William and Mary and Christopher Newport had an opening, it was an easy fit.

Kepa will coach the defensive line for the Captains and will be a valuable offensive resource. Most of his time at William and Mary was spent coaching receivers and in recent years as offensive coordinator.

He coached nine of the top 10 career receiving yards leaders in William and Mary history, including leader Rich Musinski, Dave Conklin, Chris Rosier and a young man who later made a mark as a football coach, Mike Tomlin.

Tribe offenses were at times exceptional under Kepa. But the team struggled the last couple of seasons due to inconsistency at quarterback and wide receiver, prompting longtime coach Jimmye Laycock to make a change.

Kepa joked that he will have to bone up on three-point stances, but he said: football is football; you don't coach offense without knowing defense, and vice versa.

Kelchner gets an assistant with Division I experience, a guy who has coached record setters and playoff teams.

Kepa also receives the side benefit of getting to coach his sons, though not directly. Nick Kepa is an offensive lineman, while Nate Kepa will vie for time at quarterback.


Old Dominion produced standout individual defensive linemen for the past couple of seasons. New assistant Jeff Comissiong's track record suggests that the trend will continue, and the group will improve.

Comissiong spent the past six seasons at Boston College, where he coached future NFL players B.J. Raji, Ron Brace and Damik Scafe. BC led the ACC in rushing defense three years and led the nation in 2010.

In two years at Harvard, the Crimson led the Ivy League in total defense and led the nation in sacks and tackles-for-loss.

Timing and connections led Comissiong to ODU. He wasn't retained by the new staff at BC, and he played and coached at Maine with head coach Bobby Wilder and members of the Monarchs' staff.