Dane Kapler was mobbed by his teammates after he went on a 66-yard TD run Friday against Alberta to give UBC a lead it would not relinquish before a sell-out homecoming crowd at T-Bird Stadium. (Photo by Bob Frid property of UBC athletics 2023. All rights reserved)
Feature University Football

Switch to slotback imbues UBC’s power-train running back Dane Kapler with a double-dose of on-field danger! McCaffrey-like moments vindicate coaching staff’s gutsy off-season switch!

VANCOUVER — If you spent any amount of time sniffing around UBC’s fall camp in August, it didn’t take any time at all to realize just how deep and talented the 2023 ‘Birds looked on paper.

That, of course, is the net effect of ringing the bell from top to bottom for what looks like four straight blue-chip recruiting classes.

In hindsight, with undefeated UBC (4-0) climbing into the No. 5 slot in the most recent U SPORTS national Top 10 poll, you could say that everyone could see the program’s best start in 31 years from miles away.

Yet such stockpiling of talent can often times be diffused by ego-driven clashes or a general lack of buy-in.

Not so with the current edition of the ‘Birds.

And nowhere was that better exemplified than in this past Friday’s 54-37 UBC win over the Alberta Golden Bears (3-1) at an overflowing Thunderbird Stadium.

Take it back to fall camp for a moment, and perhaps the most surprising development on the offensive side of the ball this past August was UBC’s decision to move its talented, rising third-year RB-2 Dane Kapler out of the backfield and into what was an already deep-and-dangerous cache of route-running specialists within the slot.

Well, one undefeated month later and the move by head coach Blake Nill and offensive coordinator Stevenson Bone has looked like pure genius.

The 5-foot-11, 200-pound Kapler not only led the team in catches and receiving yards against the Golden Bears with seven grabs for 90 yards, he proved conclusively that he is a true twin-threat, shifting back into his old position in the backfield with three carries for 78 yards, highlighted by his 66-yard off-tackle touchdown which gave the Blue-and-Gold a lead (at 17-10) it would never relinquish.

All tolled, it was the kind of performance which would have made the San Francisco 49ers’ 5-foot-11, 205-pound dual threat superstar Christian McCaffrey proud.

Ask Kapler, the son of San Francisco Giants manager Gabe Kapler, about it, and there was not even a second’s worth of hesitation on his part to make the off-season switch.

Especially because UBC’s RB-1 Isaiah Knight, the two-time defending Canada West rushing champion, could likely top just about anyone’s list of the most dangerous and explosive running backs in the nation.

“I just love getting on the field in any way I can, whether that be at receiver or running back,” the third-year Kapler said after the win, one which helped lift UBC to a conference-best No. 5 in the most recent U Sports national rankings issued Tuesday. Saskatchewan, which hosts UBC on Friday, fell to No. 8, while Alberta now sits at No. 9.

UBC Thunderbirds’ slotback Dane Kapler faced the Alberta Golden Bears during Canada West football action Friday, Sept. 22 at Thunderbird Stadium in Vancouver. (Photo by Bob Frid property of UBC athletics 2023. All rights reserved)

“All that matters to me is at the end of the day we’re winning the football game,” added Kapler. “Isaiah Knight (21 carries, 185 yards, one TD vs. Alberta) is phenomenal… the best in the country. So any way they can get both Isaiah and me on the field at the same time is something that makes me happy.”

Take a look at Kapler’s overall career numbers and his effectiveness is impossible to miss.

In 20 career games at UBC, Kapler has 173 touches on offence — split between 145 carries and 28 catches — for 1,307 yards and five touchdowns.

That equates to a 7.6 yards-per-touch average for the graduate of Ventura (Ca) High.

UBC Thunderbirds’ slotback Dane Kapler, pictured here on his way to the end zone Friday against the Alberta Golden Bears, is these days making indelible statements about his passion for both the planet and his Thunderbirds’ football teammates. (Photo by Bob Frid property of UBC athletics 2023. All rights reserved)

Throw in the fact that he is a willing and form-perfect lead blocker whenever called upon, and you’ve got the kind of guy that Nill gushes about.

“I think Kapler is Top 5 on the team, I say it all the time,” Nill said following the win over Alberta. “There are guys who compete, and then there is Kapler’s level of compete. He just does everything. We could put him on defence and he would get the job done.”

Bringing the same level of effort to everything he loves is clearly Dane Kapler’s motto.

“I am really passionate about the environment,” says Kapler, who within UBC’s Faculty of Forestry is majoring in natural resource conservation, “and I am trying to make an impact in world in just the same way that I want to make an impact on the field.”

That’s two worlds, both in better hands.

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