Tuesday, July 19, 2011
Northern Sun 2011 Preview
Bemidji State Beavers
2010 Record: 7-4
The Beavers were decent last fall, but they are looking to hit the next level and push for a playoff birth, Good luck with UM-Duluth in your division. Even worse is that the Beavers are starting over again at QB. Dustin Kroeplin will be back at RB after the junior rushed for 802 yards and 9 scores last fall. TE Brian Leonhardt is the leading returning receiver, so depth is an issue in the receiver corps. LB Cory Crosby collected 92 tackles last fall, and returns to run the defense as a junior. Losing DE Rob Willis up front is damaging. Charles Hrdlicka returns in the secondary after defending 6 passes last fall, but he is the only real play maker in the secondary. Too many questions this fall, and Bemidji may be lucky to repeat 7 wins.
Season Opener: 8/25 @ Minot State
2010 Record: 4-7
Mary is still adjusting to D2 football after coming over from the NAIA ranks, but they finished with a 3 game winning streak in 2010. Craig Bagnall was never really lost as a freshman starting at QB for the Marauders last fall, and is an emerging star caliber player. Mary is lacking in the backfield, however, and has no real experience or depth at RB. Tyler Steffan returns after posting 43-660-4 at WR last fall, but they lose Terry Newsome, who caught 49 passes last fall. Senior LB Marcus Broome returns after leading the team with 88 tackles last fall. Xavaiar Cleveland and Buddy Wallace will be difficult to replace up front. Arthur Pittman returns in the secondary after defending 7 passes last fall. Pittman and Broome both picked off 3 passes to lead the team in 2010. Improvement may be on the horizon, but don't expect too much.
2010 Opener: TBA (Not available at post time)
Minnesota-Crookston Golden Eagles
2010 Record: 1-10
By far one of the worst teams in the conference. Josh Perea was picked off 12 times to just 3 TD passes last fall, but was only a freshman. That being said, I'd be worried. Keith McBride returns at RB after rushing for 696 yards and 6 scores, but unless Perea gets better, teams will stack up on him in the box. The receivers are completely lacking. DB Cecil Brown led the Eagles with 91 tackles last fall, but that's not a good thing, as the front 7 were allowing far too many ball carriers into the secondary in the first place. Cody Hendrickson led the team with 4 picks, and returns as well.
Season Opener: 9/2 Mayville State
2010 Record: 15-0
The Bulldogs have now won back to back titles and have established themselves as one of the dominant football forces in D2 football. Chase Vogler is highly efficient at QB, having only tossed 3 picks all season. He passed for 1913 yards and 17 TDs. Vogler also rushed for 905 yards and 7 more scores. Brad Foss has to be replaced at RB after rushing for 1151 yards and 12 scores last fall. DJ Winfield returns at WR after finishing 2nd in the conference with a line of 45-990-8. UMD loses their top tackler from last season, but Rob Huberty returns after recording 7.5 sacks last season at LB. Huberty finished with 12 total TFLs last fall. Cameron Harper returns in the secondary after picking off 5 passes. Most of the pieces are in place for the Bulldogs to make another run, and they should certainly control the scene in the Northern Sun once again.
Season Opener: 9/3 @ Augustana
Minnesota State-Moorhead Dragons
2010 Record: 2-9
Kevin Koch returns at QB after a not so great season that saw him get picked 13 times, while only passing for 10 scores. Eboni Lucious-West returns at RB, but only averaged 50.64 yards per game. Obvious improvements are needed by these two players just off the top. Brandon Thompson returns at WR, but struggled to average near 10 yards per catch. Losing Jake Larson and Joey Dawson on defense is a real bummer, as Larson led the conference in tackles, and Dawson was one of the only players producing pressure up front. Bailey Kwame defended 8 passes as a freshman last season and will be the key piece to the secondary, but he needs some help from his friends. Could be another rough season, and likely will be.
Season Opener: 9/3 Robert Morris (Illinois)
Northern State Wolves
2010 Record: 2-9
Just another warm body for UMD to beat up on. The Wolves played two QBs last fall, and they lose them both. The Wolves also have no dependable players back at RB, and are at square one. WR Trevor Mau is the only key player back on offense, and that spells major trouble. If all of that was not bad enough, the Wolves posted not one defender in the top 25 tacklers in the conference last fall, and Adam Carvajal, their best player in the secondary, has departed. 2 wins would seem like a major accomplishment this season.
Season Opener: 9/1 SW Minnesota
St. Cloud State Huskies
2010 Record: 10-3
The Huskies had a fantastic run in 2010, and boasted a 7 game win streak during the middle of the season. They lost to UMD by a FG in the 2nd round. Phillip Klaphake was very good as a freshman, as he passed for 2918 yards and 24 TDs. Even Better was that he also led the team in rushing with 798 yards and 11 scores. Tyler Allery will be stepping from a complimentary receiver role into the main act, as the Huskies lose Fred Williams, who was phenomenal last season (95-1616-17). Tony Kubes returns as the leading tackler at DB, and Marvin Matthews defended 8 passes last fall. Eric Poppenburgh returns as well with 6 passes defended.
Season Opener: @ California, PA
2010 Record: 11-2
The Vikings rolled through another fantastic run in 2010, but they too ran into UMD in the playoffs, cutting their title run short. Josh Hanson passed for 2295 yards and 23 TDs last fall, and was just a sophomore. Hanson added another 518 on the ground, but the Vikings lose RB Joe Clark and his 1060 yards and 10 scores. Sam Holsen is in line to start at WR, but the Vikings lost their top two receivers from 2010. The Vikings lose their top 3 tacklers from last season, and they lose their top two producers in TFLs. Zac Kellas returns in the secondary after defending 6 passes. Kellas and Dan O'Keefe combined for 14 picks last fall, and they will anchor the defense from the secondary. The opener will be a war.
Season Opener: 9/3 Minnesota-Duluth
Concordia-St. Paul Golden Bears
2010 Record: 8-4
The Bears are a player in the Southern Division, but they didn't have enough to push through. Spencer Ohm returns after a nice year, and he passed for 2231 yards and 22 TDs. Sam Campbell returns at RB as well after rushing for 939 yards and 7 scores. Charles Gilbert (43-873-11) returns as the top receiver. LB Al Quaye returns after leading the team with 106 tackles last fall. Zach Moore is on the watch list, as he recorded 9 sacks last season as a sophomore, and he recorded 12 TFLs. The Bears do lose their top two producers in the secondary, however. A very good season could still be in the mix.
Season Opener: 9/3 @ Minot State
Mankato State Mavericks
2010 Record: 6-5
The Mavs had some rough spots last season, and were lucky to manage their way into 6 wins. Will Brogan returns at QB, but he has work to do, as he only passed for 11 TDs while tossing 9 picks. Taylor Brookins returns at RB, after rushing for 751 yards and 7 scores. Adam Thielen, Dennis Carter, and Cody Rose all return at WR, giving Brogan a solid group of targets. Chris Schaudt led the team with 7.5 sacks on the season and returns to man the front, and he recorded 13.5 TFLs last fall. Jesse Hamilton comes back in the secondary after picking off 3 passes last fall.
Season Opener: 9/1 Northern Michigan
Southwest Minnesota State Mustangs
2010 Record: 4-7
The Mustangs start over again at QB after the loss of Ryan Ratekin, who led the league in passing. Warren Matthews will be the starting RB, but he never made it to 100 carries last fall. The Mustangs also lose their top receiver. John Kersbergen led the team with 86 tackles, while DB Joe Stupka recorded 79 tackles. Kyle Wagner defended 8 passes last fall, and returns to the secondary to join Stupka.
Season Opener: 9/1 @ Northern State
Upper Iowa Peacocks
2010 Record: 2-9
UIU had a really bad time of it last season, and the defense was decimated in all but two games. They gave up 40 or more points 6 times last fall, and now it's time to build something out of the ashes. Drew Kaluzny will be the leading candidate to start at QB, but has limited experience. RB Jordan Otdoerfer returns to step into the primary spot, and carried 97 times off of the bench last fall. Jesse Hubbard returns at WR, but is not a deep threat. The Peacocks lose their top two tacklers on defense, and they also lose all of their top producers up front. Play makers are limited in the secondary. There isn't much to work with, so expect more losses in 2011.
Season Opener: 9/3 Texas A&M-Commerce
Wayne State (Nebraska) Wildcats
2010 Record: 6-5
The Wildcats lost 4 of 5 to finish out the season with a thud after they looked as if they would challenge for a playoff bid early. Evan Johnson returns at QB, but only tossed 9 TD passes last fall. Nick Pulscher returns at RB, but rushed for only 463 yards and 3 scores, so obvious improvement will be needed here. Kevin Paulson will be the top WR, but is very average in only picking up just over 10 yards per reception. LB Ben Perry returns after recording 83 tackles last fall and DE Richard Daniel recorded 9.5 sacks on the season. Daniel led the conference with 17.5 TFLs on the season, and is a leading candidate for Defensive MVP this season. Play makers are on short supply in the secondary.
Season Opener: 9/1 Nebraska-Kearney
Winona State Warriors
2010 Record: 7-4
The Warriors were just 2 points away from 8 wins instead of 7, and were 7 points away from having 9 wins last fall. Very close. Evan Aber is developing nicely at QB, passing for 15 TDs to just 4 picks last fall. RB Rayon Simmons is a star, as he rushed for 1252 yards and 9 scores as a sophomore last season. Derrick Engel returns as the top WR, and he too is developing into his potential. Aber and Engel could have huge breakout seasons. On defense, it may be a different story, as the Warriors had very few consistent tacklers, and were not good at applying pressure. Chris Norgaard returns in the secondary after defending 6 passes.
Season Opener: 9/3 Michigan Tech