News - UMAC coaches peg Greenville third in preseason poll

UMAC coaches peg Greenville third in preseason poll

UMAC coaches peg Greenville third in preseason poll

ST. PAUL – The 2014 Upper Midwest Athletic Conference (UMAC) football champion, the College of St. Scholastica is predicted to again claim the conference title in 2015. The Saints earned at total of 80 points and eight first place votes to take the top spot in the annual coaches' preseason poll. The University of Northwestern finished in second place earning 70 points with Greenville College earning 69 points and claiming third place.

2015 UMAC Football Coaches' Poll
1. 80 Points – College of St. Scholastica (8 First Place Votes)
2. 70 Points - University of Northwestern (1)
3. 69 Points – Greenville College (1)
4. 54 Points – Westminster College
5. 44 Points – Iowa Wesleyan College
6. 36 Points – Crown College
7. 35 Points – Eureka College
8. 27 Points – MacMurray College
9. 21 Points – University of Minnesota Morris
10. 14 Points – Martin Luther College

1. College of St. Scholastica Saints
2014 Overall Record: 10-1
2014 UMAC Record: 9-0
2014 UMAC Finish: 1st
Starters Returning: 15
Starters Lost: 7

In his first year as head coach Kurt Ramler guided the Saints to their fourth straight UMAC regular season championship and NCAA Division III Playoff appearance. CSS also accomplished its second-ever undefeated regular season in the process. The Saints nearly swept the UMAC postseason awards as Ramler was Coach of the Year, Tyler Harper was named Offensive Player of the Year, Pete Stanley was Lineman of the Year and Mike Theismann was Special Teams Player of the Year. CSS also had a program-best 12 First Team All-UMAC selections and 18 players recognized overall.

Coach Ramler returns for his second season in 2015, but he will be without the aforementioned Harper, Stanley and Theismann as well as five of his 12 First Team All-UMAC choices. The biggest question mark entering camp will be who takes over at quarterback for the Saints. According to Coach Ramler no one quarterback has an edge as it will be an open competition between seven players. Juniors Kyle Stepka and Dakota Paulson saw limited action at the end of games last season.

The Saints return plenty of firepower at the skill positions. CSS returns their top five receivers, including leading pass catcher in senior fullback Mitch O'Neil. O'Neil had 42 receptions on the year. Seniors Andrew Smith and Nick Murphy return at wide outs and Shane Finnegan is back at tight end. CSS also welcomes back wide receiver Jason Kazlauskas, who saw his 2014 season come to an end in the second game at Iowa Wesleyan due to injury. In the backfield, leading rushers Preston Robinson and Chris Gassert return.

On the other side of the ball, the Saints will have holes to fill up front with the losses of defensive end Blake Cedarleaf and nose tackle Aaron Tody. Senior Joe Geiselman is back up front after being named a Second Team All-UMAC choice for the second straight season. CSS loses a pair of linebackers in Paul Olson and Jared Moran, but do return leading tackler and first team all-conference performer Alex Mangan. Arguably the deepest and most talented position group is the secondary for the Saints. CSS returns all five defensive backs in Brady Fish, Jack Miller, John Mike, Mitch Ejnik and Xavier Rhodes. St. Scholastica led the conference in pass defense, allowing just 138 yards per game through the air.

Coach Ramler is really excited about the 2015 recruiting class as he feels this class can continue the program's success and perhaps take it a step further. The class features talented players at every position that can step in and make an impact right from the start.

2. University of Northwestern Eagles
2014 Overall Record: 8-2
2014 UMAC Record: 7-2
2014 UMAC Finish: T-2nd
Starters Returning: 17
Starters Lost: 4

After posting a 8-2 record (7-2 UMAC) last year—including a perfect 5-0 home record at the newly renovated Reynolds Field—the Eagles are eager to return to the field with nearly all starters back for the 2015 season.

Northwestern's offense welcomes back a strong group to the gridiron in 2015. Returning is wide receiver Joe Sutton, who hauled in 34 receptions in 2014 and found the end zone eight times during his junior season. With the graduation of Jacob Fletcher under center, the Eagles will turn the reigns over to senior Grant Schoen. Protecting Schoen will be four strong returners including Chris Kirby, Ben Evans, Justin Morin, and TJ Palme.

Despite losing standout linebacker Cameron Cox, who tallied 128 tackles in his two years in Purple and Gold, UNW returns a number of key contributors on the defensive side of the ball in 2015. Senior Luke Sommerlot returns after amassing 86 tackles. Ben Greener and Grant Stroud will add experience to UNW's defensive efforts.

Northwestern will start its 10-game regular season slate on September 5 when the Eagles travel to Northfield, Minn. to take on St. Olaf.

3. Greenville College Panthers
2014 Overall Record: 7-3
2014 UMAC Record: 7-2
2014 UMAC Finish: T-2nd
Starters Returning: 14
Starters Lost: 9

After what was expected to be a rebuilding season in 2014, the Panthers found themselves one game away from a conference title and playoff berth. Although they came up short and finished third in the conference the coaching staff and players built a lot of confidence from a 7-3 season in 2014. This season looks to have great promise and with the return of five all conference players and 14 starters, expectations are high in southern Illinois.

Trent Laune returns to coordinate a defense that returns seven starters, three of which were all conference in 2014. Joey Silva leads the way coming off a breakout season in 2014 where he led the conference in tackles for loss and sacks from his OLB position. He will be paired with Nicholas Morrow (Second Team All Conference) who will play the other OLB position in Greenville's Hybrid 3-4 scheme. All four linebackers are returning starters and should make up the strength of the Greenville Defense. Cory Snyder (First Team All Conference) and Ralph Reglado both return at the Safety positions to add experience to an otherwise youthful defensive backfield. The defensive line returns all 2 starters from 2014 as Lincoln Johnson (First Team All Conference), and LaRoy Ruffin return and Johnny Roa will return from a torn ACL in 2013 to play the Nose Guard position.

The offense will be led by Josh Flannery, who returns to his alma mater after spending the last five seasons at Malone College. After taking on the difficult task of replacing Brendan Chambers both EA Northey and Jake Battaglia return to compete for the starting quarterback position. Along side the QB's, Nathan Callaway, the UMACs leading rusher, and Jacob Stull, the 2013 UMAC leading rusher, will help preserve Greenville's dominant running game. Sam Northey, Nick Newton and John Dudley all return to help beef up Greenville's passing game. While the skills stayed mainly intact from 2014 the Offensive Line will see many changes, Andres Flores and Sterling Burns return after starting most of last year but the Panthers will need to replace 3 all conference starters along the offensive line.

4. Westminster College Blue Jays
2014 Overall Record: 6-4
2014 UMAC Record: 6-3
2014 UMAC Finish: T-4th
Starters Returning: 17
Starters Lost: 5

The Westminster College Blue Jays return a number of key players from the 2014 squad, including two All-UMAC members.

The Blue Jay offense begins the 2015 season with a new staff from the coordinator on down. On the field, they lose Joe Plassmeyer, two-time All-UMAC quarterback. Plassmeyer led the UMAC last season in yards per game. The Blue Jays return First Team All-UMAC wide receiver Mike Washington who tallied 685 receiving yards in 60 receptions with six touchdowns. The entire Blue Jay offensive line returns and the team will look to the experienced line to help with the new quarterback transition. The squad brings in two quarterbacks, sophomore transfer Trent White and freshman Ian Roberts. The Blue Jays also bring in sophomore transfer Ketrick Large at the running back position.

Defensively, the Blue Jays lose four starters. They ended the 2014 season ranked third in the conference for points allowed per game with just 23.7. They will look to senior Bret Robertson, Second Team All-UMAC at defensive back, to lead the team with last year's graduate Kyle Bryant on the sideline as an assistant coach. Robertson led the defense with 81 tackles, averaging 8.1 per game. The Blue Jays also return sophomore Sean Freeman, junior Jacob Ellis, senior Christian Houston and junior Brett Simon.

The Blue Jays return starting kicker/punter, senior Kevin Ludwig. Ludwig racked up 40 points on the season with 31 extra points made. Also returning is senior CJ Vaughan. Vaughan broke two Westminster season records, ending the season with 30 kick returns and 615 kick return yards.

5. Iowa Wesleyan Tigers
2014 Overall Record: 6-4
2014 UMAC Record: 6-3
2014 UMAC Finish: T-4th
Starters Returning: 9
Starters Lost: 12

Iowa Wesleyan looks to continue the success from a season ago. This will be no easy feat for the Tigers, as they lost some key players and will be a young team this year. Iowa Wesleyan will look to their returners to help set the tone for the season, and will also rely heavily on newcomers to make an impact right away.

Offensively, Iowa Wesleyan returns four starters from last season. Caleb Huss returns for his senior season. Huss was a three time player of the week for the Tigers and was also Second Team All-Conference and First Team All-USCAA. Last season, Huss threw for 1509 yards and 23 touchdowns. Two of the Tigers main targets offensively will no longer be available. Tylor Hoyle will need to step up this season for IW. Iowa Wesleyan also loses their main option in the run game, but will look to Bryson Oliver, an incoming freshman to make an impact right away. Oliver played in just six games his senior year, but finished with 142 carries, 995 yards, and 11 touchdowns. He will also be a huge part of the kick and punt return game for IW.

On defense, five starters return for the Tigers. Iowa Wesleyan lost some key players on the defense, but will look to some of their top returners to help lead the young team. Nate Daniels returns at linebacker for IW after leading the team in tackles last season. Daniels recorded 91 total tackles, 45 solo and had 5.5 tackles for loss. He also forced a fumble and blocked a kick in his junior year. Darryl Smith also returns at defensive back for the Tigers. Smith had 52 tackles and three interceptions last season. He also had a forced fumble and two blocked kicks. Also coming back for the Tigers is Ryan Gerleman. Gerleman will be a senior defensive back for Iowa Wesleyan who started all ten games for the Tigers. Christian Henriksen returns on the defensive line for the purple and white. Henriksen played in all ten games for the Tigers, and recorded 42 tackles, a sack, and had 2 fumble recoveries. Some key incoming players for the Tigers are Eric Dubose and Connor Davidson. Dubose joins the Tigers from Hinsdale South High School where he was a middle linebacker. He is a downhill player and should be a run stopper for the defense. In his senior season, Dubose recorded 56 tackles, caused three fumbles, and had two fumble recoveries. Davidson looks to help boost the defensive line, joining the Tigers from Davis County High School. The Tigers will look to him to help bring toughness, a constant pass rush, and run stopping ability to the team.

6. Crown College Storm
2014 Overall Record: 4-6
2014 UMAC Record: 4-5
2014 UMAC Finish: 6
Starters Returning: 16
Starters Lost: 6

Crown College enters the 2015 campaign off of their second 4-6 record in as many years. Eerily similar to 2013, Crown began the season slow starting at 0-6 before finishing 4-0. Crown will look to take that momentum into this season as they look to improve upon last year's record. Head Coach John Auer will enter his 15th season at the helm of the Storm, the longest tenure of any UMAC football coach.

Crown has graduated mainstay defensive stalwarts Zach Jusczak and Drew Zoromski and will look to returning defensive line starter Everett Hawk to fill that void on the interior. Tim Blake, Chris Larson, and a host of incoming freshmen will look to fill out the defensive line. Returning starters Jalen Phoenix and Eliot Wiens bolster the linebacking corps as Phoenix garnered All UMAC honors last season. The defensive backfield returns all four starters headlined by All UMAC performers Eli Dahl and Chris Strange at the safety positions, with Thomas Andrews and Joel Silva at corner. A talented bunch of freshman defensive players will challenge the starters at many positions and provide some much needed depth.

Offensively, Crown returns their top six rushers from a season ago including All UMAC running back Matt Michaud who rushed for 1,001 yards and a UMAC best 15 touchdowns. Crown will return three starters on the offensive line in Jayson Rothmeier, Jack Eggen, and Alex Fellerman after losing four year starter Michael Graber to graduation. Senior quarterback Brandon McCormick will return from injury to battle with sophomore Ryan Synoground at the quarterback position as Synoground started the last four games after McCormick dislocated his non-throwing elbow. Leading receiver and big hitter Trey Peace returns with a vastly new receiving corps that will see freshmen and transfers competing for playing time. Crown must improve their passing game in order to increase last year's offensive output.

Crown opens their season at home in KleinBank Stadium on Saturday, September 5th against Gustavus Adolphus College.

7. Eureka College Red Devils
2014 Overall Record: 2-8
2014 UMAC Record: 2-7
2014 UMAC Finish: 8th
Starters Returning: 17
Starters Lost: 5

The Eureka College Red Devils will enter the 2015 with high expectations. EC finished last season with a 2-8 overall record and 2-7 mark in the UMAC, but return as many as 17 starters.

Offensively, the Red Devils will have to replace two-year starter at quarterback Blake Robles, but return four starters on the offensive line and the bulk of the receiving core. Eureka will look to return to offensive form by establishing a running game and maintaining an efficient air attack. Offensive tackle Javier Rivera highlights the group of offensive returners. The senior was selected as a pre-season honorable mention All-American and will anchor the offensive line at left tackle. Youth will still be a factor this season offensively, but the potential for an explosive offense is there.

The coaching staff is very excited about the outlook of the defensive unit. With the addition of key transfers and returners that saw significant playing time last season, the defense will be the most experienced unit for Eureka. Linebacker Chris Friend comes in after spending his freshman campaign at NAIA St. Xavier. The sophomore played in ten games a freshman and will immediately step into a starter role at linebacker. With a veteran core and talented youth, the expectations are high on defensive-side of the ball.

Approximately 40 freshman and transfers will join the program in August, creating the biggest and deepest squad in the Coach Barth Era.

8. MacMurray College Highlanders
2014 Overall Record: 3-7
2014 UMAC Record: 3-6
2014 UMAC Finish: 7th
Starters Returning: 18
Starters Lost: 6

Going into his fifth season, Head Coach Chris Douglas and his staff are looking forward to their best season yet. Four long years of rebuilding has brought MacMurray Football to a season of higher expectations. Douglas, upon his arrival in the summer of 2011, inherited a program that had suffered through a 1-39 win-loss stretch over the previous four seasons and a team of only 27 returners and 17 newcomers to start with. From those humble beginnings, the Highlander coaching staff have worked to increase the roster size from a meager 52 to an expected reporting day roster of 105 student-athletes. In the previous four seasons, the highest number of seniors on the roster was six in 2014. The 2015 edition of MacMurray Football will see 19 seniors complete their eligibility at the end of the season. Most of these seniors make up the first full recruiting class during the Douglas era.

With the roster fully stocked and the leadership class of the team at its height, and plenty of returning experience, the Highlanders expect a breakout season and competing with the top programs in the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference.

The 2015 version of the Mac offense has high expectations. For two-thirds of the 2014 season, the offense churned out 32 points per game, highest in the Douglas era, but following an injury to QB Coy Dorothy, the last three games of the season the offense ground to a halt. With eight returning starters, the offense finally has the experience and depth to move the ball against all opponents and score points.

The 2015 edition of the MacMurray defense looks to keep the momentum going that was gained from their play at the end of the 2014 season. Coach Langhoff and the defensive staff returns eight starters from last year's unit, as well as many that contributed. There are high hopes on the defensive side that they can be more consistent with their play over the upcoming 10 game season.

MacMurray Special Teams will have the most experience returning since Douglas' arrival four seasons ago. The punting duties are expected to be handled by Evan Blauvelt . Blauvelt was the lead punter all of 2014 and have quality support with Ryan Metsker and Adam Beard going into this season. Kicker Grant Cooper also returns for the Highlanders.

With a strong group of incoming freshmen and the strength and depth of the returning team on both sides of the ball, the Highlanders look to take the next step competitively on the field.

9. University of Minnesota Morris Cougars
2014 Overall Record: 0-10
2014 UMAC Record: 0-9
2014 UMAC Finish: 10th
Starters Returning: 14
Starters Lost: 8

Minnesota Morris will begin a new era in 2015 as first year head coach Rob Cushman takes over the program, hoping to guide the Cougars back to contention in the UMAC. Last season Morris failed to win a game for the first time since joining the UMAC finishing last in the conference.

The Cougars do return a couple big starters from last season including starting quarterback Donnie Mavencamp and their leading rusher from 2014, team captain Andrew Fellows. Also returning for the Cougars is a solid core of defensive players including 2014 All-UMAC player Drew Marshall.

Of course UMM has to replace 2014 UMAC Defensive Player of the Year Cody Hickman, who finished in the top five all-time in total tackles in NCAA Division III history.

Morris will welcome a few new transfers who will add experience to team that needs depth. In addition, the Cougars welcome in a class of freshman that will be asked to contribute right away in 2015.

10. Martin Luther College Knights
2014 Overall Record: 2-8
2014 UMAC Record: 1-8
2014 UMAC Finish: 9th
Starters Returning: 15
Starters Lost: 8

The 2015 Martin Luther College football team returns a number of key returners on both sides of the ball from a team that struggled with injuries on the way to a 2-8 season in 2014.

The Knights' offense was dominant for much of the 2014 season on the ground, rushing for 246.1 yards per game (second-most in the UMAC). The Knights will rely on returners Eddie Endicott and Matt Olson to lead the backfield. The two rushed for 696 and 530 yards, respectively, in 2014, and combined to score nine touchdowns. Joe Rodewald brings some experience into his sophomore season as depth at the position, and could see time at several other spots. MLC also returns three starters on the offensive line in Jeff Rick, Michael Martens and Alec Bergmann, while the team hopes that several returners on the outside help improve the passing game this season to keep defenses honest.

On defense, MLC is led by two-time All-UMAC selection Ben Ewings up front. Ewings set the program's single-season record for sacks in 2013 with 12.5, and backed that up by leading the Knights in tackles last season with 59. He will be joined up front by veterans Dan Schmidt and Paul Habermann at defensive tackle. At linebacker, the Knights lost all-conference performer Nick Kressin, but return a solid group of contributors led by Chris Dean, Jacob Brohn and Robbie Schmidt. The secondary also returns a number of contributors from last season. Nate Schoenherr returns to man one of the corner positions, while Josh VonDeylen, John Kujath and Tom Keller also have starting experience.

UMAC teams will play nine conference games throughout the 2015 schedule with the conference's regular season champion moving onto the NCAA playoffs via the league's automatic qualifier.

This story was published on August 12, 2015

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