2011 GLIAC Football Preview: Coaches Pick Grand Valley State & Wayne State to Win Divisional Titles

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By Sandy Gholston, Special Writer for the GLIAC

BAY CITY, Mich. – Grand Valley State University leads a group of Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) teams that expect to compete on a national level this season in Division II football.

2011 GLIAC Football
Preseason Coaches’ Poll
School (1st-votes) Points  
North Division  
Grand Valley St. (13) 85  
2. Michigan Tech  (1)   
3. Saginaw Valley St.   
4. Northern Michigan   
5. Northwood   
6. Ferris State   
7. Indianapolis   
South Division  
1. Wayne State (10)   
2. Ashland (4)   
3. Hillsdale    
4. Ohio Dominican   
5. Findlay    
  Lake Erie   
7. Tiffin   
The Lakers are ranked second in The Sporting News Division II 2011 Preseason Top 25 Poll. Wayne State University is ranked ninth in the poll and Hillsdale is ranked 19th in the nation. That is a snapshot of the strength of the GLIAC on the national level as the start of the 2011 season is just around the corner.

Closer to home, in the GLIAC, the head coaches picked the Lakers first in the GLIAC’s North Division while the Warriors were tabbed – in a tight vote – as the team to finish atop the South Division in the annual preseason poll.

In the North Division, Grand Valley State was picked first with 85 points and 13 first-place votes, Michigan Technological University was second with 67 points and one first-place vote, Saginaw Valley State University was third with 44 points, Northern Michigan University was fourth with 43 points, Northwood University was fifth with 38 points, Ferris State University was sixth with 37 points and the University of Indianapolis, playing in its final season in the GLIAC before heading to the Great Lakes Valley Conference, was seventh with 29 points.

In the South Division, Wayne State was first with 80 points and 10 first-place votes, Ashland University was second with 73 points and four first-place votes, Hillsdale College was third with 66 points, Ohio Dominican University was fourth with 38 points, the University of Findlay and Lake Erie College were fifth with 36 points and Tiffin University was seventh with 13 points.

Last season, the Lakers finished the 2010 campaign with a record of 11-2 overall and 9-1 in the GLIAC as it claimed the top spot in the North Division – one game ahead of Michigan Tech, which ended the campaign 8-2 overall and in the league. GVSU will have no shortage of hunters eager to knock one of the nation’s premier programs from the No. 1 spot in the conference. Hillsdale and Wayne State have earned national preseason recognition. The Chargers and Warriors finished with identical 8-2 records in the GLIAC South Division while Wayne finished 9-3 overall and Hillsdale was 9-2.

GVSU and Hillsdale earned postseason NCAA Tournament bids during the 2010 season. The Chargers dropped a 42-28 decision in the first round. The Lakers defeated Colorado Mines in the opening round by a 35-13 score, but fell in the NCAA Super Region 3 Semifinals to Augustana (S.D.), 38-6.

Ranked in order picked in the 2011 GLIAC Preseason Coaches’ Poll:

North Division

1.  Grand Valley State (11-2 overall, 9-1 GLIAC)

Overview: Grand Valley State returns a number of key players on both sides of the football as it gears up to defend its GLIAC football championship. The Lakers do have some key openings at one prominent position that will be filled by a relatively youthful player: quarterback. Heath Parling is among the quarterback candidates the Lakers will have competing for the signal-calling spot on the offensive side of the football. GVSU will be extremely young at quarterback, but the Lakers have a tradition of grooming strong quarterbacks to run the offense. Defensively, the Lakers will be pleased to welcome back defensive leader Danny Richard, one of the nation’s premier lineman, who is back after being out in 2010 due to injury. Grand Valley State, after winning its sixth straight GLIAC championship, earned a bid to the NCAA tournament for the 10th straight year. However, GVSU dropped a second round playoff game at Augustana (S.D.).

Offense: GVSU has a lot of proven talent returning to its offensive unit, but it also has some holes that will be filled by players ready to emerge this fall. At receiver, Greg Gay and Jovonne Augustus return while the offensive line will be anchored by junior, Tim Lelito. Tight end Tony Carreri is back and Norman Shuford could emerge as a go-to runner out of the offensive backfield this season. Traditionally, the Lakers have been the Quarterback U of the GLIAC. This season, however, the team does not return with an established veteran quarterback, but it does boast some young talent that is expected to emerge this season as the signal caller for a talented unit. Heath Parling is expected to be the leading candidate to step in as the starting quarterback this season. In general, the Lakers have a young group of quarterbacks on their roster this season as Parling, a sophomore, is joined by Brandon Beitzel, a redshirt freshman; Taylor Copacia, a redshirt freshman; Isiah Grims, a redshirt freshman; Josh Harris, a freshman; and Jeff O’Brien, a freshman.

Defense: The Lakers will be pleased to welcome the return of preseason All-American lineman Danny Richard, who missed the 2010 season due to injury. Richard has been named the 2011 Preseason All-American by The Sporting News - and for good reason. Richard tallied 60 tackles and 19.5 tackles for loss, including 13 quarterback sacks in 2009. Also back is All-GLIAC First Team senior defensive back Zach Breen and All-GLIAC Second Team linebacker Luther Ware, a senior. Breen was second on the team in 2010 in total tackles (101), fourth in tackles for loss (9.5) and sacks (3.5).

Special Teams: Ryan Stokes will enter the year as the place kicker/punter, while Marco Ioderosa and Chris Picano will also battle for kicking duties.
Coaching: Matt Mitchell enters his second season as head coach of the Lakers.  Mitchell joined the staff in 2004 and was a part of GVSU’s 2005 and 2006 National Championship teams.

Key Dates: Grand Valley State opens the season on Sept. 1 at Lubbers Stadium in Allendale with a contest against Western Oregon. The Lakers figure to be tested early in the season as GLIAC competition begins with back-to-back road trips to Hillsdale (Sept. 10) and Indianapolis (Sept. 17). The Lakers host Ferris in the Anchor-Bone Classic on Oct. 22 at 7 p.m. and Saginaw Valley State at 1 p.m. on Nov. 12 in the regular-season finale.

2.  Michigan Tech (8-2 overall, 8-2 GLIAC)

Overview: Michigan Tech is coming off a strong season of football, and hopeful it can keep momentum running into the 2011 campaign. The Huskies return several experienced players from an eight-win 2010 squad, but the team also has the task of replacing some key competitors that were a big part of last fall’s success. Head coach Tom Kearly’s squad is likely to have a spirited competition at quarterback during preseason camp with sophomore Ray Wojtala, and freshman Tyler Scarlett. The team does have a top-notch receiving target returning in tight end Bryan LaChapelle. On the defensive side of the football, the experience should be strong for MTU with a veteran group back on the gridiron. If the younger players can step in and fill the shoes of the experienced players who have moved on then the Huskies should be on track for another successful season of college football.

Offense: This season, Michigan Tech has a rare task of replacing the steady guiding hand of long-time quarterback Steve Short, a four-year starter. In addition to having to fill the shoes of Short, the Huskies also have to replace another steady force from their offensive backfield, running back Phil Milbrath, a 2010 Harlon Hill finalist. Developing behind those two veterans are young players who MTU hopes are ready to step forward and take charge. At quarterback, sophomore Ray Wojtala and redshirt freshman Tyler Scarlett will compete in fall preseason camp for the signal-calling duties. Carrying the football, Akeem Cason, who gained experience for the Huskies on special teams as an All-GLIAC kick returner in 2010, is expected to step in as the feature back this fall. At tight end, standout Bryan LaChapelle, who earned All-GLIAC First Team honors in 2010, returns as a big-time threat catching the ball for Michigan Tech.

Defense: The Huskies welcome back an experienced group on the defensive side of the football with essentially 10 starters back from last season’s unit which ranked first in the league in points allowed and second in yards allowed. The strength of the defensive unit could be down in the trenches on the line of scrimmage. Senior defensive ends Todd Storm and Drew Vanderlin, a pair of All-GLIAC First Team selections in 2010, are key components of the defensive side of the football. MTU’s defense could emerge as one of the top units in the GLIAC, the region and nation.

Special Teams: Michigan Tech will be very youthful on special teams as fall training camp will allow the coaching staff an opportunity to have young players emerge and assume spots in kicking and punting. Alex Elsenheimer is being penciled in as a contender to return kicks and punts for the Huskies. Aaron Allen, Ethan Shaver and Kenny Stiger are among other contenders in the return game.

Coaching: Tom Kearly enters his sixth season with the Huskies after spending the previous six as the team’s assistant head coach and offensive coordinator. Prior to coming to Michigan Tech, Kearly spent 19 seasons at NCAA Division I Central Michigan University, including the last six as associate head coach and last nine as offensive coordinator.

Key Dates: Michigan Tech opens the season on the road in non-conference action at Winona state on Sept. 3 and then opens at home in GLIAC action against Lake Erie on Sept. 10. The Huskies will host Saginaw Valley State for homecoming on Oct. 8 and then travel to Marquette to face rival Northern Michigan in the Miner’s Cup Game on Nov. 12 in the regular-season finale.

3.  Saginaw Valley State (4-7 overall, 4-6 GLIAC)

Overview: Saginaw Valley State is ready to bounce back from a tough 2010 season on the gridiron as it looks ahead to the coming fall. SVSU has a number of players on both sides of the football who have gained experience for head coach Jim Collins. As a program, the Cardinals are hopeful they can turn the corner. Optimism is running high in Cardinal Country. The program will benefit from some major renovations that are taking place at Wickes Stadium, including the installation of lights, a new scoreboard and a new synthetic playing surface. Coach Collins should have good competition at several key positions that should produce high-quality results for SVSU. Jonathon Jennings appears to be the leading candidate to step in at quarterback this season, but he will be pushed. Ronnie Lark, Brandon Hayes and Nick Gallina give him some weapons. Defensively, the Cardinals should have a solid front seven to anchor the unit.

Offense: SVSU could have a nice competition at the quarterback spot coming into the preseason with Jonathon Jennings perhaps having the lead at the start of training camp. Jennings started in four games as a true freshman last season. Jennings passed for 1,064 yards last season with nine touchdowns. The competition, for Jennings, is expected to come primarily from Jesse Siwek. Some newcomers to the program also could provide competition. Ronnie Lark has worked hard to solidify his position at running back for SVSU. Last season, Lark rushed for 989 yards in GLIAC action with seven touchdowns. He will compete with Brandon Hayes, who has been involved in the offense during his career. Dave Pardun could be in the mix as well. At the receiver position, the name Nick Gallina continues to be a familiar one to fans of the Cardinals. Mike Peterson as well as Mark Thrash, Jeff Janis, and Mike Albrecht who all gained valuable experience last year as red shirt freshman. Look for possible contributions from Kurt Van Essen and newcomer Tim Hogue at receiver. Zach Cecich is back at tight end and Nate Hoyle adds depth at the position. On the offensive line, three starters are back in Nick DiPalma, Frank Toramina and Tevon Conrad.

Defense: On the defensive side of the football, the line is back and anchored by several experienced contributors. Seniors Paul Webb and Brandon Williams were starters and should be helped by returning starters Ryan Busch, who has been moved to tackle, and Nate Snyder. The defensive line looks deep and experienced. Mason Duke, Tony Iacovoni and Jordan Maccoux strengthen the depth. At linebacker, Grant Caserta is back for the Cardinals. A healthy Josh Fallon will be an important part of the SVSU linebacker corps. Brian Johnson and Murphy Wilson will be in the mix to compete for a linebacker job along with transfer Rodney Gallon, who can play inside or outside. In the defensive backfield, the safety positions should be led by Jeff Heath and Darius Middlebrooks while the corner positions could be grabbed by Noah Sumpter and DeAngelo Parris, who will compete with transfers David Touissant and Jon Bryant.
Special Teams: Kyle Kauffman is coming off a solid spring season and is expected to challenge for playing time at punter. At kicker, Tommy Goodroe returns. Cody Ballard was redshirted last year, but he showed a lot of promise during the spring. The Cardinals have also recruited some promising freshmen who may compete for opportunities.

Coaching: Jim Collins returns for his fourth season as the head man for the Cardinals.  Collins has posted a 20-13 mark in his first three seasons at SVSU, including a 9-3 mark in 2009 and berth in the Division II playoff that same season.  

Key Dates: Saginaw Valley State opens the season against Ferris State on Sept. 10 in a GLIAC home contest at 7 p.m. The Cardinals host rival Northwood in the “Axe Bowl” on Sept. 24 at 7 p.m. and hosts Hillsdale for homecoming on Oct. 1. The Cardinals will host Ashland on Oct. 20, in the NCAA Division II Football “Game of the Week” that will air live on the CBS Sports Network.  SVSU travels to face GVSU in the “Battle of the Valleys” on Nov. 12 at 1 p.m.

4.  Northern Michigan (5-6 overall, 5-5 GLIAC)

Overview: After finishing with an overall record that was an eyelash below .500 overall, Northern Michigan is hoping to turn a few of the tough losses of 2010 into close victories in 2011. The Wildcats welcome back 31 letterwinners from last season, including seven starters on offense and six on defense. The Wildcats have a challenging schedule, but a number of their toughest games will be played within the friendly confines of the Superior Dome in Marquette. Northern Michigan will try to hold serve as best it can on its home field and then secure wins on the road where possible in what promises to be a tough race to a GLIAC championship.

Offense: Northern has a solid nucleus returning on offense featuring John Privitelli, an All-GLIAC honorable mention running back from 2010. Replacing receiver Dustin Brancheau will be a challenge for the Wildcats this season. Privitelli led the team with 693 rushing yards last season and scored five touchdowns on the ground. He led the team in all-purpose yards (1,411 yds.) and  was a factor in kick and punt returns for NMU. The offense will have a youthful flavor as illustrated during the team’s spring game when a number of young quarterbacks had opportunities to showcase their skills as players of the future in NMU’s offensive system. While the Wildcats will look to spread things out, offensively, the goal remains to run the ball effectively. That will begin largely with the legs of Privitelli, who ranked 10th in the GLIAC in rushing. On the passing side, Carter Kopach hopes to bounce back to have a full and healthy season for NMU. Last season, in six games, he completed 75-of-144 passes for 1,079 yards and eight touchdowns. He also rushed for 454 yards on 81 carries with six touchdowns. He earned the team’s Most Inspirational Player award last season. NMU should be deep and experienced at quarterback.

Defense: This fall, Northern expects to again have one of the toughest defenses in the GLIAC. Leading the way for the NMU defense will be linebacker Eddie Knoblock, who earned first team All-GLIAC honors last season and lineman Zach Anderson, who received second team all-league recognition in 2010. Last season, Knoblock recorded 83 total tackles, including 44 solos, to go along with five interceptions and seven tackles for loss. Anderson finished with 60 total tackles, 12 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks. The defense, as expected, will make life difficult on opposing offenses whether its passing or running the football.

Special Teams: Garrett Peck returns at punter for the Wildcats after averaging 39.8 per punt last season with a long of 56. Rockne Belmonte, at placekicker, finished the season 11-of-18.

Coaching: Bernie Anderson is entering his sixth season as head coach of Northern, his alma mater. Anderson is a 1978 graduate of NMU. He owns a career record of 114-126 in 23 seasons as a head coach.

Key Dates: Northern Michigan opens the season on Sept. 1 with a non-conference game at home against Minnesota State-Mankato beginning at 7 p.m. The Wildcats host national power Grand Valley State on Oct. 8 at 1 p.m. and end the season against rival Michigan Tech at 1 p.m. in the Miner’s Cup Game on Senior Day in Marquette.

5.  Northwood (5-6 overall, 5-5 GLIAC)

Overview: Northwood is looking to build on what should be a strong offensive unit led by quarterback Aaron Shavers. The Timberwolves should be able to continue to run the football effectively with Shavers as the leader. Cameron Jackson and Jordan Jonker will join in the rushing attack for NU. The Timberwolves will work to control the game clock and wear down opposing defenses as has been their trend for years. With home contests early in their schedule, Northwood could be in a good position to get off to a nice start and gain some confidence for some tough road dates later in the season. NU will look for candidates to emerge as it solidifies positions within its special teams unit, but in general Northwood returns a solid cast looking to climb the ladder in the GLIAC.

Offense: Northwood’s offense will once again be defined by a strong running attack led by all-purpose quarterback Aaron Shavers. Shavers, last season, led the team in rushing as he gained 985 yards on 196 carries with10 touchdowns. Also back on the ground for Northwood is Cameron Jackson, who rushed for 428 yards and five touchdowns and Jordan Jonker, who rushed for three touchdowns and 203 yards. Through the air, Shaver completed 45.7 percent of his passes for 13 touchdowns against six interceptions. Shavers’ top returning target is Quillan Mathis, who hauled in 28 receptions for 655 yards with eight touchdowns in 2010. Also back is Ashton Gulvas, who had seven receptions for 109 yards and one TD.

Defense: The Timberwolves suffered some key losses on the defensive side of the football, but there are some notable returners this season. Spencer Remtema is back after totaling 81 total tackles last season and two sacks. Ryan Whittum is back after he finishing last season with 53 total tackles and Justin Barnes returns to the lineup this fall having recorded 39 tackles, nine tackles for loss and three sacks in 2010.

Special Teams: Northwood will have some spots to fill in the kicking game, but Tony Hite is back at punter this season. A year ago, he averaged 40.9 yards per punt with six touchbacks.
Coaching: Mike Sullivan enters his fourth campaign as the head coach of Northwood. He owns a career record at NU of 14-17.

Key Dates: Northwood opens the season with back-to-back home contests against Findlay (Sept. 3; non-conference) at 12 p.m. and Ohio Dominican (Sept. 10) at 12 p.m. The Timberwolves and Saginaw Valley State meet in the Axe Bowl on Sept. 24 in University Center at 7 p.m. under the lights. NU closes out the home portion of its schedule on Nov. 5 against Grand Valley State and then wraps up the regular season with a road date at Ferris State on Nov. 12.

6.  Ferris State (5-6 overall, 5-5 GLIAC)

Overview: Ferris State has high hopes on the offensive side of the football led by veteran quarterback Tom Schneider and on the defensive side of the football with a unit led by all-star candidate Jordan Morgan, a standout end. The Bulldogs are hopeful that a year of experience in the system of second-year offensive coordinator Chris Boden will produce a more confident group and more consistent results. Schneider is coming off a solid season at QB for Ferris and has plenty of help up front with second-team all-league center Jake Hancock. The receivers and backs Schneider will work with have gained experience and should be ready to produce more consistent results. On the defensive side, Ferris has suffered some losses, due to graduation, but the team does welcome back a good dose of talented players who picked up experience as injuries impacted the Ferris lineup last season for Duane Wilson, the defensive coordinator. The Bulldogs of veteran head coach Jeff Pierce are picked to finish near the bottom of the GLIAC’s North Division, in the preseason poll, but Ferris hopes to build on some of the momentum it gained last season and turn some of those close losses into close wins to inch up toward the top of its division.

Offense: The Bulldogs’ offense will be led this season by quarterback Tom Schneider, a 2010 All-GLIAC Honorable Mention selection. Schneider completed 70.5 percent of his passes for 1,741 yards and 12 touchdowns. One of his primary targets will be receiver Mike Ryan, who joined Schneider on the all-league honorable mention listing last season. Ryan finished with 59 receptions for 657 yards and four touchdowns. On the ground, Skyler Stoker was the team’s top rusher last season as he totaled 471 yards on the ground with four touchdowns. Schneider rushed for six touchdowns and 319 yards. One of the players who will help make the offense run is on the line of scrimmage and right in the middle of that line. Center Jake Hancock earned All-GLIAC Second Team recognition last season and has picked up preseason All-America recognition this fall. Ferris is looking for consistency on the offensive side of the football as it enters year two under offensive coordinator Chris Boden, whose system has been greeted well by the players since he took over.

Defense: Ferris has a strong defensive unit returning this season. On the line of scrimmage, end Jordan Morgan is one of the featured players. Morgan, last season, earned All-GLIAC Second Team honors and has picked up some preseason All-America recognition. Morgan totaled 52 total tackles and eight sacks. Joining Morgan on that defensive line is Brad Iskow, who earned a spot on the honorable mention all-league list. Iskow finished with five sacks and 14.5 tackles for loss. Muneer Bawayeh is back on the defensive line. Bawayeh totaled 4.5 tackles for loss and two sacks. Tayo Moss returns as a key player in the Ferris lineup having totaled 89 tackles, three sacks and 5.5 tackles for loss.

Special Teams: Ferris welcomes back Catlin Porter, a junior, and Shawn Snoor, a senior, to handle the kicking and punting duties this season.

Coaching: Jeff Pierce returns for his 17th season as the head coach of the Bulldogs – his alma mater. Pierce owns a career record of 96-80-0.

Key Dates: Ferris opens the season at home on Sept. 2 against Hillsdale on “Community Day” in Big Rapids in a non-conference game. The Bulldogs officially open GLIAC play on Sept. 10 when they travel to University Center to take on Saginaw Valley State in the “Red Feather Game” on Sept. 10. Ferris hosts Northern Michigan for homecoming on Oct. 15 and one week later travels to Allendale to face rival Grand Valley State in the Anchor-Bone Classic on Oct. 22.

7.   Indianapolis (6-5 overall, 5-5 GLIAC)

Overview: This 2011 season marks the final year for Indianapolis as a football member of the GLIAC after 13 seasons. Beginning in 2012, the Greyhounds will begin competing in football in the Great Lakes Valley Conference as the league is adding football as a sport. In its final season in the GLIAC, Indianapolis will make one final run at a GLIAC title in one of the nation’s premier NCAA Division II football leagues. The program welcomes back 17 of 22 starters from last year’s squad which finished with a record of 6-5. While the 2010 team finished one game above .500, it did win three of its final four games to claim its first winning record since 2007. The Greyhounds have experienced players back at quarterback to run the offense. That should create competition in preseason camp. Defensively, linebacker Max Davis is back as one of the top defensive players returning in the GLIAC.

Offense: Indianapolis returns a lot of experience and talent on the offensive side of the football for the 2011 season. In all, the Greyhounds welcome back eight returning starters on the offensive side of the football vs. three starters lost from 2010. One area where the competition will be strong will be at the quarterback spot. The coaching staff will be watching closely as the competition unfolds between senior Rob Doyle and sophomore Chris Mills. As a duo, Doyle and Sims combined to pass for 2,451 yards, 15 touchdowns and a 57-percent completion percentage in 2011, with Doyle starting four games and Mills starting seven. Ryan Forney, a senior at receiver, is one of the threats who should be one to make plays this season. The Greyhounds will hope to identify consistent threats for the quarterbacks to find and solidify protection up front. One of the key losses on offense is at tackle with the graduation of Eric Quintana, who started 10 games and played in the Cactus Bowl.

Defense: Defensively, nine starters are back from a unit that ranked fourth in the league in total defense and second in pass defense last season. While the Greyhounds experienced some key losses from last season in All-American strong safety Craig Ray and cornerback Alex Byrnes, the level of experience returning is significant. In front of the secondary, however, the line and the linebackers are solid. The Greyhounds’ entire “front seven” is back, including All-GLIAC Second Team linebacker Max Davis, who ranked third in the GLIAC in tackles per game (10.7) a year ago. Davis is expected to rank among the top players once again in the conference and perhaps in the nation. Mike Dum, a senior linebacker, is also a key player to watch this season.

Special Teams: Last year, Tyran Fakes stepped in at punter and earned All-GLIAC second-team honors. This season, the Greyhounds will look for someone new to emerge.

Coaching: Bob Bartolomeo enters his second season as head coach of the Greyhounds. He has three previous seasons as a head coach and put together a record of 20-12-1.

Key Dates: The Greyhounds show six homes games on their 2011 slate, highlighted by a week-three date with perennial-power Grand Valley State Sep. 17.  Also coming to Key Stadium will be future GLVC-opponent Kentucky Wesleyan in the season opener (Sep. 1), as well Findlay (Oct. 1), Saginaw Valley (Oct. 15), Northern Michigan (Oct. 22) and Wayne State (Nov. 5).  Absent from the conference schedule this season are Hillsdale, Lake Erie and Tiffin.

South Division

1.  Wayne State (9-2 overall, 8-2 GLIAC)

Overview: Wayne State returns strong units on offense and defense as it looks to build on a top-notch 2010 season during which it finished 9-2 overall and 8-2 in the GLIAC’s South Division standings. This season, the Warriors will look to control teams with a strong running game that features senior Josh Renel. In recent seasons, Wayne has come to be known for its running game and that tradition is expected to continue this season behind a strong offensive line complemented by steady quarterback play. On the defensive side of the football, the Warriors bring an experienced crew that is highlighted by a strong, veteran crew in the secondary. With three home games right off the bat, Wayne State has a chance to get off to a big start and build momentum heading into the heart of its schedule with more road games in the middle and end of its 2011 slate. In all, Wayne State has six home games at Adams Field, and that could pay dividends by the end of the season.

Offense: Wayne State’s offense promises to boast a strong rushing attack again led by senior Josh Renel and sophomore Toney Davis. Renel finished 2010 rushing for 1,249 yards on 224 carries, which was good enough for eighth in the nation and second-most in the GLIAC. Davis tallied 684 yards on 165 attempts. Renel, who was voted team offensive MVP, was recognized with many postseason awards including Hansen’s Football Gazette First Team All-America honors as well as First Team All-GLIAC accolades. Senior Jordan Kidd and sophomore Jessie Johnson will join Renel and Davis to add game-tested depth in the backfield. A strong offensive line is back for WSU this season led by senior Joe Long, who has started all 33 games of his college career and was a 2010 First Team All-GLIAC selection at left tackle. Senior Will Khoury has 24 career starts under his belt and will hold down the right tackle position again this year.

Redshirt freshmen Ben Walker and Kevin Micheli are set to backup both players. Junior Mickey Mohner took control of the quarterback job after he engineered a comeback win over Findlay at the end of the 2009 season.  It has remained his ever since. Mohner connected on a school record 60.1 percent of his passes and recorded the highest passing efficiency rating by a WSU quarterback since 1967. Mohner’s 158 completions were third most in school history and his 2,015 passing yards were fourth-best. Mohner hooked up on six of his 14 touchdown passes with senior flanker Troy Burrell. Burrell progressed into one of the best receivers in the GLIAC, tallying 900 receiving yards, second-most in the league, on 57 catches. Burrell earned All-GLIAC First Team honors and Third Team Hansen’s Football Gazette All-Region accolades. He enters 2011 with a 22-game reception streak and is sixth in career receiving yards (1,499).

Defense: When discussing the Warrior defense, depth is the first thing to come to mind. Twenty-three players return that saw the field at some point last season. Leading the group is senior Nick Thomas at middle linebacker. Thomas’ 2010 season was shortened after suffering an injury in week five, but his presence still enabled GLIAC coaches to vote him First Team All-GLIAC. Joining Thomas at the other linebacker positions are seniors Raleigh Ross, Jordan Miller, Zach Easterly and sophomore Ed Viverette.  Ross led the defense in tackles (69) last season, as the Warrior secondary progressed to be one of the most feared in the GLIAC. Senior free safety Jeremy Jones was at the center of the impact, coming up big in pressure situations. Jones became the first defensive player named to an All-America First Team in school history. He was also voted First Team All-Region # 3 and First Team All-GLIAC. Returning along-side Jones, at the strong safety spots, are senior Kenny Loney and sophomore Antwon Robinson. Loney recorded 36 solo tackles and two interceptions, while Robinson had 34 tackles and tied with Jones for a team-high five INT’s. Junior Mazen Jaddou is slated to be Jones’ backup.

The defensive line has to cope with the departure of defensive end Daunte Akra, but three fixtures return up front. Junior defensive end Greg Hasse ended a solid season on the edges with 37 tackles, five for a loss including four sacks.

Special Teams: Special teams was a big area of improvement for the Warriors last season with sophomore kicker Stefan Terleckyj playing a instrumental role in the change. Terleckyj returns after ranking sixth in the GLIAC in scoring (77 points) and second among kickers. Terleckyj may also handle the punting chores as Zack George graduated.  Freshman Ethan Walsh punted in high school. Renel will once again be the return specialist following another solid year.  He led the conference in punt return average (16.5) and was seventh in kick return average (24.9). Renel was the only Division II player to record at least 2,000 all-purpose yards during the regular season a year ago.

Coaching: Paul Winters is set to enter his eighth season as the head football coach at Wayne State. Winters will enter the 2011 campaign tied-for-third in school history with 36 coaching victories, just six behind the WSU mark of 42 set by Joseph Gembis (1932-45). Winters’ .480 winning percentage is fourth highest among all WSU football coaches with at least 17 games coached.

Key Dates: The Warriors open the season with three consecutive home games at Adams Field against Urbana (Sept. 3), Tiffin (Sept. 10) and Michigan Tech (Sept. 17). The Sept. 17 date against Michigan Tech is homecoming for the Warriors. In all, Wayne has six home dates this season.

2.   Ashland (8-3 overall, 7-3 GLIAC)

Overview: Ashland is hoping this is its year to take a big step toward being a top contender for the GLIAC championship. The Eagles return experience on offense and what looks like a solid defense as it prepares to challenge a top-heavy GLIAC that features the likes of Grand Valley State, Hillsdale, Wayne State and others. The Eagles went 8-3 last season, 7-3 in the GLIAC. Ashland finished its 2010 season on a seven-game winning streak. An increasingly confident offense started to put up big numbers as it scored no less than 30 points during that run and, during the 2010 season, led the league in scoring at 37.7 points per game. Ashland has some work to do in filling holes on the offensive line due to losses from graduation. At receiver, the Eagles will look for some targets to emerge for junior quarterback Taylor Housewright to find with his arm this fall. The Eagles’ top two returning receivers are H-Back Mike Knueven and McCoy. Both targets caught 25 passes last season.

Offense: This season, the Eagles expect to be even more confident on the offensive side of the football led by quarterback Taylor Housewright, who now has more experience, and tailback D.J. McCoy. Housewright, a junior this fall, ranked second in the GLIAC in pass efficiency (165.4) during the 2010 campaign – his first as a starter. Housewright ranked third in the league in passing yards per game (216.2) and total offense (256.5 ypg.). On the ground, complementing the passing of Housewright, McCoy ranked fourth in the GLIAC in rushing yards per game (115.6). The senior rushed for 1,344 yards (5.3 ypc.), the fourth best total in school history.

Defense: On the defensive side of the football, Ashland hopes to be a team that can hold opponents in check this fall. Ashland returns seven starters on defense from a unit that ranked third in the conference in scoring defense (17.8 ppg.) and total defense (305.5 ypg.) and tied for third in sacks (27). Passing on this unit could be tough with a defensive backfield that features senior defensive back Logan Kerr, who led the GLIAC in interceptions (eight) and pass breakups (17) last season. He has already been picked as a preseason All-America by The Sporting News and Consensus Draft Services. Up front, on the line of scrimmage, the Eagles feature sophomore Jamie Meder, the 2010 GLIAC freshman of the year and two seniors – Matt Stoinoff and Jeris Pendleton – who were named honorable mention all-conference a year ago.

Special Teams: With special teams, Gregg Berkshire is back and the accolades already are pouring in for the senior. Last fall, Berkshire was a finalist for the Mitchell Award and was a first team all-conference choice. Berkshire converted 16-for-23 field-goal attempts with a long of 50 yards. Berkshire was also the punter for the Eagles as he averaged a school-record 43.5 yards per punt. It was his first year as punter.

Coaching: Lee Owens enters his eighth season as head coach at Ashland. Owens has guided the Eagles to the NCAA Division II playoffs twice (2007, 2008).

Key Dates: The Eagles have a big non-conference road test at Bloomsburg, in Pennsylvania, on Sept. 1 beginning at 6 p.m. Ashland’s home opener is Sept. 10 against Indianapolis at 7 p.m. A key road date against Hillsdale comes early on Sept. 17. Ashland’s game at Saginaw Valley State on Thursday, Oct. 20, will be televised nationally on CBS Sports Network. Kickoff is at 8 p.m.

3.  Hillsdale (9-3 overall, 8-2 GLIAC)

Overview: Hillsdale has some key players to replace from a team that enjoyed a lot of success in qualifying for the NCAA Division II playoffs last season. Head coach Keith Otterbein does return a talented group led, on offense, by tailback Joe Glendening, the top rusher in the conference last season. Defensively, the Chargers are solid with a talented secondary that will make it tough on opposing offenses – particularly if the defensive line can generate pass rush. Hillsdale does open the season with a challenging schedule as it visits Ferris State (non-conference) on Sept 2 before returning home against two of the GLIAC’s top teams in Grand Valley State (Sept. 10) and Ashland (Sept. 17). By the end of week three, the Chargers should have a good idea where they stand in the conference. The team has tough road games at Saginaw Valley State (Oct. 1) and at Michigan Tech (Oct. 15). One of the keys for Hillsdale will be solidifying the quarterback position and watching who emerges at receiver this fall. The team enters the 2011 season ranked 19th in the nation in The Sporting News’ preseason Division II Top 25 poll.

Offense: Hillsdale’s offensive unit will have some familiar names, but it also will have some new players ready to emerge. The Chargers graduated a pair of outstanding players on offense in quarterback Troy Weatherhead and receiver Andre Holmes. The real secret to Hillsdale’s consistent success, offensively, has been balance. Back for Hillsdale this season is a strong running game led by All-GLIAC tailback Joe Glendening, who led the conference in rushing yards (1,485) and rushing touchdowns (15) in 2010. Up front, on the offensive line, Hillsdale has experience returning in the form of Reid Meador and D.J. Loy. Also back and expected to be a key component of the Hillsdale offense are Cam White and Bren Bergquist to give the Chargers more options in the passing and short-yardage running game. The position everyone looks to, on the offensive side of the ball, is the quarterback spot. A lot remains to be decided, but junior Anthony Mifsud, who played receiver in 2010, and senior Matt Bryan are locked in a battle for the job.

Defense:  The strength of the Chargers’ unit looks as if it will be in the backfield with a strong secondary that returns four starters. Senior Joe Vear has earned a reputation as a man who is capable of making plays against top-notch receivers. He was the D2football.com national defensive player of the week after a win over Lake Erie College last season. The versatile veteran Nick Hixson is back for his third season as the team’s top starting cornerback, and is the team’s top kickoff return specialist. Hixson finished with 92 tackles last season in total. Ben Karaba and Tyler Sandner also return to the secondary, and Nick Galvan, who had three interceptions as a freshman in 2009, will also return. At linebacker, Devin Moynihan, Steve Embry and Brett Pasche all return. Senior David Bakker was the team’s leading tackler among its defensive linemen last season, and returns to provide the team with a top-notch pass rusher.

Special Teams: Nick Hixson is likely to continue his role as a key player on special teams in the return game for Hillsdale in 2011. Hixson finished second on the team in punt returns with four for 39 yards and first in kick returns with 27 for 570 yards.

Coaching: Keith Otterbein is entering his 10th season as head coach at Hillsdale College. In Over the past two years, the team has qualified for the Division II playoffs for the first two times in its history, and has been nationally ranked in 19 of the past 24 weeks. He previously accomplished a turnaround at Ferris State in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Key Dates: The Chargers open the season in Big Rapids at Ferris State (non-conference) on Sept. 2 at 7:30 p.m. – a homecoming for Otterbein, who coached the Bulldogs from 1986-94. Hillsdale returns home for two tough dates against national power Grand Valley State on Sept. 10 at 7 p.m. and Ashland on Sept. 17 at 7 p.m. The homecoming date for the Chargers is Oct. 8 against Ohio Dominican with kickoff scheduled for 2:30 p.m.

4.  Ohio Dominican (2-8 overall, 2-8 GLIAC)

Overview: Ohio Dominican could be ready to take a big step this season with a strong cast of returning players who gained experience in 2010. The Panthers return all 11 starters on offense from last year and seven starters on defense. With a year of experience in the GLIAC last year, the first for ODU as a Division II program, the Panthers hope to add a few more victories to their total this fall. That experience could pay off as Ohio Dominican begins with a non-conference game at home against Saint Joseph’s (Ind.). From there, the team begins GLIAC play with road contests in Michigan against Northwood (Sept. 10) and Ferris State (Sept. 17). Winning on the road in the GLIAC is challenging and experience certainly helps. With a lot of experience on the 2011 roster, the Panthers could be well positioned to build off of its 2-8 record from last season.

Offense: Ohio Dominican returns a solid cast on the offensive side of the football, led by senior running back Mike Noffsinger. Noffsinger will have help up front courtesy of an offensive line led by left tackle Tyler White, a junior, and Andrew Carpenter, a junior center. The Panthers return 27 letterwinners and all 11 starters as part of their spread offensive attack. Noffsinger totaled 794 yards rushing with three touchdowns. Senior quarterback Jeremy Fudge is back for Ohio Dominican after he ranked second on the team in rushing last season with 522 yards on the ground. He passed for 752 yards and five touchdowns and completed 59.2 percent of his passes. As a team, ODU averaged 297 yards of total offense.

Defense: On the defensive side of the football, the Panthers return a strong cast led by a pair of juniors on the line in Eli Kovach, at tackle and Joe Richter, at end. The defensive unit returns 26 letterwinners from last season and seven of 11 starters. Richter finished last season with 32 tackles and two sacks while Kovach racked up 31 tackles and two sacks. With the combination of Richter and Kovach, the Panthers will try to apply the pressure to opposing quarterbacks and stop the run of opponents throughout the season. Last fall, opponents averaged 192.2 yards rushing the ball against the Panthers, but the Panthers will seek to cut that number down significantly this season. A veteran secondary is led by junior safety Jeff White and classmate Eisen Hardy at corner, and ODU has plenty of depth in the linebacker corps.

Special Teams: Chris Vortkamp is back this season for the Panthers, as a senior, and looks poised to have a big season at kicker and punter.

Coaching: Bill Conley, entering his second season as the head coach of the Panthers, is an Ohio State University graduate who played on two Big Ten championship teams and on the 1968 National Championship team under the legendary head coach Woody Hayes. After retiring from Ohio State in the spring of 2004, Conley served as a national recruiting analyst for ESPN and as a contributor and analyst for Columbus area print and broadcast media.

Key Dates: Ohio Dominican opens the season on Sept. 3 at noon against Saint Joseph’s (Ind.). The Panthers are on the road for two consecutive weeks at Northwood (Sept. 10) and Ferris State (Sept. 17). The homecoming game for ODU is against Wayne State on Sept. 24 at 7 p.m.

5.   Findlay (1-10 overall, 1-9 GLIAC)

Overview: It will be a new era in college football at the University of Findlay as first-year head coach Rob Keys takes over the program this fall. Last season, the Oilers experienced some struggles as they finished the 2010 season with a record of 1-10 overall after optimism was high following a 7-4 record in 2009. One of the areas the team hopes to solidify this season is on the offensive end where the Oilers hope to be more consistent in putting points on the scoreboard and capitalizing on prime scoring opportunities. The coaching staff will be challenged early and often in the GLIAC as they head on the road to Midland to take on Northwood (non-conference) in week one on Sept. 3 before the Oilers return home to face what should be another solid team in Northern Michigan on Sept. 10. A strong training camp could be a major key to success for the Oilers under a first-year head coach in a conference with several NCAA Division II heavyweights.

Offense: This fall, the Oilers hope to have a versatile offense that features a combination of a solid passing game, led by junior quarterback Clay Belton, and a steady rushing attack, led by junior runner Monterae Williams. Last season, Williams rushed for 1,107 yards and four touchdowns. He averaged 100.6 rushing yards per game. The 2009 Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Freshman of the Year, Williams earned honorable mention all-league honors last fall. Opening the holes for Williams and providing the protection for Belton will be a unit led by honorable mention all-league junior center Scott Dearwester. Senior Tom Orlosky, junior Tyler Johns and sophomore Justin Music are returning veterans. At receiver, juniors Seth White and Alex Kovach bring experience to the field while junior Demetrius Trapps brings his explosiveness to the mix after moving to receiver from running back.

Defense: On the line of scrimmage, Findlay should be strong with the return of junior Richard Sumlin, who earned honorable mention all-league recognition last season. Sumlin recorded 61 tackles, 9.5 tackles for a loss and 3.5 sacks in 2010. Sophomore Kenny Klatt, who earned honorable mention all-conference honors, and senior Andrew Leddy, lead the linebackers. Junior Brandon Butler also will be in the mix looking to make some big plays. In the defensive backfield, the Oilers should be strong with key players back this fall, including senior Donte Johnson and sophomores Kalon Willis and Jamon McClain. Johnson returns after making 32 tackles in eight starts last year while Willis made 11 starts and totaled 72 tackles for the Oilers in 2010. McClain appeared in 11 games last season as well, making nine starts at safety en route to 52 tackles. Also returning will be junior Bryan Womack who made 32 tackles in seven games last year.

Special Teams: Look for some big plays from this unit from junior Demetrius Trapps, who is capable of something special any time he touches the football. Trapps is back to take charge of the kick return duties after setting Findlay records with 42 kick returns for 872 yards.

Coaching: Rob Keys begins his first season at the University of Findlay.

Key Dates: Findlay opens the season on Sept. 3 at Northwood (non-conference) in a 12 p.m. contest. The Oilers face nearby rival Ashland on the road on Oct. 29 on the Eagles’ turf at 1 p.m. Also of note, Findlay travels to national power Grand Valley State on Sept. 24 for a 7 p.m. contest.

5.  Lake Erie (3-8 overall, 3-7 GLIAC)

Overview: Lake Erie opened some eyes with its offensive potential last season. This season, the second for the Storm in the GLIAC, could be a breakthrough one for LEC as it returns an experienced and talented cast on offense. That offensive unit is led by quarterback Sean Bedevelsky, who is one of the top signal callers in the league. He has a top target in wide receiver Brandon James. As a team, Lake Erie posted 425.8 yards of total offense a game – that includes 223.9 yards passing per contest. While Bedevelsky is known as one of the GLIAC’s top passers, he is also a capable runner. Last season, he accounted for 550 yards rushing and four touchdowns. He finished as the team’s second leading rusher. Statistically, Lake Erie’s offense was balanced as it rushed the ball for 201.9 yards per game, ranking in the top 25 in Division II for the second straight year.. LEC finished its 2010 season strong as it won three of its last four games with victories over Findlay, Ohio Dominican and Tiffin.

Offense: When people think about Lake Erie’s offense their thoughts generally begin with honorable mention all-league quarterback Sean Bedevelsky, and with good reason. Bedevelsky led the GLIAC in total offense in 2010 as he accounted for 290.1 yards per game. He has thrown for more than 6,500 yards and 50 touchdowns in his career and ranks as the school’s career rushing leader with 1,399 yards. He also has 16 touchdowns. Bedevelsky will look at Brandon James as one of his primary targets. James, an honorable mention all-league performer last season, has 143 career receptions for 1,732 yards with 17 touchdowns. Last season, he hauled in 44 pass receptions for 516 yards and five touchdowns. Other offensive weapons include David Romeo, who is the school’s career all-purpose yardage leader. Last fall, he caught 32 passes. On the ground, to complement the passing game, Kameron Alexander rushed for 637 yards and two touchdowns, including a school single-game record 214 against Tiffin. Up front, the line will be anchored by Mike Gritz and Mike Hounshell, who started at right tackle and center, respectively and were named to the All-GLIAC Honorable Mention list.

Defense: Health was an issue at times for the defense last season, but Lake Erie enters the 2011 season optimistic about its potential. Last season, linebacker Gus Armbruster was the team’s leading tackler before he missed the final five games due to an ankle injury. He totaled 49 tackles after he tallied 86 the prior year, in 2009. After Armbruster went down, Cameron Bryant stepped in at linebacker. Bryant showcased his talents during the final five games of the season as he made double-digit tackles in all five starts. He led the Storm with 73 total tackles on the season. At outside linebacker is Kevin Chapman. Last fall, Chapman totaled 54 tackles, including a team-best 7.5 tackles for loss. He also recorded three sacks. In the defensive secondary, safety Ryan Studer is one of the leaders after returning from an injury. He totaled 62 tackles.

Special Teams: Sam Marcotte is back after converting 15-of-19 field goals and making good on 27-of-29 PATs last season. His longest field goal cleared from 47 yards out and his kick as time expired at Findlay gave the Storm its first conference win. Punt returner Steve Bensinger is back as a threat. He has averaged 11 yards per return during his career.  

Coaching: Mark McNellie has a record of 13-19 in three varsity seasons (four overall) as head coach at LEC.
Key Dates: Lake Erie opens the season with a non-conference home game against rival Gannon University on Sept. 1 at 7 p.m. The GLIAC opener for the Storm is the following week, on Sept. 10, at Michigan Tech in Houghton. In all, LEC will play six home games this season.

7.  Tiffin (1-10 overall, 0-10 GLIAC)

Overview: It’s the start of a new era in the Tiffin University football program as Gary Goff steps in as head coach. He takes over for Dave Walkosky as the team looks to bounce back from last season’s 1-10 record. Offensively, the Dragons will feature a spread offensive look with some talented players expected to put some points on the scoreboard this season. Tiffin has 14 letterwinners returning on offense and the team also has 19 letterwinners returning on defense. In all, the team has 10 starters returning, including four on offense and six on the defensive side of the football.

Offense: This season, the offense is expected to feature an aerial attack. Tiffin is expected to use a strong passing game that will feature All-GLIAC receiver Brendton Williams, who accounted for 34 receptions last season for 610 yards with six touchdowns. Nate Scully is another top returner at wide receiver (11 rec., 177 yards) while the team will feature Iowa State transfer James Capello (2009 Pennsylvania AAA quarterback of the year) at quarterback. The passing game will be bolstered by a solid unit up front to provide necessary protection. On the ground, David McKnight is the top returning rusher as he carried the football last season 102 times for 327 yards with one touchdown. Gage Gorman, Derrick Stark, and Phillip Matthews will help form the nucleus for a growing offensive line.

Defense: On the defensive side of the football, Tiffin returns some top-notch talent led by All-GLIAC lineman Joseph Collard, who totaled 85 tackles, including19 tackles for loss. He will be joined among the top defensive leaders by Dewon Tufts, who totaled 28 tackles. At linebacker, Kody David returns off a season during which he recorded 64 tackles, including 6.5 tackles for loss and three sacks. Tiffin expects to be solid in its defensive secondary with All-GLIAC back Mike Virgin, who had 85 tackles and five interceptions. Logan Snell also returns after totaling 48 tackles and Vincent Noble, who had 37 tackles.

Special Teams: Tiffin will use the preseason to let competition decide a number of spots with kicking, punting and returns.

Coaching: Gary Goff is in his first season as the head coach of Tiffin University and has a whole new staff.

Key Dates: Tiffin begins the season with three consecutive games on the road with a non-conference game at Malone (Sept. 1), a GLIAC-opening contest at Wayne State (Sept. 10) and a road game at Findlay (Sept. 17). Three of the team’s first four games are on the road. The Dragons return home to face Ferris State on Sept. 24 and then heads back on the road to face Grand Valley State on Oct. 1.