2012 GLIAC Football Preview: Coaches Pick Grand Valley State & Ashland to Win Divisional Titles
By Sandy Gholston, Special Writer for the GLIAC
BAY CITY, Mich. – The 2012 Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) football season will be highlighted by the additions of three new Ohio-based institutions in Malone University, Notre Dame College and Walsh University.
|2012 GLIAC Football
Preseason Coaches’ Poll
||Grand Valley St. (6)||108|
|2.||Wayne State (4)
|4.||Saginaw Valley St. (2)
|2.||Ohio Dominican (5)||108|
While the Chargers emerged as regular-season champions of the GLIAC, Hillsdale was excluded from the NCAA Division II Playoffs. Qualifying for the national tournament from the conference were Saginaw Valley and Wayne State. The Cardinals were eliminated in the first round of the tournament after a 30-27 overtime loss to the University of Minnesota-Duluth. The Warriors, however, went on a run that landed Coach Paul Winters’ team in the NCAA Division II Championship game. In that contest, Wayne State came up on the short end of a 35-21 loss to national champion Pittsburg State (Kan.) University in Florence, Ala. on Dec. 17.
Grand Valley State was ranked first in the North Division while Ashland University took the top spot in the South Division in the 2012 GLIAC Football Coaches’ Preseason Poll. The Lakers garnered 108 points and six first-place votes. Wayne State came in second in the North, receiving 99 points and four first-place nods. Hillsdale and Saginaw Valley State placed third and fourth in the Division, respectively. The Chargers earned 96 points and four first-place nods, while SVSU claimed 87 points and two first-place votes.
Michigan Technological University finished fifth in the North Division poll with 66 points, followed by Ferris State University is sixth place with 45 points. Northern Michigan University and Northwood University round out the North Division in seventh and eighth place, respectively. The Wildcats earned 36 points, while the Timberwolves garnered 30 points.
Ashland earned 113 points and 10 first-place votes to finish on top of the South Division poll. Ohio Dominican University finished second with 108 points and five first-place nods. The University of Findlay placed third with 97 points and one first-place vote, while Lake Erie College finished fourth with 73 points.
Newcomer Walsh University finished in fifth place in the South Division poll with 49 points, while Tiffin University and Notre Dame College tied for sixth place, each earning 43 points. Malone University rounded out the poll in eighth place with 41 points.
Ranked in order picked in the 2012 GLIAC Preseason Coaches’ Poll:
1. Grand Valley State University (8-3 overall, 7-3 GLIAC)
Overview: Grand Valley has loaded up with a team ready to contend again for the GLIAC championship and a spot in the playoffs. The Lakers, winners of the final seven games of the 2011 season, are back with seven of their top nine returning on defense and a talented cast returning on offense under third-year head coach Matt Mitchell. Junior quarterback Heath Parling returns with a year of experience under his belt after leading the nation in pass efficiency in 2011 at 180.35. He has a lot of talent returning on offense including a strong offensive line, talented receivers and an experienced rushing attack. The Lakers ended the 2011 season as one of the hottest football teams in Division II and hope to carry that momentum into the 2012 campaign.
Offense: The Lakers will field a potent offensive attack led by Parling, the nation’s leader in passing efficiency last season. Parling is a third-team All-American as named by Beyond Sports Network. Grand Valley should be able to provide balance to Parling’s passing attack with a strong running game back in Allendale. The top seven rushers from last season are all back for Mitchell and his staff. Among the players who will be on the receiving end of Parling’s passes will be senior receiver Charles Johnson, who was one of the nation’s leaders in touchdown receptions, at 15, and in yards, with 1,030. Johnson was an All-GLIAC First Team choice. One of the cornerstones of GVSU’s offensive successes has been strong play on the offensive line. Mitchell’s Lakers have four starters back on the line. This season should be no different with a line that features preseason All-America candidate Matt Armstrong, a center who is coming off an injury that sidelined him in 2011. At guard, the Lakers will enjoy the experience of Tim Lelito, an All-GLIAC First Team pick and a preseason All-America candidate. Lelito was named a preseason All-America by Beyond Sports Network along with Johnson.
Defense: The Lakers figured to be solid on the defensive side of the football with seven of their top nine linemen back, its top four cornerbacks returning and a talented group at linebacker. Junior Luther Ware will be joined by Western Illinois transfer Sam Power. In the secondary, free safety/kick returner Erik Thompson is a preseason All-American. The Lakers return starters in the defensive backfield in Michael Hatcher and Reggie Williams.
Special Teams: All three kickers are back for the Lakers and the return game should be solid as well with Thompson as a component.
Coaching: Matt Mitchell is entering his third season as the head coach of the Lakers. His career record, all at GVSU, is 19-5.
Key Dates: The Lakers open on the road at Western Oregon on Sept. 1 before returning home to open the renovated Lubbers Stadium on Sept. 8 when newcomer Notre Dame College visits for a 7 p.m. contest. The Lakers renew their rivalry with Ferris State in the Anchor Bone Classic in Allendale on Oct. 6 at 7 p.m. GVSU renews another rivalry as it takes on Saginaw Valley State in the Battle of the Valleys on Nov. 10 in SVSU’s backyard.
2. Wayne State University (12-4 overall, 7-3 GLIAC)
Overview: Wayne State is coming off a magical run that took the program to the brink of an NCAA Division II National Championship before it fell in the title game. Coming off the best season in the 94-year history of the program, the Warriors now must refocus and get ready for the 2012 season with a new cast of players – putting behind them memories of the national title game loss to Pittsburg State. This fall, WSU welcomes back 41 letterwinners, including 19 on offense and 21 on defense.
Offense: The Warriors have some big shoes to fill in the offensive backfield with the loss of star running back Josh Renel. Still, the pilot of the offense is back as Wayne welcomes the return of quarterback Mickey Mohner. He enters the year with three of the top four passing efficiency ratings in WSU history as he places his name prominently atop the Warriors’ career record books in completions (417), passing yards (5,937), passing touchdowns (48), passing efficiency (138.2), average yards per pass attempt (8.1) and total offense per play (7.10). All-American junior fullback Chet Privett and junior running back Toney Davis will lead the rushing attack this season. Davis returns this season in the Wayne record books for rushing touchdowns (fourth), points (tied-sixth), and rushing yards. Davis rushed for 1,557 yards and 22 touchdowns a year ago. Mohner will have some targets in the passing game led by senior receiver Steve Conway. Junior Dominique Maybanks will play a role as a receiver. The receivers will work by committee to fill the void left by All-American Troy Burrell. Sean McAuliffe, a sophomore, leads a young group of tight ends. On the offensive line, Wayne has a combination of experience and youth with senior guards Curtis Ferguson and Mike Hinkle along with sophomore center Thom Box. Wayne will look for candidates to step up at the tackle positions. One candidate for a tackle spot is senior Sean McCarthy.
Defense: One of the cornerstones of Wayne State’s run to the NCAA Division II national championship game was a tough, hard-nosed defense. The defense enjoyed 36 takeaways, including (23 interceptions and 13 fumbles) through 16 games. This year’s defense has to replace a good deal of talent, including former safety Jeremy Jones, now with the Chicago Bears. Senior cornerback Aaron Cornett is back as a 2012 Lindy’s Pre-Season All-American. Junior Kevin Buford-Wilson and sophomore Gerren DuHart are back in the defensive backfield. Antwon Robinson, who had five interceptions in 2011, is back at safety along with Mazen Jaddou. At linebacker, Nick Thomas, Ed Viverette and Steve O’Shell are back for Wayne. In 2009, Thomas was the Defensive Most Valuable Player for the Warriors. He graduated in May, with honors in Finance, but is back to play as a graduate student. On the defensive line, WSU welcomes back Pat Cecile and Greg Hasse along with junior Andrew Matt at the ends. At the tackles are Serxho Guraleci, Zach Houghton, and David Burnley.
Special Teams: At placekicker, Stefan Terleckyj is back for his junior year as WSU’s leader in PAT’s made and attempted, and ranks fourth in field goals made. He also handled the punting duties in 2011. The return game will miss the talents of Renel. Helping to fill that void is junior James Jackson, who had two kickoff returns for touchdowns last year in just 11 attempts.
Coaching: Paul Winters will enter his ninth season as the reigning American Football Coaches’ Association Division II “Coach of the Year.” This year, Winters welcomes Brad Wilson to his coaching staff as Defensive Coordinator and mentor of the defensive backs. Wilson previously served as a secondary coach at GLIAC rival Ashland University.
Key Dates: Wayne State opens its season on the road at Ashland on Sept. 8 at 7 p.m. The home opener is Sept. 15 when the Warriors host Lake Erie. For homecoming, on Oct. 20, WSU hosts Northern Michigan.
3. Hillsdale College (8-3 overall, 8-2 GLIAC)
Overview: Hillsdale College enjoyed a championship season in 2011, in spite of its success in the GLIAC. The Chargers went from the high of winning the conference to the low of not earning a bid to the NCAA Division II playoffs. This season, head coach Keith Otterbein and his squad will enter this fall determined to challenge again the league title and possibly make it back to the NCAA tournament. Winning the GLIAC regular season championship represented a first outright title for the program since 1988. The team returns with ample firepower to be able to score points led by one of the nation’s best running backs in Joe Glendening and an experienced quarterback in Anthony Mifsud. Defensively, Hillsdale returns with a solid defense that should make life tough on opponents throughout the season. Fullback Cam White and Glendening were named preseason first-team Beyond Sports Network Preseason All-Americans.
Offense: Joe Glendening, a first-team All-American and Harlon Hill trophy semifinalist in 2011, is back to power this offense. He broke school records last year with 1,604 rushing yards and 31 total touchdowns, including 27 on the ground. The guys up front making it happen for Glendening return with experience. Glendening was an All-GLIAC First Team choice last fall. The four returning starters for the Chargers are D.J. Loy, Patrick Ryan, Tim Hornak and Nick Landry. Anthony Mifsud is back for his second season as the starting quarterback. He completed 66 percent of his passes and ranked fourth in the GLIAC with more than 2,500 passing yards. Misfud has a number of targets returning, including Andrew Mott (39 receptions, 587 yards), Evan Bach (16 receptions, 164 yards), Evan Sassack (12 receptions, 153 yards), Lou Cangelosi (11 receptions, 157 yards) and Brett Miller (11 receptions, 134 yards). Some up-and-comers, including redshirt-freshmen John Haley and Nick Chapel, could play a role this season after successful spring campaigns.
Defense: The Chargers’ defense is spearheaded by a strong group of returning junior starters at linebacker in Brett Pasche, Devin Moynihan and Steven Embry. Pasche was tied for second in the GLIAC with 15 tackles-for-loss a year ago and was a first-team All-GLIAC pick. Moynihan led the team with 96 total tackles, while Embry tied with Pasche for a team-high 4.5 sacks. The defense has gained experience which should lead to improved depth Leading that list of players who have gained experience are sophomore Butch Herzog and the redshirt-freshman Justin D’Agostino. On the line, Hillsdale has more depth with as many as eight players potentially in the mix. Returning starters up front include Skyler Davis, Bryan Siegert, Nathan Bundy and Zach Cherocci. If the depth is tested, Hillsdale might feel comfortable inserting younger talent in Joe Snyder, Ian Sheldon and Roger Stewart as well.
Special Teams: An experienced group returns in special teams as placekicker Colin McGreevy is a third-year starter and Matt Eltringham is in his second season as punter.
Coaching: Keith Otterbein was named the 2011 GLIAC “Coach of the Year.” One change to this year’s coaching staff is the addition of 2010 Hillsdale College graduate Brad Otterbein, son of Keith, as quarterbacks coach. Brad’s brother, and another son of Keith, Steve, is in his second season as wide receivers coach.
Key Dates: This year’s schedule has a new look as the GLIAC has added Notre Dame College (OH), Malone and Walsh in
football. Malone will be Hillsdale’s second game at home, on Sept. 15. To begin the season, however, the Chargers open against one of Pennsylvania’s top programs, California (Pa.) on the road on a Thursday night. Homecoming and Senior Day will take place at the same time this year, with the marquee matchup against Grand Valley State slated for Oct. 27.
4. Saginaw Valley State University (7-4 overall, 7-3 GLIAC)
Overview: Expectations are high this season for Saginaw Valley State as it enters the 2012 season hungry to compete for a GLIAC championship. The program’s high expectations are based in part on a pair of Beyond Sports Network Preseason All-American Team members in junior quarterback Jonathon Jennings, to lead the offense, and senior linebacker Grant Caserta, to lead the defense. SVSU has experience at several key positions and that veteran leadership will be tested right off the bat as the team begins the 2012 campaign with a non-conference home game against one of the top gridiron programs in all of Division II, Valdosta State. That matchup is scheduled for Sept. 1 at 7 p.m. in Wickes Stadium. A win by the Cardinals in the opener could set the stage for a huge season of football.
Offense: Jennings, a preseason All-America quarterback, leads the offense coming off a prolific season during which he passed for 2,924 yards and 29 touchdowns. He completed 68 percent of his passes and finished with the nation’s third-best passer efficiency rating at 172.59. He is coming off one of the best passing seasons by a quarterback in Saginaw Valley history. Senior running backs Tim Hogue and Ronnie Lark return for the Cardinals. Hogue rushed for 664 yards and two touchdowns while Lark rushed for 427 yards and three scores. Jennings added seven touchdowns as a dual-threat quarterback. Jeff Janis, a junior wide receiver, looks to build on an impressive sophomore season in which he hauled in 14 touchdown passes. He finished the season with 48 catches for 968 yards. Mark Thrash added 251 yards receiving last season with two touchdowns
Defense: Caserta, a preseason All-America at linebacker, started nine games last season for Saginaw Valley and totaled 85 tackles, including 42 solos. He also finished with two interceptions. He suffered an injury that ended his season early. Senior defensive back Jeff Heath will lead the defensive backfield for Cardinals after finishing third on the team with 81 tackles, one sack, nine tackles for loss and an interception. Junior linebacker Brian Johnson returns after playing in 11 games as a sophomore and finishing with 62 tackles and two interceptions.
Special Teams: Sophomore kicker Scott Stanford returns for Saginaw Valley after playing in 11 games as a freshman and converting 11-of-14 field goal attempts. The year of experience should only help him coming into this sophomore campaign.
Coaching: Jim Collins is entering his fifth season at the helm of the SVSU football program where he has led the Cardinals to the postseason in two of his first four seasons. While at SVSU Collins has recorded a 27-17 overall record and captured the GLIAC North Championship in 2011. Prior to coming to SVSU, Collins, coached at Capital University (Ohio) where his teams compiled a record of 44-13 over his final five seasons and reached the NCAA Division III playoffs each of the final three years.
Key Dates: Saginaw Valley hosts Valdosta State in the 2012 Red Feather Classic Game at 7 p.m. on Sept. 1. The GLIAC opener is one week later on Sept. 8 when the Cardinals are on the road at league newcomer Malone. SVSU travels to nearby Northwood in the Axe Bowl on Oct. 6 and one week later plays in a nationally-televised game for the second straight season on Oct. 11 against Wayne State on CBS College Sports Network.
5. Michigan Technoilogical University (7-4 overall, 6-4 GLIAC)
Overview: Michigan Tech has some holes to fill in its lineup, but the Huskies do have a lot of talent returning, particularly on the offensive side of the football. MTU put together a solid season and had opportunities to give younger players some valuable experience – experience that should pay off this season. The Huskies have an opportunity to get off to a good start with three of their first four games at home. The challenge, however, is that the week-four opponent, at home, is traditional GLIAC power Grand Valley State. Traditionally, however, the Huskies play well at Sherman Field and has the running game, behind a solid offensive line, to make life tough on teams that make the trip to Houghton in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
Offense: Tyler Scarlett, the 2011 GLIAC Freshman of the Year, passed for 2,395 yards with 18 touchdowns against nine interceptions. Akeem Cason and Cedrick Barber are back to run the football out of the backfield for the Huskies. Cason rushed for 749 yards last season with eight touchdowns while Barber rushed for 377 yards on three touchdowns. Replacing Steve Worthy, at receiver, will be a challenge. However, MTU welcomes back some talented seniors in tight end Bryan LaChapelle, a preseason Beyond Sports Network Second Team All-American, and senior receivers Matt Curtin and Pat Carroll. Curtin had 370 yards receiving with a touchdown while LaChapelle had six touchdowns and 404 yards receiving. A lot of experienced firepower exists for Michigan Tech.
Defense: Michigan Tech lost a lot of seniors last season. Senior Justin Armstrong is back, however, after he played in 11 games with 68 total tackles, 7.5 sacks and 14.5 tackles for loss. Jacob Clark is also back with experience, as a defensive end, after he totaled 43 tackles and five sacks with 7.5 tackles for loss. Traditionally, MTU is a team known for a strong defensive line, backed by good linebackers, that puts pressure on the quarterback. Players like David Russek, a sophomore last season who had 25 tackles, is one of the candidates to step up in 2012.
Special Teams: Garrett Mead returns at kicker for the Huskies after scoring 57 points last season, including 36 PATs and seven made field goals. Ethan Shaver, as a junior last season, had 19 kick returns for 466 yards for an average of 24.5 yards.
Coaching: Tom Kearly begins his seventh season as head coach of Michigan Tech. Prior to coming to Michigan Tech, Kearly spent 19 seasons at the Division I level on the staff of Central Michigan, including the last six as associate head coach and last nine as offensive coordinator.
Key Dates: MTU will play its lone night game of the 2012 season when the Huskies host Grand Valley State on Sept. 29 (6:00
p.m.). Michigan Tech will travel to Marquette (Mich.) to face U.P. rival Northern Michigan the following weekend (Oct. 6) where to the two teams will square off in the “Miner’s Cup” game.
6. Ferris State University (6-5 overall, 5-5 GLIAC)
Overview: Ferris State University is set to usher in a new era under first-year head coach Tony Annese, who takes over the program this fall. Annese, most recently the highly-successful head coach at Grand Rapids Community College, will lead a Bulldog football program coming off a record of 6-5 overall last season, including 5-5 in GLIAC competition. Ferris has star power returning led by do-it-all linebacker Tayo Moss. Moss, a first-team All-GLIAC player last season, is already garnering preseason attention as he has been named a preseason All-American by Beyond Sports College Network. The team is aiming to reload in spite of the loss of a solid group of veteran players from the 2011 roster, including senior quarterback Tom Schneider. The Bulldogs went through spring practice with the staff in place to have an opportunity to gel heading into the summer and looking ahead to the fall. In a short period of time, Annese and his staff assembled a strong class of recruits, including eight who, as far back as February, were already set to compete in the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association All-Star Game.
Offense: Under first-year offensive coordinator Rob Zeitman, Ferris is coming in with high expectations as it seeks to fill in spots vacated by the graduations of last year’s senior class. Veteran quarterbacks Taylor Masiewicz and Jason Vander Laan will be among those competing to take over the spot held last season by Tom Schneider. Tight end Kevin Guirand, running back Skyler Stoker and tailback Dwayne Williams are back in the backfield. On the offensive line, Ferris welcomes back Taylor Phillips, Trevor Smolinski and Sam Parker. Ferris has 18 letterwinners returning on offense, including six starters.
Defense: The Bulldogs have a strong cast returning on the defensive side of the football and will be led by its linebackers. Senior Tayo Moss, a preseason All-America as named by Beyond Sports College Network, leads the way for Ferris. Moss will have a lot of help with an experienced group that includes Alex Brajak, a senior, and Mike Elias, a senior. Up front, Jordan Morgan is back to anchor what should be a strong defensive line. Last season, Morgan was an All-GLIAC Second Team choice for the Bulldogs. Among the returning starters are Brajak, Elias and Moss at linebacker; Jonathan Flynn, William Miles, Jaime Berrera, Mike Davis and John Purdy, in the secondary; and Brad Iskow, Morgan and Garrett Woods on the line. Miles is returning for the Bulldogs after missing the entire 2011 season due to injury.
Special Teams: Ferris will welcome competition for starting duties at kicker and punter for the 2012 season.
Coaching: Tony Annese is entering his first season with the Bulldogs. While at GRCC, Annese was tabbed as the NJCAA Regional Coach of the Year all three seasons and led the Raiders to a three-year mark of 30-4 overall. The program finished among the nation’s top 10 teams three-straight seasons and he coordinated all aspects of the program such as recruiting, player development, academic support and more. Annese has a strong staff that includes defensive coordinator Ryan Oshnock, offensive coordinator Rob Zeitman and assistants Ryan Brady, Ryan Hodges and Sparky McEwen.
Key Dates: Ferris opens the season Aug. 30 on the road at St. Francis (Ill.). In week two, on Sept. 8, the Bulldogs open GLIAC play with a road contest at Lake Erie College. The team has a tough stretch of rivalry games against some of the league’s premier teams in the middle of the season at Saginaw Valley (Sept. 29), at Grand Valley (Oct. 6), home against Hillsdale (Oct. 13), home against Michigan Tech (Oct. 20) and Wayne State on Oct. 27.
7. Northern Michigan University (4-7 overall, 3-7 GLIAC)
Overview: Northern Michigan enters a new era as Chris Ostrowsky was named the 21st head coach of the football program on Nov. 30, 2011, after spending two seasons as the offensive coordinator. Ostrowsky takes over the NMU program strengthened by more than 15 years of coaching experience. Expect the Wildcats to look to its experienced players for leadership on the field and in the locker room this season. The Wildcats return 23 letterwinners from the 2011 team that went 4-7 after starting the season 3-0. Northern has some significant holes to fill on both sides of the football, but Ostrowsky has players who have prepared themselves in the spring and will continue to prepare themselves in the fall to compete for starting spots.
Offense: Ostrowsky is the offensive coordinator and brings the spread offense back for the third year. Eight starters return. Redshirt freshman Ryan Morley and senior Cody Scepaniak will battle for the starting quarterback position. The two head into the preseason evenly matched. Scepaniak backed up all-GLIAC quarterback Carter Kopach in 2011 with Morley taking a redshirt year. Prince Young and John Privitelli return a veteran backfield. Privitelli enters his senior season after an injury plagued 2011 when he appeared in three games. Young led the ‘Cats with 960 yards on 202 carries. Both have been GLIAC Honorable Mention selections and are led by young coach Brian Mitz. The receiving trio of Christian Jessie, Christian Marble-King and Julian Gaines provides the starting quarterback with plenty of options. Marble-King and Gaines are both taller than 6-foot-2 and Jessie finds gaps in the slot. The receivers are led by former NFL wide receiver and Michigan Wolverine Marcus Knight. Jace Daniels and Chad Anderson anchor the offensive line. Daniels was selected to the GLIAC Second Team in 2011 and returns for his senior year. James Bester, Chad Pepper and Patrick Fehlberg also bring experience to the front line. Former Wildcat Rob Boss will coach the offensive line for the second year.
Defense: Newly hired defensive coordinator Brian Newberry brings plenty of experience to the Wildcat defense. He will run a 4/3. Veteran Joe Ballard coaches the defensive backs and Joe Coniglio will coach the defensive line. Two-time GLIAC Second Team selection Zach Anderson returns for his senior season. He led the team with 68 total tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss and four sacks in 2011. Joining him on the defensive line will be James Brito-White, Jordan Adideran and Matt Smith. Veteran linebackers Josh Droese, Wyatt Jurasin and Morgan Stenz return and Ed Knoblock returns for his senior season after an injury shortened two game season. He was NMU’s Male Athlete of the Year and a GLIAC First Team selection in 2010. Brandon Parson and Brock Reynolds lead a young group of defensive backs.
Special Teams: The program’s career leader for field goals made in a season Rockne Belmonte will once again be a steady leg for the Wildcats. With his 31 career field goals, Belmonte now has a chance to break Northern’s record for field goals in a career, currently held by Kyle Marotz (2002-05) who made 41.
Coaching: Chris Ostrowsky is entering his first season as the head coach of the Northern Michigan football program. He is the 21st head coach in the history of the Wildcats football program. Previously, Ostrowsky served the last two seasons as the offensive coordinator at NMU.
Key Dates: Northern opens the season on the road at Findlay on Aug. 20 at 7 p.m. The home opener is a week later on Sept. 6 with a visit from Wisconsin-La Crosse. The Wildcats host Ashland for homecoming on Sept 22, and rival Michigan Tech on Oct. 6.
8. Northwood University (2-9 overall, 1-9 GLIAC)
Overview: Northwood is looking for a bounce-back season on the gridiron after just two wins during the 2011 campaign. A year ago, the Timberwolves opened with a 14-10 win over Findlay, dropped five straight, defeated Tiffin 20-10 and then dropped four in a row. This season, Northwood is looking to use the experienced it gained in some tough losses to turn them into wins in 2012. Northwood has an opportunity to get off to a good start as it hosts Quincy in a non-conference game at Midland Community Stadium on Aug. 31 at 7 p.m. In week two, on Sept. 8, the Timberwolves return to their home stadium to host Walsh in the true home opener and GLIAC opener at 12 p.m. In week three, NU travels to Notre Dame College and in week four travels to Tiffin. The schedule gets considerably more challenging with Wayne State, Saginaw Valley State, Michigan Tech, Grand Valley State, Northern Michigan, Ferris State and Hillsdale to close the 2012 season.
Offense: Two cornerstones of the Northwood offense this season are expected to once again be quarterback Aaron Shavers and fullback Cameron Jackson. Jackson rushed for 1,078 yards and seven touchdowns as he averaged 4.6 yards per carry. Shavers rushed for 247 yards and one touchdown. Through the air, Shavers passed for 587 yards and two touchdowns as he completed 49.4 percent of his passes. Rashad Hedgepeth is back after rushing for 145 yards, Luke Shaffer rushed for 123 yards and Josh Sinagoga carried the ball for 117 yards. Last year, as a team, Northwood rushed for 180.6 yards per game.
Defense: Ryan Whittum led the team with 90 total tackles last season, including 38 solos. He also had an interception and half a sack. Spencer Remtema was second on the team with 59 tackles and an interception while Fabian Jackson had 48 tackles and two interceptions. Damion Horton had 41 tackles.
Special Teams: Last season, Cameron Jackson was a key player on special teams for the Timberwolves as he had 33 returns for 848 yards with a touchdown. He averaged 25.7 yards per return. His longest return of the season was 91 yards. Tony Hite averaged 40.8 yards per punt last season with a long of 65 yards. Alex Faust handled the placekicking duties last season and is expected to do the same this fall.
Coaching: Mike Sullivan returns to the sideline as the head coach of the Timberwolves and welcomes back a veteran staff to back him up.
Key Dates: Northwood hosts rival Saginaw Valley State on Oct. 6 in the Axe Bowl, one of the top gridiron rivalries in the GLIAC.
1. Ashland University (6-5 overall, 6-4 GLIAC)
Overview: Ashland is coming in focused on finishing the deal this season as it gears up to start the season strong and finish the season strong. Coach Lee Owens, in his ninth season, is ready for his team to contend for the GLIAC championship and for him to earn his third bid to the NCAA Division II Tournament for the third time in his tenure at AU. Owens’ squad started the season with a 5-2 record, but closed with just one win in its last four games to fall out of contention for a potential playoff berth. This season, the Eagles have some up-and-coming talent ready to step in on what everyone hopes is a contender on the gridiron. The Eagles return to the field this fall with 51 letterwinners back and hungry for success. Of the 51 back this season are nine returning starters on offense and five on defense. Offensively, the Eagles have been strong after a 2011 season in which they averaged 30.3 points while the defense surrendered 23.9 a contest.
Offense: Ashland will feel good about the veteran leadership it has in the offensive backfield led by senior quarterback Taylor Housewright, who is in his third season as a starting quarterback and eager to lead his team to a strong start, middle and finish to the 2012 season. Housewright completed 156-of-254 passes for 1,798 yards with 15 touchdown tosses. To his credit, he has the second and fourth best single-season completion percentage figures in school history. Sophomores Jordan McCune and Anthony Taylor are expected to lead the Eagles’ running game. McCune led Ashland in rushing in 2011 with 834 yards as he also made it into the end zone 13 times. He ranked fifth in the GLIAC in touchdowns and ninth in rushing. Taylor turned in a solid season on the ground as well with 390 yards for 4.7 yards per rush. He also scored three rushing touchdowns as well. At receiver, a group that has been young could be ready to step up this season led by Anthony Capasso, a converted defensive back, and Eric Thompkins are among the leaders who have gained a little experience and are hungry for greater success. Dan Piko and David Soucie also are available as targets for Housewright in the passing offense. The offensive line is a fast-maturing group ready to set the tone on offense.
Defense: Among the defensive leaders this season will be junior 2011 All-GLIAC First Team pick Jamie Meder, a 6-2, 310-pound defensive lineman who was a third-team preseason Beyond Sports Network All-America. Making the BSN Honorable Mention team is linebacker Cody Bloom, a junior. Meder was a first team All-GLIAC selection last season. Meder, who was the conference’s freshman of the year in 2010, had 53 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss and 3.0 sacks last season. AU must replace two other all-conference performers – Matt Stoinoff and Jeris Pendleton – from last season. Pendelton was a first team all-conference pick who was drafted in the seventh round of the NFL draft by the Jacksonville Jaguars. Stoinoff was a GLIAC honorable mention selection. tackles (53 solo). Bloom was the first AU player to notch 100 tackles since linebacker-safety Tom Brenner had 126 stops in 2008. Bloom was second in the GLIAC in tackles. Sophomore safety Eric Schwieterman was limited due to injury last season, but did have four interceptions and 34 tackles. Linebacker Phil Galaska is back after missing the 2011 season due to injury.
Special Teams: A big challenge for Ashland will be replacing an outstanding kicker/punter in Gregg Berhshire, who was a first team American Football Coaches Association Division II All-American. Preseason will give the coaching staff an opportunity to further evaluate candidates for kicker and punter.
Coaching: Lee Owens is entering his ninth season as the head coach of Ashland University and last took the Eagles to the NCAA Division II Playoffs in 2008.
Key Dates: Ashland’s 2012 schedule begins with what will be a non-conference home game against former GLIAC rival Indianapolis on Aug. 30. The GLIAC opener is Sept. 8 as the Eagles host Wayne State.
2. Ohio Dominican University (7-4 overall, 6-4 GLIAC)
Overview: Coming off a solid 7-4 overall record, including finishing tied for third in the GLIAC South Division standings, Ohio Dominican would love to pick up from where it left off in 2011 with a banner 2012 season. The roster includes 46 returning letter winners, including 26 on defense and 20 on offense. ODU should be solid on offense behind an offensive line anchored by senior tackle Tyler White and senior center Andrew Carpenter. The defense should be solid as well with talent at all three levels. The Panthers will be tested early with road games at Hillsdale (Sept. 8) and Grand Valley State (Sept. 22) amongst its first four contests of the season.
Offense: Returning starters on offense include Jake Brandt, Andrew Carpenter and Tyler White on the offensive line. Nate Weeks, a junior, returns at tight end for the Panthers while Tyler Maddox remains a threat at receiver. Maddox had 203 yards receiving with a pair of touchdowns. Sophomore quarterback Mark Miller, who played in just two games last season, and sophomore receivers Nick McKnight and Casey Williams should help the offense put some points on the scoreboard this season through the air. On the ground, Mark Nichols, a senior, is back as a running back and in the kick return game, as is Ronnel Spates.
Defense: Defensively, ODU is strong in the secondary led by senior Eisen Hardy and junior Justin Bell. Bell and Hardy led the team with 93 total tackles last season. Both men had four interceptions while Bell had four fumble recoveries for 155 yards – including three forced fumbles. Dominic Clegg, a junior, is back in the secondary, as is senior Jeff White. The Panthers welcome back experience at linebacker with a pair of seniors in Matt Grieb, who had 1.5 sacks last season with 31 total tackles, and Kevin Guthrie. Guthrie finished with 66 total tackles and 3.5 tackles for loss. On the line, senior captain Eli Kovach anchors the unit, while junior Vince German and sophomore Tyrone Patel are back as well.
Special Teams: Mark Nichols brings experience to special teams as a kick returner, as does Abe Johnson and Cam Lewis. In the kicking and punting game, ODU has some work to do to fill the void left by Chris Vortkamp.
Coaching: Bill Conley enters his third season as head coach and brings the Panthers into this campaign off a solid 2011 season. Conley previously served as an assistant coach for legendary Ohio State University head coach Earle Bruce from 1984 to 1987. He then rejoined the coaching staff at OSU for a second stint, garnering national acclaim as an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator under head coaches John Cooper and Jim Tressel from 1992 to 2003.
Key Dates: Ohio Dominican opens the season at home against Virginia-Lynchburg on Sept. 1 and begins GLIAC play the next week (Sept. 8) on the road against Hillsdale. For homecoming, the Panthers host Walsh on Sept. 29.
3. University of Findlay (6-5 overall, 6-4 GLIAC)
Overview: Oilers head coach Rob Keys is entering his second season and hungry to build off a solid first season that witnessed Findlay finish 6-5 overall and 6-4 in the GLIAC. Last season was a huge reversal of fortunes for a UF program coming off a 1-10 record the previous campaign. This season, Findlay returns with talent and experience with 22 players back who started at least one game during the 2011 season. Keys has talent back at key positions on the offensive side of the football, and on defense. This group gained experience and confidence – helped by a signature victory in week four on the road at Grand Valley State and in the season finale, 43-42 in overtime at Wayne State on Nov. 12. The Oilers will work to take that experience into the 2012 season that begins with three solid opponents right off the bat in Northern Michigan, at Saginaw Valley State and at Michigan Tech.
Offense: Findlay welcomes back a dozen offensive players with starter experience led by one of the top rushers in the league, senior Monterae Williams, an all-conference performer last season with 1,268 yards and 18 touchdowns. For his career, he has 3,312 yards and needs 698 to become the career leader at UF. Coach Keys has experience at the quarterback position with the return of Clay Belton, who passed for 2,039 yards and 13 touchdowns during his junior season. His passing yards last season was the third-best total in program history and his 175 completions during the campaign was the second-best single-season mark in UF history. Belton will be pleased to welcome back senior receiver Alex Kovach, junior receiver Seth White, junior tight end Jaryd Brown and sophomore wide receiver Nathan Morris. White totaled 60 receptions to lead the team along with 628 yards and four touchdowns. The offensive line is anchored by center Scott Dearwester, a second team all-league pick in 2011. Left tackle Justin Music, an honorable mention all-league player last season, also returns.
Defense: Findlay’s experience on the defensive side of the football is not as quite experienced, but still with talent. The Oilers have six players returning as regular starters. One of the leading players back for UF is Brandon Butler, a senior linebacker who totaled 102 tackles during the 2011 season en route to being named an honorable mention All-GLIAC performer. Junior Kenny Klatt is back at linebacker after 77 tackles, sophomore Torrence Garland and junior Trevor Smith are back to form a solid group at linebacker. Senior tackle Richard Sumlin is back to lead the line after earning honorable mention All-GLIAC accolades as a junior when he totaled eight tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks. In the defensive backfield, the Oilers will be led by junior Jamon McClain, who posted 44 tackles and two interceptions; and junior Kalon Willis, who had six tackles as a backup a year ago. As a freshman, in 2010, Willis had 72 tackles.
Special Teams: Sophomore kicker Marc Hunka returns after getting some experience last season while White is expected to be the man handling the punting duties.
Coaching: Rob Keys enters his second season as the head football coach at the University of Findlay. Keys coached the team to 6-5 overall and 6-4 in the league following a 1-10 campaign prior to his arrival.
4. Lake Erie College (3-8 overall, 2-8 GLIAC)
Overview: Lake Erie is eager to build on its three-win season in 2011 as it looks ahead to the 2012 campaign under head coach Mark McNellie. The Storm, who carry a two-game winning streak into the new season, have 18 players back on offense and 18 back on defense, but just five starters back on offense and six on defense. The team has some holes to fill, including replacing talented and versatile quarterback Sean Bedevelsky, a two-time honorable mention All-GLIAC player. The team also must replace a second team All-GLIAC receiver in Brandon James. In spite of some significant personnel losses, the team has talent back on the offensive and defensive sides of the football.
Offense: Replacing Bedevelsky will be a challenge. The team does have a pair of upperclassmen who have started games at LEC in Brendan Gallagher and Matt Krumpak and also welcomes a senior transfer Patrick Nicely as a new face with 3,358 yards and 18 touchdowns in three seasons at the University of Akron. Wing back Aaron Lindgren, a two-sport star who also plays baseball, caught 12 passes for 182 yards with two TDs and rushed 11 times for 90 yards in five games. Andrew Schickler, who plays receiver and tight end, had eight receptions for 85 yards with a TD. He is expected to line-up opposite speedy junior Tommy Jackson. Tight end Anthony Kukwa, a redshirt freshman sat out last season at Ball State, but could contribute this season for Lake Erie. Up front, Mike McElligot and Mike Price anchor the line. McElligot is a three-year starter and the team’s only All-GLIAC returner while Price is a two-year starter. Newcomers Drew Ervin and C.J. Pinkston are listed among the top running backs.
Defense: The Storm have talent returning at all three levels of the defense with defensive end Taylor Leppla up front after recording 28 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks in seven games. Providing help on the line are Zane Huston, who had four tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks along with Marty Newman, who had 3.5 tackles for loss and a pair of sacks. At outside linebacker, Kyle Herth had a solid season as he led all first-year players on the team with 43 tackles and five tackles for loss. Classmate Tanner Wells and redshirt sophomore Marcus Rogers give the Storm solid athleticism in the middle of the defense. The entire secondary returns led by safety Nick Krantz. Thomas Dexter is a highly-touted true freshman linebacker coming in for the Storm along with Michigan transfer Isaiah Bell.
Special Teams: Sam Marcotte returns as a kicker and punter for Lake Erie. He converted 95 of 105 PATs and 30 of 44 field goals. He banged through two field goals beyond 40 yards. He punted 44 times for 36.9 yards.
Coaching: Mark McNellie, who started the Storm program from scratch in 2007, has a varsity record of 16-28 during his career as he looks ahead to the 2012 season..
Key Dates: Lake Erie opens on the road at Gannon on Aug. 30 in the annual “Battle of Lake Erie.” The team’s home opener is in week two on Sept. 8 when it hosts Ferris State under the lights at Jack Britt Memorial Stadium. The homecoming contest is on Oct. 13 against Malone.
5. Walsh University (5-6 overall, N/A GLIAC)
Overview: Walsh is set to begin its first season of GLIAC competition this fall, and has worked to prepare for the competition that awaits the Cavaliers in one of the nation’s premier Division II football leagues. Walsh comes in with a solid offense that posted 25.8 points last season and held opponents to 22.4 points per game for Jim Dennison, who brings a wealth of coaching experience to the WU sidelines. Moving up to the Division II level in the GLIAC, Dennison is excited about the class that the staff has been able to bring to Walsh. It’s the first NCAA Division II recruiting class in school history and the coaches believe they’ve attracted a talented class of players who can compete in a tough league like the GLIAC.
Offense: Walsh is bringing back a strong running game as it prepares to enter the GLIAC – a league with tough defenses where games are won with quality running attacks. The running game features Toba Olarewaju, who was the leading rusher for the team last season as he amassed 734 yards and six touchdowns on 176 attempts. Justin Keith was the second leading rusher last season for Walsh as he totaled 722 yards and eight touchdowns while Steve Smith was the third-leading rusher a season ago as he posted 389 yards and 11 touchdowns. Handling the ball from the quarterback position is Jack Dawson, a junior, who is looking like a top candidate to start at quarterback for the Cavaliers.
Defense: Nathan Filut, who finished with 56 tackles last season, led the team, statistically. Cory Farcas, a year ago, was close behind Filut with 55 tackles and 12 tackles for loss with 2.5 sacks. Tony Stover returns in the secondary after picking off three passes and totaling 38 tackles.
Special Teams: Junior Tony Stover is one of the finest return men in the country. He averaged 22.5 per kick return and 17.6 on 20 punt returns with one touchdown in 2011.
Coaching: Jim Dennison earned his 100th career coaching victory win Oct. 5, 1997 vs. Urbana (35-6) at the Akron Rubber Bowl, where he led the UA Zips from 1973 to 1985. Dennison earned his 100th collegiate win against arch-rival Malone College (14-6) on Nov. 15, 1998 and win number 150 against Geneva (14-7) on Oct. 23, 2004. He won his 150th game at Walsh, Oct. 3, 2009, 63-12 vs. Olivet Nazarene and last season notched his 200th career against Trinity on November 6.
Key Dates: Walsh opens the season on Aug. 30 at Kentucky Wesleyan before beginning GLIAC play on Sept. 8 with a road trip to Northwood. The home opener for Walsh is Sept. 15 against Michigan Tech. Walsh takes on rival Malone on Oct. 6.
T6. Tiffin University (0-11 overall, 0-10 GLIAC)
Overview: Tiffin has 40 returning letterwinners, including 22 on offense and 18 on defense, as it looks ahead to the 2012 campaign. The team has 11 starters back on offense and eight on defense. The Dragons plan to continue running its spread offensive attack that could perform better with a full complement of starters back led by All-GLIAC receivers Obadiah Dykes and Marcus Beaurem for quarterback James Capello. Tiffin has All-GLIAC skill returning on defense led by lineman Joseph Collard.
Offense: The aerial attack could be strong this season for Tiffin led by a pair of standout receivers in Dykes and Beaurem. Dykes totaled 64 receptions for 547 yards and five touchdowns while Beaurem hauled in 50 receptions for 430 yards and three touchdowns. Capello returns in the backfield with 1,520 yards with 12 touchdowns. On the offensive line, Gage Gorman, Dustan Craig and Phillip Matthews will work to control the trenches.
Defense: All-GLIAC lineman Joseph Collard is back for the Dragons after a solid season in which he racked up 62 tackles, including seven for loss. At linebacker, Mike Gomez returns to lead the group. During the 2011 season, Gomez totaled 76 tackles including 6.5 for loss along with a pair of sacks. Theron Carter also brings solid experience to that group with 51 tackles. The Dragons have skill returning to the defensive backfield with All-GLIAC performer Mike Virgin. Virgin finished the 2011 season with 68 tackles. Logan Snell, who had 40 tackles, and Cortez Fleming, who had 26 tackles, strengthen the secondary.
Special Teams: Sophomore Seth Pekoe is back as an experienced kicker/punter. Pekoe converted 4-of-5 field goals, including 3-of-4 from 30 to 39 yards. Pekoe had 66 punts for an average of 37.3 yards. He had three punts of 50-plus yards.
Coaching: Gary Goff is in his second season as head coach of Tiffin University.
Key Dates: Tiffin opens the season on Sept. 1 at home against GLVC foe McKendree University before heading out on the road in week two (Sept. 8) at Michigan Tech.
T6. Notre Dame College (5-6 overall, N/A GLIAC)
Overview: For its first season of competition in the GLIAC, Notre Dame College has 46 returning letterwinners, including 22 on offense and 16 on defense this fall. The Falcons return an experienced quarterback, in Rob Partridge, as well as players with experience carrying the football out of the offensive backfield in Pedro Powell, Shawn Riley and Partridge. Notre Dame also has players with experience back on the defensive side of the football and a solid recruiting class for a program that was launched in November 2008 with a plan to begin with a developmental season in 2009 before embarking on a varsity college season in 2010.
Offense: Partridge returns to the Notre Dame College backfield having last season completed 52 percent of his passes for 1,620 yards with 14 touchdowns. His top targets this season are likely to be Jack Foy, who last season totaled 40 receptions for 237 yards and two touchdowns; Michael Fields, who had 39 catches for 348 yards and two touchdowns with 32 touchdowns in his last seven games; and Keifer Titus, who had 25 receptions for 321 yards and six touchdowns. As a team, the Falcons totaled 338.2 yards per game. Offense was a big part of the Falcons’ success. In its five victories last season, Notre Dame College scored 20, 30, 34, 45, and 49 points. The offense was mostly balanced as the 338 total yards were split between 177.1 through the air and 161.1 on the ground. Leading newcomers joining the Falcons this season are Brandon Watkins, a running back from Detroit, and Seth Rall, a 6-4 tight end from Ohio.
Defense: Grunder comes back as a defensive leader having totaled five tackles for loss, two interceptions and a total of 83 tackles. Other leaders of the defense include Spencer Krebs, who finished the 2011 season with 59 tackles and one interception; Jake Adkins, who had 55 tackles and two sacks; and Michael Lanigan, who finished with 51. Sylvester Flowers, who totaled 44 tackles, also pulled down a pair of interceptions for the Falcons. One of NDC’s top newcomers is Cedric Hall, a Detroit native, who had five interceptions as a prep senior. As a team, Notre Dame College gave up just a shade under 400 yards per game at 398.2. The Falcons are hopeful their returns on defense, combined with newcomers and emerging players in the program, will slow down opposing offense more in 2012.
Special Teams: Grunder returns as a leader on special teams after returning 10 punts for 113 yards with a touchdown. Fields brought back seven punts for 111 yards and a touchdown. Foy is the returning leader on kickoff returns as he brought back 27 for 608 yards.
Coaching: Adam Howard has a record of 7-15 in two seasons as a head coach – both with Notre Dame College.
Key Dates: Notre Dame College begins the season in non-conference play as it faces Mercyhurst (Pa.) for the second consecutive season on Aug. 30 at home in Lyndhurst, Ohio. Last season, NDC dropped a tough 24-23 decision in overtime. After facing the Lakers, the Falcons begin GLIAC play on Sept. 8 at Grand Valley State.
8. Malone University (4-7 overall, N/A GLIAC)
Overview: Malone University is embarking on a new era as it begins play in the GLIAC – one of the toughest NCAA Division II conferences in the nation. Last season, the Pioneers finished with a record of 4-7 overall – including a victory over future GLIAC opponent Tiffin University, 40-34. The competition figures to be a lot tougher this season for Malone as it opens its season at home with a tough GLIAC opponent, Saginaw Valley State on Sept. 8. The schedule doesn’t get any easier after that as the Pioneers travel to Hillsdale College and return home to take on Wayne State, a team that advanced to the NCAA Division II National Championship game.
Offense: Last season, Malone’s offense posted about 285.9 yards per game and averaged 20.7 points against the opposition. The Pioneers will work to build on both of those numbers as they move into the GLIAC. As a junior in 2011, running back Emil Chambliss, played in nine games for Malone and was the team’s second-leading rusher with 379 yards and a team-best five touchdowns on 104 carries. In 2012, the Pioneers would love to have a solid running game to help balance the offense. During 2011, quarterback Will Szpor posted strong numbers for the Pioneers as he passed for 1,651 yards and 10 touchdowns as he completed 56.4 percent of his passes. The Pioneers have a lot of talent coming back at receiver including Justin McLean, who last season hauled in seven touchdowns and 762 yards on 44 receptions; Drew Bond, who had 218 yards on 26 catches; and Malik Felton, who had 26 catches for 169 yards.
Defense: Antonio Scassa, a senior linebacker, returns as the leading tackler for the team after totaling 84 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks. Junior linebacker Brandon Commodore returns with 62 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss and two sacks. Demarco Donaldson, a junior defensive back, finished fourth on the team in tackles with 58 total and three interceptions.
Special Teams: The Pioneers will have some competition for the kicker position for the 2012 season while returning punter Frank Dufour, a freshman last season, has again secured punting duties.
Coaching: The head coach of Malone University is Eric Hehman, who is in his third season. Prior to arriving at Malone, Hehman served as the head football coach at NCAA Div. III Greenville (IL) College for the previous five seasons and led the Panthers to a 7-3 record in 2009 including a berth in the NCCAA Victory Bowl (losing to Geneva College, PA 29-28), the first postseason appearance for Greenville since 2000.
Key Dates: Malone University opens the season and a new era of GLIAC competition on Sept. 8 at home in the Bell Stores Kickoff Classic against Saginaw Valley State. The first GLIAC road trip comes one week later when the Pioneers journey to Hillsdale. The homecoming opponent for Malone is Notre Dame College on Oct. 27. Malone will be the road team in the big rivalry showdown against Walsh University on Oct. 6.