GRAND VALLEY STATE LAKERS (10-2 ALL, 7-1 GLIAC)
Grand Valley State returns 44 letterwinners to the mix for the 2019 campaign, including 18 starters. Head coach Matt Mitchell, heading into his 10thyear at the helm of the Laker football program, also picked up some key transfers that will make an impact on the gridiron for the 2019 season.
Junior QB Cole Kotopka enters his first year as the starter after playing a key role in two Laker wins in 2018. Kotopka led a comeback win over Davenport and picked up a win as the starting QB versus Saginaw Valley State as a sophomore. The Laker running game will feature talent and depth in 2019 as three key returnees will be joined by a redshirt freshman. Junior Bryce Young-Walls, who toted the ball 88 times for 577 yards and nine TDs as a sophomore in 2017, returns after sitting out the 2018 season. He will be joined by sophomores Jack Provencher who rushed for 622 yards and nine TDs on 130 carries and Aryuan Cain-Veasey who rushed for 210 yards and one TD on 30 carries. Redshirt freshman Johnt’e Crawford turned in a solid spring and will have opportunities to make an impact. Senior All-GLIAC WR Austin Paritee hauled in 53 receptions for 962 yards and nine TDs in 2018, while junior All-GLIAC honoree Brandon Wadley caught 20 passes for 546 yards and a GLIAC-best 27.3 yards per reception for anyone that caught at least 20 passes.
Four starters return on an offensive line that is young, but talented. Junior center Ethan Culberson earned All-GLIAC honors in 2018, while fellow junior Tom Cwiok and sophomores Matt Stefanski and Jack Driscoll all started games up front. A senior and six redshirt freshman will be relied on for depth. A pair of experienced tight ends, junior Grant Dempster and sophomore Jayk Slager, will bolster the Lakers offense.
The Laker defense returns 10 players that have started games, while adding a pair of impact transfers on the defensive line and secondary. Senior DL Mike Pettis earned All-GLIAC honors as a junior with 49 total tackles, 10.5 TFL (-58) and 5.5 QB sacks (-44). Fellow senior lineman James McBride also tallied All-GLIAC plaudits on the interior and will be joined by senior Kurrell Vaughn and juniors Wallace Hall and Dennis Johnson. Senior DE Johnny Williams, who was a force on the edge until going down with an injury midway through the season, will be joined by junior Jake Hlava. Senior transfer Xavier Williams will battle for a starting assignment after transferring from Northwestern.
Senior LB Isaiah Nkansah recorded 65 total tackles and 9.0 tackles for loss en route to earning All-GLIAC honors, while fellow All-GLIAC LB Tyler Bradfield led the Lakers in tackles with 88. The secondary will be led by senior cornerbacks DaMario Johnson, who earned All-GLIAC honors after recording 32 tackles and 17 pass breakups, and Kalen Dunham. Fellow senior Jaylen Moore will be in the rotation at cornerback after transferring from Dixie State. Senior safety Jailyn Harden tallied 61 tackles as a junior, while sophomore Antonio Strong entered the mix midway through his redshirt freshman season. Senior FS Grant Postma returns after an injury sidelined him for the season and junior SS Eric Plate has emerged as a leader.
Junior Scott Mullenix will handle the long snapping duties, while redshirt freshman Josh Gorball is the early leader for field goals and extra points. Senior Dan Madden returns for his senior season to handle the punting duties.