Day 3 of our preseason journey around the MIAC takes us north to Moorhead and south to Northfield for a look at how Concordia and St. Olaf will stack up this season.
And away we go:
2011 record: 4-4 MIAC (tied for 5th place), 6-4 overall
Returning starters: Offense – 7; Defense – 10
Prognosis: With 10 starters back, Concordia boasts the most experienced defense in the MIAC. All-MIAC nose guard Mark Wychor, who had fur sacks a year ago, and All-MIAC second team defensive end Paul Streich, who had seven, are among the returners up front.
Veteran seniors Matt Moenkedick (86 tackles in 2011) and Peter Hvidtson (91 tackles) are back to achor the linebacking corps. And All-MIAC defensive back Bryce Hentges is back in the secondary.
“Our defense is definitely the strength of our team right now, especially when you look at how many players we’re bringing back,” Cobbers coach Terry Horan said. “We’ll need them to carry us early as we build depth offensively.”
Concordia graduated quarterback Michael Dunham. His brother, junior Mark Dunham, is vying with sophomore Griffin Neal, the team’s top backup last season, and sophomore Mitch Tauer, to take his place. Senior Brett Baune, who rushed for 770 yards and 15 touchdowns last season, is back. So is senior Mike Starke at wide receiver.
Up front, All-MIAC tackle Tom Knowlton is one of three starters returning.
2011 record: 6-2 MIAC (tied for 2nd place), 8-2 overall
Returning starters: Offense – 6; Defense – 5
Prognosis: Were it not for a 27-24 loss to St. John’s late in the season, St. Olaf would have likely joined St. Thomas in the Division III playoff field last season.
But the Oles return some key pieces from that team. Most notably, senior Dan Dobson, the most experienced quarterback in the conference. Dobson threw for 2,063 yards and 18 touchdowns a year ago. And he gets back All-MIAC junior wide receiver Stephen Asp (36 catches, 806 yards, 9 touchdowns in 2011) and All-MIAC second-team pick Jake Schmiesing (37 catches, 536 yards, seven touchdowns).
“Those guys have a huge comfort level with each other,” Oles coach Jerry Olszewski said. “They’ve been through the miix together. Dan is a tremendous leader and we’re blessed to have him here for another season.”
The Oles did lose All-MIAC running back Leon Clark. Senior Michael Thai is expected to take his place. Three starters are back on the offensive line.
Defensively, St. Olaf must replace it’s entire linebacking corps. But senior nose guard Dustin Heiser, an All-MIAC second-team pick, is back on the defensive line. Olszewski said freshman Sam Kuss, who helped lead Rocori to the Class 4A state title last season, could be in the mix at either a defensive end or linebacker.
Senior strong safety Ben Dobson is the lone returner in the secondary. And All-MIAC second team kicker and punter Jason Obarski transferred to Division II Concordia-St. Paul, meaning the team must find a replacement for him.