Day two of our trip around the MIAC is underway. Today, we take a look at how Gustavus and Augsburg are likely to shape up in 2012.
Of course, this all leads up to Wednesday when the 2012 St. John’s preview package runs both online and in the print version of the newspaper.
But that is still a couple of days away. For now, here is a look at the Gusties and Auggies:
2011 record: 2-6 (7th place), 2-8 overall
Returning starters: Offense – 7; Defense – 5
Prognosis: With starting quarterback Logan Becker, who threw for 1,544 yards and nine touchdowns a year ago, having graduated, some of the focus on offense may turn to junior Jeffrey Dubose, who rushed for 574 yards and seven touchdowns in 2011. Also back in the backfield is junior Phillip Butler, who rushed for 276 yards a year ago.
Replacing Becker could be senior Muresuk Mena, who moves from a starting wide receiver to quarterback this season. Senior Tim Stepka is also in the mix for the job,
“(Mena) is a tremendous leader and he’s really respected by his teammates,” said Gusties coach Pete Haugen, who enters his fourth season at the school. “He has tremendous leadership skills and tremendous athleticism. Those are two components he’s already demonstrated he possesses.”
Senior Andre Creighton is also back at a wide receiver. Three of five starters return on the offensive line.
Defensively, the linebacking corps should be a strength. Junior Joe Haas, who led the team with 82 tackles, including seven for a loss, in 2011, is back. So are sophomores Anthony Boyce and Matthew Keller. Sophomore strong safety Jake Forcier is the lone returner in the secondary and junior defensive tackle Donte Green is the lone returner up front.
Gustavus expected to bring 120 players to camp, including 53 freshmen and three transfers.
Predicted record: 4-4 MIAC (tied for fifth), 6-4 overall
Returning starters: Offense – 8; Defense – 6
Prognosis: Head coach Frank Haege and his team finished above .500 for the first time since 1999 a year ago, sparked by the play that still gives St. John’s fans nightmares – the 32-yard touchdown pass from Marcus Brumm to Tyler Swanson as time expired that lifted the Auggies past the Johnnies 32-31 at Clemens Stadium, spoiling homecoming.
The play went viral online, becoming known as the “Miracle in Collegeville.’ Now the Auggies are back, looking for more. And they return a still-dangerous offense despite the graduation of Brumm, who threw for 2,295 yards and 15 touchdowns last fall.
Yet all three starting wide receivers return in senior Chris Osborn and juniors Hakeen Bourne-McFarlane and Swanson. And none of those three were even the team’s leading receiver a year ago. That honor went to senior tight end Adam Carl, who had 58 catches for 616 yards and five touchdowns a year ago and comes into this season as a preseason All-American pick.
But, unlike in the past, it may not just be Air Auggies. Sophomore Tyler Maxwell rushed for a team-best 849 yards and 13 touchdowns to earn All-MIAC first-team honors despite seeing action in just seven games due to injury. He is healthy this season. Also back are senior Waylon Hartwick and sophomore Jerise Washington, who each have starting experience as well.
Three of five starters are back on the offensive line led by junior guard Chad Thompson, an All-MIAC second team pick a year ago.
The question is who will run the offense? Entering campy, the top contenders were fifth-year senior Tim Lund and Ayrton Scott, a transfer from the North Dakota School of Science who remains a freshman in terms of eligibility.
Freshman Bob Rose, a tight end from LeSeuer-Henderson, could also find a spot on the field somewhere.
Defensively, senior Bryce Vee, an All-MIAC second-team pick who led the team in tackles with 108, is back at middle linebacker. Senior Adam Sonntag is back on the outside. He had 86 tackles a year ago. Senior Aaron Perry is back on the defensive line. Three starters are back in the secondary, including sophomore Felix Coleman, who had five interceptions as a freshman.
With an early schedule that includes games against Concordia (Wis.), Gustavus and Hamline, the Auggies could well be 3-0 heading into matchups with Bethel (Sept. 29) and St. John’s (Oct. 6).
“Time will tell,” Haege said. “We feel like we have some experience and that will help out in what is always a pretty tough conference.”