It’s that time again here on the blog.
The time of year when we take a quick spin around the MIAC and look at how the other conference teams are shaping up this season. It all leads up to the St. John’s preview, which will run in Wednesday’s newspaper.
We take this journey in reverse order when it comes to predicted order of finish. Which means we start with trips to Hamline and Nortfield to take a look at Hamline and Carleton.
Let’s start with the Pipers:
Head coach: Chad Rogosheske (first season)
2012 record: 0-8 MIAC, 1-9 overall
General: After going with an outsider in former head coach John Pate, the consensus among other conference coaches seems to be that Hamline may have gotten it right by hiring Rogosheske, who was an All-MIAC player and a former assistant coach at the school.
His resume also includes a stint as a graduate assistant at Ohio State under Jim Tressel and as the offensive line coach at Bucknell the past three seasons.
He inherits a team that returns six starters on each side of the ball. The coaching staff brought in 40 new players, including four to five transfers. And it’s a good bet some of those players will see significant playing time.
Offense: The Pipers were certainly a run-dominated team under Pate. No receiver had more than 15 catches last season and Hamline threw just seven touchdown passes in all. Rogosheske may try to bring more balance to the offensive attack, but he said he isn’t going to go away from the team’s strengths.
“I’ve always believed you have to play to the strength of your personnel,” Rogosheske said. “When we looked at what they were doing last year, a lot of the most impressive players on films were in the running back corps.”
That group incluides junior running back Ryan Ferkinhoff, who transferred to Hamline from Wisconsin-Stout prior to last season and rushed for 138 yards and two touchdowns for the Pipers in 2012.
Also back is sophomore Austin Duncan, who rushed for 868 yards and eight touchdowns last fall. Junior Zach Deitchman returns and will play even more of a wide receiver role this season. Up front, senior center Patrick Chilton and junior guard Austin Niederkorn are back. Sophomore Phillip Sherman returns at tight end.
Quarterback is more of a question mark. Junior Kevin Ackerley, who threw for 588 yards and four touchdowns while rushing for 370 yards and three touchdowns, is still recovering from injury and will be unavailable early on. Cam Knudsen, who also saw time last year, has transferred. Junior Zach Brautigam, who also saw time a year ago, is a possibility there.
Defense: Linebacker Patrick Page, who led the team with 127 tackles and earned All-MIAC second-team honors, elected not to return this fall. But junior Corey Touchette and sophomore Charlie Metcalf are back.
Three starters return up front led by senior defensive end Derek Wilson. And sophomore cornerback Julian Stubbs is the lone returner in the secondary.
Head coach: Bob Pagel (second season)
2012 record: 1-7 MIAC, 3-7 overall
General: Carleton made it official this past offseason, hiring Pagel full-time for the job he filled on an interim basis last season – a move that helps establish some stability in the program, at least for the near future.
“There’s no question it eliminates some of the questions we’d been getting about what was really going to happen and what the long-term plan was,” Pagel said. “Now we now we’re going to be in place for the next handful of years at least.”
The next task is improving the team’s records. And the Knights, who began the season with 60 players in all, do return eight starters on offense and seven on defense.
Offense: Senior wide receiver Chase Gottschalk, who caught 37 passes for 620 yards and three touchdowns a year ago, is back to lead the way. Senior Anthony Kemper, who caught 20 passes for 381 yards and four touchdowns, also returns.
That should benefit senior quarterback Conor Lynch, who began last season as the starter, but was hurt at mid-season, a loss Pagel feels cost his team perhaps one or two more victories down the stretch.
Senior John Baker, who led the team in rushing with 99 carries for 313 yards and one touchdown, also returns. On the offensive line, four of five starters are back: Senior tackle Jake Reardon and senior guard Cole Rystedt and junior tackle Eric Wittenburg and junior guard Ames Bryant.
Freshman Zach Creighton was a quarterback in high school. But he could switch to wide receiver in an effort to take advantage of his athleticism.
Defense: The Knights return three starting linebackers in seniors Luke Reppe and Braeden Ducharme and junior Zach Heinrich. Heinrich was second on the team with 64 tackles a year ago.
In addition, freshman Mason Schnarr, an Indianapolis native, could see time there as well.
Senior Jonathan Rowe is back at a defensive end. And three starters are back in the secondary in junior cornerback Alexander Pope, sophomore cornerback Ben Nicla and junior strong safety Dan Cook.