Prime Time: WIAC Season Has Arrived

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     Preparation for this moment began with a team meeting in January.  Countless hours of work under the watchful eye of Strength and Conditioning Coach Ryan Bracius, 15 spring practices, a summer of sweat and sacrifice, a competitive fall camp, three non-conference games, and a bye week later, the WIAC Season has arrived for the 2018 Warhawk football team.

         “The leadership from the senior class has been outstanding,” Head Coach Kevin Bullis reflected.  Led by captains Nate Trewyn, Bryce Leszczynski, and Harry Henschler the leaders of this football team are determined to take back the WIAC Championship won by UW-Oshkosh last year.  When informed at the season opening press conference that the conference coaches and SID’s had picked Oshkosh to repeat as conference champions, Leszczynski was unfazed.  “The guys in this locker room know what we are capable of,” the senior linebacker resonded.

         After outscoring three non-conference opponents 135-12, UW-W is eager to begin pursuit of WIAC Championship number 36.  Buoyed by a lopsided 73-0 win over a young Middle Georgia State team, the Hawks have a decisive edge in most statistical categories over their non-conference opponents. Offensively, the Hawks have featured a balanced attack, averaging 234.7 yards passing and 205.3 yards rushing per game.  Defensively, the Hawks’ stingy defense has given up merely 66.3 yards rushing and 82.0 yards passing per game. UW-W’s offense has not gained less than 367 yards total offense in a game. Defensively, they have not allowed more than 204 yards in a game. 

         A key to the Hawks non-conference success was their penchant for getting off to fast starts.  UW-W scored first in every game so far this season and have outscored their opponents 101-6 in the first half. Whitewater never trailed in the non-conference portion of their schedule. 

         The Warhawks open their WIAC schedule with a trip to UW-LaCrosse this coming Saturday, September 29th.  The Eagles posted a 2-1 non-conference record and enter the contest ranked 23rd in the Nation by D3football.com.  Kickoff is set for 4:00 PM.  

Wide Receivers Eager to Make Impact

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         At some point, Marcus Hudson’s career at UW-Whitewater would come to an end and the Warhawks would have to find solutions that didn’t rely on the familiar number seven.  That time is now as the three-time First Team All-WIAC Wide Receiver has graduated, leaving a hungry group of receivers ready to gobble up targets from returning Honorable Mention All-Conference quarterback Cole Wilber.  While some of the names may not be familiar to Warhawk fans quite yet, they will be soon enough.  “The length and athleticism in that room is out of this world.  These guys are just hungry. They want to play. They want to prove what they can do “, according to first year offensive coordinator Peter Jennings.  

         Back from last year’s roster and expected to contribute from the slot is Mitchell Dess.  Dess, a 5’11” senior from South Milwaukee, played in all ten games last year and brings a positive energy and swagger to the room.  Also returning from last year is junior Josh Ringelberg.  Ringelberg has shuffled between receiver and running back at UW-W and the exceptional athlete is back to receiver this year after playing running back in 2017.  Ringelberg was also the Hawks’ primary kickoff and punt returner a year ago and is expected to contribute in those areas as well

         Also returning and expected to play a much larger role in 2018 is 6’3” junior Nathaniel Osterloo.  Osterloo has had an excellent camp. He has the ability to break past defenders to get deep as well as to go up over defenders in the red zone. Three other players who have had great camps and are in the mix include junior Andy Cooper, and sophomores JT Parrish and Ryan Wisniewski.  The 6’2” Cooper, transferred a year ago from Northern Michigan University and is rising through the ranks in his second year at UW-W.  Parrish, a 6’1” 200 pound sophomore brings physicality and strength to the receiving corps.  Wisniewski, a pure athlete with tremendous length and 6’4” frame, has been catching everything thrown his way in camp. Despite the fact that he moved to quarterback on an emergency basis last fall and he has limited experience, he is positioning to either start or be one of the first receivers to rotate into the game.   Returning from last year’s team to provide depth are Justin Prostinak, Jerimie Richards, and Anthony Juoni.  Prostinak is a speedster who operates from the slot. He is also a primary gunner for the punt coverage team and a return specialist.  Richards and Juoni are well respected and dependable seniors who are being counted on to produce when given the chance, but also to mentor the younger players as to the “Whitewater way” of approaching school and football.  Matt Aiken, who was on the 2016 team but didn’t play last year, won a spot on the roster with an impressive camp. The 6’1” Aiken is showing good hands and an ability to make plays.

         The wide receiver unit also got infused with talent through a couple of tall, athletic transfers.  Sophomore Derek Kumerow  a 6’3” playmaker transferred to UW-W from St. Cloud State, where as a freshman he caught 23 passes in seven games.  Freshman Kendall Gould, an explosive 6’2” athlete with a 38 inch vertical (according to Hudl.com) comes to UW-W after red-shirting at Northwest Missouri State last year.  

         The room is rounded out with some highly talented freshmen:

 Nick Doucette              6’4”           190            West Palm Beach, FL

Jakari Godfrey             5’10”         165            Kenosha Bradford HS

Tyler Holte                   5’11”         175            Elgin, IL

2018 Linebackers Look to Uphold A Tradition

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     The Warhawk linebacker unit didn’t invent the phrase “fast and physical.”  But it sure describes their play.  Playing a position that is steeped in a history of excellence, the 2018 linebackers look to uphold a rich Whitewater tradition: dominant linebacking.  Their coaches certainly have the pedigree and the credibility to hold up a high bar of performance.  The assistant coaches who coach the defensive front seven are both part of the linebacker legacy at UW-W. Defensive Line Coach Ryan Cortez, who played at UW-W through 2013, is a three-time national champion and was a three time All-WIAC linebacker.  Run Defense Coordinator/Linebackers Coach Jace Rindahl led UW-W to four straight Stagg Bowl appearances from 2005 through 2008.  He was a First Team All-American and named the D3football.com National Defensive Player of the Year in 2018.  Rindahl was selected to the WIAC’s All-Time Team in 2013.  

         The Warhawks return an experienced group of linebackers that will be looking to set the tone for the defense in 2018. Co-captain Bryce Leszczynski, a 6’2” 230 pound senior out of Milwaukee Pius High School leads the charge.  Leszczynski, who was an All-WIAC First Team selection in 2017, will be counted on to make the defensive calls as well as to provide a physical presence in the middle of the Hawk defense.  “Bryce takes great pride in making the right call and making sure our guys are aligned properly.  He is so physical, just a really good football player”, according to UW-W Defensive Coordinator Rob Erickson.  Leszczynski led the Hawks in tackles last year with 90.  

         At the field side linebacker spot, Jacob Erbs returns after playing in nine games last year.  Erbs, a 5’10” 225 pound junior out of Reedsburg High School was second on the team in tackles last year with 68.  “Jacob Erbs is physical.  He is quick twitch explosive and can run. He can get after you” , Erickson said.  Beau Martin is starting as the boundary side linebacker.  Martin, 6’2” 220 pounds, hails from Wheaton North High School (IL).  “Beau is longer to the boundary, which gives us an extra element there”, according to Erickson.  

         Coach Erickson also mentioned four other linebackers who are having excellent camps.  Alex Zacharias, Matt Anderson, Graham Hevell, and Derek Hoppe.  “All seven of them are really playing well and will see the field for us. If not at linebacker, then on special teams.  They are athletic, physical players who make good decisions on the field. They should make an impact for us one way or another”.  

         Zacharias is a 6’1” 225 pound senior from Stoughton High School.  Anderson is a 6’1” 210 pound junior from Rockford Lutheran High School (IL).  Hevel, a 6’0” 225 pound junior, played high school ball at Sandburg High School in Orland Park, IL.  Hoppe is a 5’11” 220 pound junior out of Kettle Moraine High School. 

         The others talented linebackers who have been competing in camp this fall include:

 

Brad Krisch                     6’0”        225   jr                Joliet Catholic HS (IL)

Kaleb Kaminski               6’0”        205   so              Tomahawk HS

Ryan Liszka                    6’1”        195   so              Benet Academy HS (IL)

Anthony Romano            6’2”        215   so              Loyola Academy (IL)

Keegan Sobol                 5’10”      205   so              Morris Community HS (IL)

Jerome Suderland           6’0”       215   so              Muskego HS

Aleandro Medina             6’0”       205   so              Mater Academy Charter (FL)

Daniel Baggett                 6’0”       230   fr                Dekalb HS (IL)

John Doleschy                  6’1”      210   fr                Arrowhead HS

Jarryn Ehrke-Simpson      5’11”    215   fr                Hillcrest HS (SC)

Ben Handel-Kutz              6’2”      205   fr                Madison East HS

Tervell Jackson                6’2”      205   fr                Racine Case HS

Jack Kropke                     6’2”      218   fr                Minooka HS (IL)

Aaron Sturdevant             6’0”     205   fr                Burlington HS              

 (Fifth in a series of position by position previews of the 2018 UW-Whitewater football team)

         

D-Line Ready to Grind

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          If there is one attribute that runs through the Warhawk 2018 defensive line, it could best be described as work ethic.  Playing a position that captures the essence of the concept, this defensive front takes seriously it’s mandate to work.  “They are a solid, hard working group”, says Defensive Coordinator Rob Erickson. “Every day, they come with a lunch pail mentality to work. They are led by David O’Gorman and Harry Henschler who bring that mentality every day to the practice field, in the meetings, and in the locker room.  And the other guys follow suit.” 

       Henschler, a co-captain and preseason All-American, leads the way on the field as well.  At 5’11” and 230 pounds, the senior from Janesville Craig High School had 14 sacks from his defensive end position. He plays with rare burst and speed and will likely demand a weekly double team to keep him from completely wrecking an offensive game plan.  That attention should open up one on one opportunities for the rest of the talented defensive line.        

         Henschler has plenty of help at the defensive end position.  Cal Durni, Jordan Brand, and Justin Hansen all had substantial playing time last year and will be counted on to hold firm and create pressure on the edge. The three combined for 47 tackles, 15 tackles for loss, and seven sacks last year. 

         O’Gorman worked relentlessly in the offseason and has been a stout presence in the middle of the defensive line.  “David has put on good weight and has really done a great job in the middle of the defensive line",  Erickson pointed out.  Joining O’Gorman in the defensive tackle position are Dalton Heckel and Vince Klim.  Much of the defensive tackle position is about tying up linemen and interfering with the offensive line’s blocking patterns.  So statistics often don’t tell the story with a DT’s performance.  Nonetheless, O’Gorman and Heckel did more than their share of creating havoc from the inside last year as they combined for 57 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss, and 7.5 sacks.  Klim, who didn’t play last year as he recovered from an injury will help O’Gorman and Heckel hold the fort in the middle of the Warhawk defense.  

         Another player back after missing last year due to injury and adding strength along the defensive line is Merritt Stott.  Stott is a swing player who provides quality at both defensive end and defensive tackle.  Stott is a unique athlete who can cause problems both inside and outside.  “Merritt is playing really well.  He has put some weight on and along with being an extremely athletic tackle, he can man up over the tight end", Erickson noted.   

         There are a whole host of players competing in camp and looking to add depth to the defensive line group.  Here are the other players in camp:

 

Kyire Crape                          6’1”   225   JR     3Wauwatosa East HS

Ben Keeser                          6’2”   230   JR     Fort Atkinson HS

D’Angelo Lux                        6’2”   250   JR     Westosha Central HS

Mackenzie Balanganayi       6’2”   215   SO    Palatine (IL) HS

Dan Bertok                           5’11”  245  SO    Oswego HS (IL)

Jermaine Copeland              6’1”   227   SO    Wauwatosa East HS

Omar Mendez                      6’2”   270   SO    Loyola Academy (IL)

Gabe Rasmussen                 6’2”   225   SO    Waukesha South HS

McKinley Beautow                6’3”   215   FR   St. Mary’s Springs Academy

Adam Braley                         6’0”   215   FR    Union Grove, WI

Christian Cestone                 6’1”   245   FR    Lake Park HS (IL)

Jack Finerty                          6’4”   235   FR    Marquette University HS

Kyle Gallagher                      6’3”   215   FR    Notre Dame College Prep (IL)

Ryver Griffen                         6’4”   200   FR    Geneseo HS (IL)

Roy Panthier                         6’3”   210   FR    Elgin HS (IL)

(Fourth in a series of position by position previews of the 2018 UW-Whitewater football team)

                           

Running Backs Aim to Turn Potential Into Production

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Deep. Talented. Focused.  Unselfish.  The UW-Whitewater coaches use all four adjectives in describing the 2018 running back group.  “Coach Givens (Running Backs Coach, Ryan Givens) has those guys so coached up, they don’t care who gets the carries or who hits the home run, they just want to learn and be successful”, says first year Offensive Coordinator Peter Jennings.  Gone from the running backs room are the 2,144 yards and 24 touchdowns produced over the past two years by Drew Patterson.  What has replaced that production?  For now, a huge dose of opportunity.  “We have a burner, a banger, and some guys who can do a little bit of everything.  It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a running back room with this much talent”, Jennings said with a smile.    

         As of now, the starting running back is Alex Peete, a 5’8” 190 pound sophomore who was recruited by a number of higher division schools coming out of high school and turned down an offer from Winona State to come to Whitewater.  Peete, who showed rare explosiveness in limited opportunities last year, is capable of breaking off a big play from any point on the field.  Returning to running back after a year playing in the slot is play-maker Jarrod Ware.  Ware, a 5’10” 195 pound senior with exceptional speed and quickness, gained 419 yards at a 5.0 yard per carry clip in six games as a sophomore in 2016.  Also returning is Ronny Ponick, a 5’9” 200 pound senior.  Ponick, who brings an extremely physical running style and exceptional leadership to the running back room, averaged 6.9  yards per carry in his 38 carries last year. 

         An intriguing addition to the running backs corps in 2018 is Nyrel Sullivan, a 5’10” 175 pound transfer from Missouri Western State University.  Sullivan has been timed at 4.39 in the 40 yard dash according to Hudl.com

         Sophomore Preston Strasburg has caught the attention of the coaches in fall camp.  Head Coach Kevin Bullis said, “Preston is having a great camp.  We knew he was good.  I don’t think we knew he was THIS good”.  Strasburg, a 6’0 200 pound sophomore out of Fort Atkinson once rushed for 409 yards in a game in High school.

         Michael Feeney 5’11” 205 pound sophomore from Morris, IL, returns to add depth to the backfield, as does Ryan Zuern, a 6’0” 195 pound sophomore from Harford High School.  Both backs were highly successful in high school and benefit from being in the program last year.  Ryan Ponick, a 5’10” 195 pound sophomore transfer from UW-Eau Claire also adds to the quality of the room. 

         Three freshmen are also competing in camp. Jaylon Edmonson,  5’11” 190 pounds, hails from Racine Case High School.  Cody Krause,  6’0” 201 pounds, comes to UW-W from Muskego High School.  Andrew Mallman is a 5’10” 190 pounder from Whitnall High School. 

         Without a doubt, this group is deep and talented.  But it is the focus and unselfishness that most impresses Coach Jennings about this group.  “When you have everyone focused on doing their job, pulling for each other unselfishly,  it is hard for that group to NOT be successful”, he said.  And, if all goes as planned, the fruit of that success will be each player executing their role to the best of their ability.   And if that happens, the entire group will be successful in their mission of turning their vast potential into production on football Saturdays.

(Third in a series of position by position previews of the 2018 UW-Whitewater football team)

 

Revamped O-Line Ready to Rumble

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Heading into fall camp, one of the biggest question marks on the Warhawk football team was the offensive line.  Returning only one starter, the Hawks have the task of finding the pieces and then turning them into a cohesive unit that functions together with precision. Given the loss of two starting tackles and two starting guards, it would be easy to expect that the Hawks’ offensive line to take a step back this year. Judging from the level of focus, effort, and execution from the group through the first twelve days of camp, the 2018 O-Line doesn’t have designs on being as good as the 2017 group.  They aim to be better.

 When asked about the positives of camp, the first group Head Coach Kevin Bullis mentioned was the offensive line.  “I feel really good about the physicality of that group.  Now, we are always looking to get better every day. We are not where we need to be ultimately.  But are we where we need to be as far as in camp?  Fantastic”,  Bullis said.  While all the spots are not set in stone, a few players have stepped up and earned front-runner status as far as being potential starters. Matthew Saager appears to have locked down the starting left tackle position.  The 6’3” 275 pound junior from Lodi has been one of the most consistent players in camp regardless of position.  He is a different player than Jordan Mueller, last year’s starting left tackle.  Mueller was 6’5” and weighed 310 pounds. “What Matthew lacks in size, he has to make up for in technique and intelligence.  He does that. He makes excellent decisions, he puts himself in the right position, and he executes” says Bullis. 

 If Saager brings a nuanced savvy to the left side of the Warhawk line, Quinn Meinerz, who has grabbed ahold of the left guard position brings an edge and aggressiveness that is contagious up front. Meinerz, a 6’3” 290 pound sophomore out of Hartford brings a physical presence that is becoming central to the UW-W identity in 2018.  “Quinn played a lot of football for us last year as a freshman” Bullis points out. At right guard, 6’6” 335 Bryan Behrendt, another player who likes to mash people, is leading the way. Behrendt, a junior out of Westchester, IL, is part of a huge, physical interior to the UW-W offensive line.  Along with being a physical force, Behrendt is extremely athletic for his size.  His brother Matt played QB for UW-W and led the Hawks to National Championships in 2013 and 2014. 

 Lining up in between the two physical guards, is 6’4” 310 pound center Nate Trewyn. The senior from Milton High School was voted a team captain this spring. “He is just a great football player” says Coach Bullis.  The Whitewater coaching staff considers Trewyn the best center in the country. Together with Meinerz and Behrendt, Trewyn helps form a physical inside presence on an offensive line that will seek to dominate opponents this year. 

 There is ongoing competition at the right tackle position.  The three players that seem to be near the top of the list are Cameron Shaw Lonnie Chambers, and Kyle Gannon. Shaw is a 6’4” 295 pound sophomore out of Lake Villa, IL.  Chambers is a 6’1” 250 pound sophomore out of Chicago, IL.  Gannon is a 6’1” 295 pound sophomore out of Waukesha, WI. 

  There is a lot of young talent behind the starters in camp this year. Here is a list of others competing in fall camp:

Auggie Hengel             6’4” 295  JR      Columbia, IL

Ryan Berg                    6’0”  280   SO    DePere, WI

Ethan Kee                    6’0”   230   SO    Plano, IL

Doug Kosch                6’1”  305   SO    Bridgeview, IL

Connor Sullivan          6’4”   295   SO   Chicago, IL

Joe Gatz                      6’4”   305  FR    Lake in the Hills, IL

Brandon Ausprung      6’2”   250  FR    Delafield, WI

Nick Boehm                 6’3”   300  FR    Evergreen Park,IL

Brendan Cavanaugh   6’3”   265  FR    Burbank, IL

Nolan Goff                   6’2”   290   FR    Morris, IL

Shelby Jones              6’4”   265   FR    Dodgeville, WI

Seth Roberts               6’5”   250   FR    Johnson Creek, WI

Zach Schaeve             6’3”   270   FR    Germantown, WI

Christian Sheedy        6’4”  285   FR    Waukesha, WI 

 (Second in a series of position by position reports on the 2018 UW-Whitewater football team)

 

 

Wilber Leads Talented QB Room into 2018

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“Hundred percent!”. There was no hesitation in Cole Wilber’s voice when he answered the question during the UW-Whitewater football team’s media day.  The senior quarterback was asked whether he believed the Hawks are ready to live up to the high expectations that come with every UW-W football season.  While Wilber will be one of the keys to the 2018 campaign, he knows he has plenty of help around him.  “We have one of the best defenses in the country”, he quickly added. Still, Wilber and first year offensive coordinator Peter Jennings will be counted on to put the potency back into the Warhawk offensive attack.  The Warhawks’ 23 point per game average last year was the lowest for a UW-W team since 2002.  

            While there are certainly other pieces to the puzzle, there is no question that it all starts with the senior quarterback. After splitting the QB job as a sophomore, Wilber started all but one game in 2017.  The sense in fall camp is that Coach Jennings’ offense and Wilber’s experience will be the jumpstart the talented Warhawk offense needs to get back to being a high scoring machine.   

            There is no shortage of young talent behind Wilber in the quarterback room.  For the time being, it appears that the leading contenders for the back-up QB job includes Zach Oles, a 6’0” 190 pound sophomore out of Palatine, IL.  Oles transferred to UW-W from D-I (FCS) Butler University.  Another strong candidate for the QB2 position is Brennan Demark, a 6’2” 203 pound freshman (eligibility-wise) from Waukesha North High School.  While both quarterbacks have had a good camp so far, Demark is benefitting from having gone through spring ball.

            Four other talented quarterbacks are also in camp. Dillen Rondorf, a 6’3” 195 pound transfer from Wisconsin-Stevens Point hails from West Bend East High School. Rondorf was not on the Pointers’ roster last year and will be a freshman in terms of eligibility.  Jake Eskoff is a 6’1” 195 pound freshman from Naperville, IL, Dylan Mlinarich, a 6’2” 195 pound freshman from Elgin, IL, and Tyler Evans, a 6’4” 195 pound freshman from Slinger, WI are also competing in camp for the Hawks.

(First in a series of position by position reports on the 2018 UW-Whitewater football team)

 

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