Brief Summary of Position Groups on the Eve of Camp
Every year, some position groups have more experience returning than others. At UW-W, lack of experience definitely does not mean lack of talent. What position groups could use an inexperienced returning player or newcomer to step-up in 2015? Where is the help likely to come from?
In the case of transfers and freshmen, names will not be used because camp has not started yet. Also, this summary will not note every newcomer because I am not working from a list that has been verified over the past couple of weeks. As always in D-III, until a newcomer (freshman or transfer) reports, there is no such thing as a sure thing.
QB- Junior Chris Nelson out of Wilmot Union High School, Matt Behrendt’s back-up in 2014, is in line to take over the starting position this year. Nelson, 6’2” 220 pounds, looks the part. Nelson has solid fundamentals and is a good decision-maker. The ball comes out of his hand very impressively. Nelson has shown both accuracy and a strong arm. Nelson played in seven games at QB last year.
Junior Zach Gehant out of Lake Park High School in Roselle, IL will be competing at QB as well. Gehant, who turned the coaches’ heads in spring ball, played in six games last year. Gehant is very talented with a calm and cool demeanor.
Also returning is Sun Prairie product, sophomore Ryan Curran. Curran saw significant action on the JV squad last year after a very productive high school career. Curran has a reputation as being an excellent leader with an accurate arm.
Newcomers: The Warhawks are expected to welcome at least two talented freshmen into the fold this fall. One of them, a California product, turned down at least one D-II offer to make the trek to Wisconsin.
Outlook: While Nelson needs to prove it on the field in crucial situations, every indication is that he is ready for prime-time. The coaching staff appears to have confidence in the back-ups as well.
Offensive Line: The Warhawks return their entire group of offensive linemen as none of the 15 players listed on the 2014 roster is out of eligibility. Pre-season All-American left guard and Co-captain Connor Peters leads the way. Starters Johnny Wiederholt (LT), Tony Kopenick (RT), Eli Slonaker (RG), and Spencer Shier (C) also return. Added to the mix will be 2014 Pre-season All American Lucas Skibba.
Tight Ends/H-Back/Full Back: UW-W will be deep and talented at this swing position in the Warhawk offense. Brent Campbell, Tony Gumina, Logan Solano, Kyle Christensen (FB) and others will compete for playing time. Gone is 2014 starter Derric Junakin.
Outlook: There is a lot of interesting talent here. The coaches will be looking for consistency to earn playing time.
Running backs: Loaded. Dennis Moore (1107 yards), Jordan Ratliffe (950), and Nick Patterson (539) all return. Young backs Eric Wade, Dom Garza, Ty Jager, and Sequan Dowery are expected to compete as well.
Newcomers: The rich get richer. In spite of the returning stalwarts, one of the newcomers has a real chance to be special and break into the mix.
Outlook: This group will be counted on to carry the load both early in the season (while the QB and WR establish their chemistry) and late (after the weather turns). They are more than capable of taking over games with their dominant offensive line.
Wide Receivers: Heavy losses in Jake Kumerow, Justin Howard, and Ricky Finco. Co-captain Joe Worth is the leading receiver returning. Also returning are Ryan Storto, Marcus Hudson, and Colton Hrgich. Also look for Adam Korpela to make his presence known. He looked to have taken a major jump in spring ball.
Newcomers: Some major talent is on its way to UW-W. Some talented freshmen and a Pac-12 transfer are expected to compete. How the newcomers stack up against the returning talent is always the question at UW-W. Sometimes the newcomer breaks through and sometimes they don't. Almost always, the UW-W competition is tougher than they expected. But remember, another Jake Kumerow won't likely come around for awhile.
Outlook: This is the group on offense that needs guys to step up. The talent is there and opportunity abounds. They have an excellent position coach in Kyle Jacobo. The degree to which this group steps up might define the potency of this year’s UW-Whitewater offense.
Defensive Line: A solid nucleus of 8 of last year’s top 9 defensive linemen return, led by Pre-season All-American and Co-captain DT Zach Franz. Starters John Flood and Brandon Tamsett also return. Kevon Clunis, who injured his knee in 2014, is expected to return as well, although it may take some time before he is 100%. Defensive ends Nick Froland, who battled injuries last year, and Ben Threloff, who logged a lot of playing time, are both expected back. Defensive tackles Tim Regan and Yuri Pogosyan are both expected back in the mix again at defensive tackle.
Outlook: The strength of the defense is up front. Having another year in the UW-W program, this deep group should be even better than last year if they remain healthy.
Linebacker: What a difference a year makes! Last year, this group came in with very little experience. They developed over the course of the year into a strong unit. This year, everyone is back including Pre-season All-American MLB Justin Dischler. Matt Seitz, an athletic outside linebacker with seemingly unlimited potential, and Paul Foster round out the expected starting group. Several others who logged playing time also return for the Hawks.
Outlook: With a stellar defensive line in front of them and an excellent coach in Jace Rindahl, look for this group to make more plays than they did in 2014.
Defensive Backs- Much like the wide receivers on the offensive side of the ball, the DB’s took a big hit this year as Brady Grayvold, Marcus Mclin, and Zach Nellis have all used up their eligibility. Returning safety and Co-captain Ryan Winske will have to anchor down a unit that will be undergoing major transition in 2015. Dylan Morang, the 3rd CB last year is a likely starter. Senior Shawn Shilcox will also be competing for a starting spot. Others returning to compete include juniors Mickey Morgan, Vince Mason, and Bennett Young as well as a number of sophomores.
NEWCOMERS: There is an athlete who transferred from a D-II school after first semester who is in the mix. He showed excellent athletic ability in spring ball.
Outlook: The secondary is another area of the team which provides an opportunity. There are good athletes who are candidates to fill the holes. It should be a great competition. With Defensive Coordinator Rob Erickson coaching this position group himself, look for this group to solidify as the season moves along. As with all secondaries, the pressure created by the front seven will be extremely helpful as this group develops.
Both Lake Bachar (P/K) and Will Meyer (K) return. The return game will have to develop over fall camp as explosive returners Marcus Mclin and Justin Howard will both need to be replaced.