As Camp Breaks:
Interview with Offensive Coordinator Craig Smith
Following is a summary of Coach Smith's synopsis of the offensive position groups as the Warhawks break fall camp and prepare for their first game against Belhaven University in Jackson, MS.
The offensive line is the heartbeat of this offense. The first group has played together for a long time. They really lead the way in work ethic and in doing things the right way. Conner Peters is a great leader. Tony Koepnick has really stood out to me. He is a natural leader as a junior. What has really been outstanding has been the development of the second group. They have grown up before our very eyes during this camp. Austin Jones is no surprise. He is like a sixth starter and he will be rotating in regularly. But the other four, including three sophomores and a junior have really developed. Sophomores Jordan Mueller (6’5” 295) and Ben McFall (6’4” 312) at tackle, and Mitchell Schauer (6’3” 290) at guard have really, really developed. Along with Jones and junior Pat Costello (6’3” 288) at center, it is a really strong second group.
Nick Patterson had a little bit of a hamstring issue for a few days, but he is back healthy and running well right now. What can you even say about Dennis Moore and Jordan Ratliffe? If the offensive line is the heartbeat of the offense, those guys are the brain trust. They just know how to run in this offense so well. They are just great running backs. We have a lot of depth at the position as well. Nelson Edmunds is bringing along two freshmen at the position who are exceptionally talented guys. Jarrod Ware and Tyler Glass both have exceptional ability. And Nelson Edmonds is the best running backs coach I have ever seen. The guy can flat out coach.
The tight ends are a really strong group. Brent Campbell (6’5” 261 lb junior) blew us away with how much he has improved. We knew he could block. But he came to camp in such great shape and has improved his route running so much, he is going to be a major weapon in this offense. Tony Gumina ( 6’3” 233 lb sophomore) is another threat. He is very athletic and he can get deep with his speed. We also have Logan Solano (6’2” 252 lb junior) who is a very good tight end. So we have three really good players at the position who are WIAC ready right now.
The other guy I would mention is Jordan Gruettner. He won’t be playing tight end. Jordan is a true fullback. But he really gets after it and he is a weapon that we will take into account as we game plan.
Joe Worth is the guy everyone has heard of. Joe has the experience. He is a Captain and the leader of the group. Colton Hrgich has also shown great senior leadership. He knows every position and has been very solid. The guy I have been surprised by is Marcus Hudson. That guy is GOOD! He has had an unbelievable camp and he is going to do some big things for us. The chemistry he has developed with Chris Nelson is just outstanding. The other guy who has done nothing but get better is Adam Korpela. He is very athletic and he has been really coming on.
Chris is everything as advertised. He is an athlete and has a really strong arm. He is a true gunslinger. He will make plays. Even in his mannerisms, he reminds you of Brett Favre at times. Now sometimes that is good and sometimes it is bad. But Chris is really good. He knows this offense so well and is so in tune to our strengths as an offense. He does a great job of controlling the running game. I know that sounds like a little thing, but it is an importance nuance.
As far as the back-up position, we opened it up about halfway through camp. Zach Gehant held on to the position. Transfer freshman Canton Larson is also in the mix there. When we are in position to give back-up snaps at QB, those are the two guys who we will be trying to get ready.
This is a really impressive group of offensive players. Led by the offensive line, the work ethic and just the tempo with which they practice is really something. We get 100 snaps in on a practice. These guys give it everything they’ve got to get better on every play. It’s just the way it’s done at Whitewater. It is an absolute pleasure to watch our front seven battle the defensive front seven in practice every day. That is a huge deal! For our linemen to be able to go against our D-line and our tight ends to be able to work against our backers just makes everyone better.
Concerns Heading into the Trip to Mississippi?
None. We are ready to go. We all just want to play a game! I’ve never looked so forward to a 14 hour trip in my life!
As Camp Breaks:
Interview with Defensive Coordinator Rob Erickson
Defensive Coordinator Rob Erickson spoke with Warhawkfootball.com about the position groups on his defense as the Warhawks were finishing up fall camp. Here is a transcript of Coach Erickson's comments.
The defensive line is a veteran group that has a lot of playing experience. They are a very talented group. The leaders would be John Flood. Zach Franz, Branden Tamsett and Tim Regan. Those guys have established themselves as our starting front four. When working together on a day to day basis, they show we can be good against the run, create good pressure in the passing game, and allow our linebackers to play comfortable and to their run fits. They are very sound in their technique in what we are asking them to do.
There are quite a few other guys going well. Yuri Pogosyan is having a nice camp. Trevor Boyle has played well. We are still waiting on Kevon Clunis to get healthy. He is getting better every day and when he is healthy, we expect him to be an impact player for us. Harry Green has had a really nice fall. He has worked his way into the rotation and if he keeps playing the way he is playing, he will see plenty of snaps on Saturdays. Overall, the defensive line have had a great camp and we are excited to see where this takes us moving forward. Our goal is to have a nine man rotation. I have always believed in rotating guys in to keep them fresh at all positions, but especially on the defensive line.
I am very pleased with the group of linebackers. They are a very athletic group, they communicate really well, and the play together really well. We have had some players that we thought would be more role players step up and they are going to be contributing for us in big time ways.
Matt Seitz is an extremely athletic outside linebacker who we are extremely excited to have healthy. He had a shoulder issue at the end of last year and going into spring, but he looks completely healthy. Justin Dischler is an All-American type player. He is our anchor in the middle. He is as solid as you can have. And Paul Foster has got some length and played well. So those three guys have established themselves as our starters. They are coming out of camp really healthy and really hungry to play week one. Kyle Schiedemeyer and Jordan Strasburg are two guys who have had really nice camps and if not for Seitz and Foster being pretty good players, they would be starting on a lot of teams. Matt Hoppe, as a senior, has accepted his role as the backup mike linebacker inside, but he pushes Justin on a day to day basis. We really like his attitude and commitment to the team. So those six guys have really proven themselves and we believe we can play any one of those guys and have a great chance to win a football game.
I think this was the biggest question marks heading into the season with the losses of Brady Grayvold and Marcus Mclin. I think the question was “What are you guys going to do at corner.” Well, Dylan Morang was a nickel back last year and played a lot of ball for us. He is establishing himself as a guy who is going to be a pretty good corner. We are very high on Dylan. He has stepped up and had a really nice camp. He is a leader. I think we’ll be very good at that position with him. Vince Mason is starting at the other corner. He has a lot of physical tools and he understands our system. He just needs to get some game experience, but our staff is very excited about Vince. Jake Gierlak and some others are really coming forward to add depth. We have some young guys stepping forward as well.
Ryan Winske is a rock at safety. He makes all of our calls. He has been a starter in the program for awhile now. He is a main leader on our defense and he will continue to play that role. Right now there is a competition between Shawn Shillcox and Colin Buck at the other safety position. They both have their days. They are both very good. We are excited to see how that plays out in the early part of the year. Bennett Young has really established himself as another safety getting into that mix. We are very happy with those four safeties.
Overall, we are really happy with the secondary. We have some freshmen who are stepping into the mix. I think the secondary was a question mark, but I don’t see it as a question mark right now. I am excited about the kids and the way they have developed in the fall.
I have been really impressed with the kids in camp. Coach (Craig) Smith (Offensive Coordinator) and I have been talking and between spring practices and then fall camp and a bye week, it seems like all we have been doing is practicing against one another. Everyone has that same mindset that we just want to play a game. We want to see where we are at and measure ourselves against somebody else.
Our kids are sick of beating on each other, but they have been really competing. Every single day our kids show up with great focus, great energy, and every single day they find a way to get that one percent better and strive to get three percent better. The kids really grasp that and really strive for that. For me, it has been very impressive that the kids have not ever fallen into a lull and had a bad practice. I can’t think of one practice where we reviewed it afterwards and said “That wasn’t a good practice”. Every practice so far has been productive and very good.