Will UW-W Offense be Run Dominated in 2015?
All of the factors seem in place for the 2015 edition of the UW-Whitewater football team to become a ground and pound, run the ball first type offense.
Excellent offensive line? Check.
Excellent and deep at running back? Check.
Loss of previous starting quarterback? Check.
Heavy losses from previous wide receiver corps? Check.
A defense expected to be good enough to win close, low scoring games? Check.
But there are two reasons Coach Kevin Bullis and his staff are not designing a run dominated offense for the 2015 season:
1. They don’t want to.
2. They don’t have to.
Coach Kevin Bullis was asked directly whether the Warhawks would emphasize the run more in 2015 given the personnel changes from last year. His answer was an emphatic no.
“Chris is a very bright, very athletic quarterback. Coach (Offensive Coordinator Craig) Smith’s system is very similar to what Andy Kotelnicki did in the sense that we are not going to be predictable. We are not going to be a predictable offense,” Bullis emphasized.
“Now you have to run the ball well and we feel confident with that. But we feel confident with the pass game. I spent my career as a defensive coach and if you are a one dimensional offense, that is fun to play football against. That is predictable and makes it easy. But when you have that ability to be balanced as an offense, that is a problem for a defense. And that’s the thing with Coach Smith. He is going to be constantly looking to get that balance and not being predictable.”
Nelson’s athleticism adds to the unpredictability.
Coach Bullis talked about how Nelson may prove a bit different than last year’s starter, All-American Matt Behrendt. "Chris is a guy who can move around and scare people. Are we going to be running the triple option wishbone? No we are not. But in the sense that if everyone is covered up and he has a big hole in front of him and he can get some easy yards, I’m sure he won’t be afraid to take them. I remember Blanchard wasn’t afraid to take them." Back in 2011, starting quarterback Matt Blanchard provided plenty of unpredictability as he ended up being the National Champions’ second leading rusher with a net of 452 yards rushing.
Wide receiver and co-captain Joe Worth expressed his confidence in Nelson. "He's my roommate so we've been throwing all summer. Every day. I think he is ready for this year. He has been the back up for two years, so he knows this offense like the back of his hand. He is a confident guy and he is athletic and a playmaker."
Will the Wide Receivers be able to make up for the loss of Jake Kumerow and Justin Howard?
"You don't replace a Jake Kumerow. We won't have a Jake Kumerow 2.0. And we can say the same thing about Justin Howard. Justin Howard was a great receiver. If we didn't have Jake, we would all be talking the same way about Justin. We lost two great players. We have to replace them as a group. We are really happy with what we have seen with this group. The wide receiver group is the position that has improved the most," according to Bullis.
Worth is excited about the wide receivers this year. "I think we have a good core group of guys. We have Conor Simpson, a transfer from Washington State. He has a good four years in front of him. And we have guys who have played quite a bit. We have me, Marcus Hudson, Ryan Storto. We have some guys who have gotten on the field. Also, Adam Korpela is a real good athlete. He is going to have a good career, too. We have a good freshman class with a lot of good athletes, too. We just have to keep working their techniques, releases, catching, and how to run routes. We have a very promising future at the wide receiver spot."
Tight ends’ contributions will add to the unpredictability.
Bullis believes the tight end position will be very strong in 2015 in spite of the loss of stalwart Derric Junakin. Coach Bullis talked about a couple of players who have improved greatly since 2014. “Brent Campbell has really taken to the forefront in that. We are excited about Brent taking more snaps. He is very big, very athletic, a very good blocker, and he’s really improved his ability to catch the ball. The other tight end we feel really good about it Tony Gumina. You will see them both on the field together at times. Tony is one who can play fullback and also get up there and play tight end. Tony is extremely fast and definitely has the ability to go up there and get the ball. It’s been a couple of years since we have had two tight ends where we feel good enough about them that we could put them out there on the field together and that’s exciting.”
Run game will be part of the balance, too.
The quest for balance is definitely not a case of Bullis not appreciating the strength UW-W has in the offensive backfield. “We do (have great strength at running back). “Jordan Ratliffe. Dennis Moore. Goodness gracious. Nick Patterson? Wow. I almost feel selfish. That’s quite a crew and we are really excited about them. We are find ways to try to utilize them better. You have to find ways to utilize that type of talent.”
It all starts with O-line.
All five of the Warhawks’ starting offensive linemen return in 2015. Tony Koepnick (RT) Eli Slonaker (RG), Spencer Shier (C), Conner Peters (LG), and Johnny Wiederholt (LT) will be joined by previous starter Lucas Skibba, who missed all of last year due to an injury. “We continue to be impressed with this group,” Bullis said.
And the first year head coach seems very pleased with the offensive side of the ball early in camp. " By no means are we where we need to be, but for practice number five, we are really pleased with where we are at.”