Sandy Gholston's GLIAC Football Preview

Sandy Gholston's GLIAC Football Preview

Written by Sandy Gholston, special writer for the GLIAC

Please visit this link for the 2009 GLIAC Football Media Guide:
Football Media Guide

BAY CITY, Mich. -
The proverbial clock already is ticking to the start of the season for the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, one of the premier Division II college football leagues.

As expected, perennial national power Grand Valley State is a strong preseason choice by the GLIAC coaches to win the 2009 league championship. For the Lakers, high preseason expectations are nothing new. Already this season, Grand Valley was ranked in the No. 1 spot in the nation in three preseason polls, American Football Coaches Association (AFCA),, and The Sporting News Division II Preseason Poll. So far, Ashland and Michigan Tech also have earned preseason rankings in polls for 2009.

In the GLIAC Coaches Poll, the Lakers picked up the maximum 11 first-place votes from the coaches and a total of 121 points. Second-place finisher Ashland totaled 107 points and received the other first-place vote. The Lakers and Eagles are coming off trips to the NCAA Division II Tournament in 2008 and both are expected to contend for a trip back to the playoffs. In last year's playoffs, Grand Valley topped Ashland in the NCAA Division II Super Region Three semifinal, 40-7. The Lakers ultimately were defeated in the Division II quarterfinals by Minnesota-Duluth, 19-13, in two overtimes.

Also in the GLIAC poll, Michigan Tech was third with 94 points, Wayne State was fourth with 89 points and the top five was rounded out by Saginaw Valley State with 85 points. Hillsdale was sixth with 71 points, Ferris State was seventh with 66 points, Indianapolis placed eighth with 51, Findlay was ninth with 39 and the 10th spot belonged to Northern Michigan after recording 33 points. In the 11th spot, Northwood had 11 points and the 12th team was Tiffin, which garnered 13 points.

Ranked in order picked in the 2009 GLIAC Preseason Coaches Poll:

1. Grand Valley State (11-1 overall, 10-0 GLIAC)

Overview: Grand Valley once again enters the season as the strong favorite to become champions of the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. High expectations in Allendale come with the territory for a now veteran head coach Chuck Martin and his tradition-rich Laker football program. The Lakers again are loaded on offense, led by an experienced and accomplished quarterback (Brad Iciek), and steady on defense with a nice blend of experienced veterans and promising newcomers hoping to break out this season on a team with high hopes. As usual, the Lakers have recruited well and should reload at some spots impacted by graduation.

Offense: Senior quarterback Brad Iciek is back to run the offense. Iciek is getting no shortage of preseason hype and will once again be a strong candidate to contend for the coveted Harlon Hill Trophy. A year ago, Iciek passed for 2,252 yards with 31 touchdowns. With a 23-2 record, as a starter, Iciek is accustomed to playing quarterback for GVSU - with a target on his back. Iciek has weapons in the backfield led by the return of junior James Berezik, who rushed for 1,403 yards with 15 touchdowns. Other threats for the Laker offense include senior Blake Smolen, a force to be reckoned with as a receiver and as a runner, and fellow senior P.T. Gates, a dangerous player every time he touches the ball. At receiver, Iciek will be targeting guys like Ryan Bass and Mike Koster, both of whom will be back in the lineup. Smolen is a threat in the passing game and Cameron Bradford could be ready for a breakthrough season. The Lakers have holes to fill on the offensive line, but will bring back experience with the likes of Nick McDonald and Cameron Bradfield.

Defense: Grand Valley returns 21 letterwinners and nine starters on defensive this season. Headlining this returning group is preseason All-American candidate Danny Richard, who led the Lakers with 17 tackles for loss and finished second on the squad with 60 tackles and eight sacks. Senior Alex Gilde is back off a season during which he was credited with 30 tackles and seven tackles for loss. Pay attention to junior Steve Gawronski, junior Nick Lawrence and sophomore Andre Thomas to be heard from this season. GVSU has all three starting linebackers back and that group includes two All-GLIAC players. Sophomore Brad Howard led GVSU with 77 tackles and junior Justin Victor added 60. Gary Anderson started all 12 games and totaled 51 tackles. Preseason All-American candidate Jacob McGuckin highlights the secondary as he comes off a season during which he totaled 55 tackles and three interceptions.

Special Teams: All-GLIAC punter Justin Trumble is back while a true freshman, Ryan Stokes, could open some eyes in the upcoming season as a kicker.

Coaching: Chuck Martin is entering his sixth season as head coach of the Lakers and owns a career record of 61-5. He has been the picture of success. Under Martin's direction, Grand Valley has won back-to-back national championships (2005 and 2006). Last fall, the Lakers finished 11-1 and advanced to the NCAA Division II quarterfinals round.

Key Dates: Grand Valley opens on the road against West Texas A&M on Aug. 29 in what could be a challenging game for the Lakers. The Lakers host Saginaw Valley State on Sept. 12 in what always is a spirited contest. The Lakers are at arch-rival Ferris State on Sept. 19. The Lakers travel to Ashland on Oct. 24 in a game that could have major GLIAC championship implications.

2. Ashland (9-4 overall, 8-2 GLIAC)

Overview: Ashland is building a strong tradition of Division II college football and back-to-back trips to the NCAA Tournament are indicative of a program that is on the rise under the direction of head coach Lee Owens. Ashland enters this season with high preseason rankings as it is ranked among the top 15 teams in the nation by AFCA (No. 15), Lindy's (No. 13), and The Sporting News (No. 14). In addition to fighting for a third straight trip to the playoffs, Ashland hopes to contend with preseason GLIAC favorite Grand Valley State University for league supremacy.

Offense: Ashland returns what can be described as a star-studded offense that will be responsible for lighting up the scoreboard. Leading the way is one of the top quarterbacks in the GLIAC and in the nation in senior Billy Cundiff, the 2008 GLIAC Player of the Year. Cundiff, a first-team American Football Coaches Association All-American, has plenty of weapons at his disposal. Out of the backfield, the Eagles boast a top-end running back in senior Dawon Harvey and on the perimeter the team has talented receivers in Joe Horn and Nick Bellanco. The line is solid and anchored by Justin Magruder, a guard with All-America potential.

Defense: Ashland is looking for a strong defense mentored by new coordinator Tim Rose. Head coach Lee Owens wants a defense that is not so predictable and is in attack mode to keep opposing offenses off balance as much as possible.

Special Teams: Harvey is a major weapon in the return game for the Eagles, a program that takes good special teams play seriously. Last season, Ashland had four players earn GLIAC Special Teams Player of the Week honors (Harvey, Carlin Isles, Gregg Berkshire and Alan Dunson). With punter Derek Riedel, the Eagles hope to win the field position battle most games this season.

Coaching: Lee Owens has led Ashland's charge back to the top of the GLIAC as he has led the team to back-to-back NCAA Division II Tournament berths. Under Owens, the last two seasons have been strong with records of 8-2 in 2007 and 9-4 in 2008.

Key Dates: At Bloomsburg on Aug. 27 (a special Thursday night game in Pennsylvania), at Ferris State University in their league opener on Sept. 5, home against nationally-ranked Michigan Tech (Sept. 12) and home against national power Grand Valley State University on Oct. 24.

Special note: Ashland is moving into a brand-new football stadium with the opening of Jack Miller Stadium at Dwight Schar Athletic Complex on Sept. 12 when Michigan Tech travels to Ohio for a 1 p.m. contest.

3. Michigan Tech (8-3 overall, 7-3 GLIAC)

Overview: This season, Michigan Tech enters with high expectations and a preseason national ranking that has drawn some attention. The Huskies have traditionally been a hard-nosed team that battles you in the trenches and wins by running the football and stopping the run. But, this Tech team also has speed and skill and can make teams pay the price with a strong passing game led by quarterback Steve Short, one of the GLIAC's most prolific passers.

Offense: Short continues to strengthen his credentials as one of the more prolific passers in the GLIAC. With Short as the leader, the Huskies have a record of 20-8. He threw for 2,192 yards and 15 touchdowns. Joining him in the backfield, Phil Milbrath earned All-GLIAC first-team honors as he led the league rushing averaging 134 yards per game. Bobby Slowik earned All-GLIAC honorable mention honors as a receiver in 2008 as he had 43 catches for 603 yards and four touchdowns. The offensive line is solid in front of the guys who will handle the football this season. Seniors Bill Behling, a first-team All-GLIAC player, and Josh Frantti, an All-GLIAC honorable mention competitor, lead a good group of linemen.

Defense: The Huskies return a solid secondary led by a pair of All-GLIAC second-team selections in David Carmody and Drew Vanderlin. John van der Laan is one of the keys to the second level of the Tech defense: the linebackers. In 2008, van der Laan had 65 tackles and 3.5 for loss. Experience will be present on the line for the Huskies. Jake Klingelhutz totaled 24 tackles, including three for loss. Another junior, Matt Payment, had 17 tackles and 1.5 tackle for loss.

Special Teams: Tech welcomes back experience at both the kicker and punter positions on its depth chart. Placekicker Tyler Cattelino and punter Jon Mills should help Michigan Tech both come away with points if it can't punch the ball into the end zone and get a leg up in the field position battle with its punting. In returns, look for Slowik to be a factor for the Huskies. Slowik earned All-GLIAC honorable mention honors as a wide receiver.

Coaching: In three seasons, Tom Kearly owns a record of 20-12 with the Huskies. He has kept alive the tradition started by Bernie Anderson.

Key Dates: The Huskies are at nationally-ranked Ashland on Sept. 12. Tech then hosts arch-rival Northern Michigan in the Miner's Cup Game on Sept. 19. Tech is home against national power Grand Valley State University on Sept. 26.

4. Wayne State (8-3 overall, 7-3 GLIAC)

Overview: Wayne State is hoping to harness some of the magic it carried throughout a strong 2008 season during which it finished 8-3. This season, the Warriors have a bigger target on their back, but Wayne also has talent returning with players who have gotten a taste of success and undoubtedly want a bigger taste this season.

Offense: Wayne will have to retool its offense, a bit, to compensate for graduation losses at key positions. The Warriors had two starters at quarterback, in 2008, and both are gone for 2009. So, that means a fresh start in that very important position in the backfield of head coach Paul Winters. Junior Zack George returns with some experience as he did not play in 2008, but saw playing time in 2006 and in 2007. On the line, Winters returns three experienced tackles and that is always a good thing for a team's offensive production. Joe Long started every game at left tackle in 2008 and should anchor that line. In the backfield, Wayne returns one of the most exciting backs in the nation in standout runner Joique Bell, who has rushed for 4,644 yards and a school-record 59 touchdowns during his career. Wayne has some solid players at receiver, including Aaron Higginbottom, who is a significant deep threat.

Defense: Wayne looks pretty young on the defensive side of the football with the loss of eight starters from the 2008 defense. But, there is some experience back for the Warriors as defensive end Athan Anagonye, linebacker Matt Shango and cornerback Stan Thornton highlight the unit this season. Look out also for All-GLIAC honorable mention selection safety Jeremy Jones. Defensively, Wayne terrorized opposing offensive units with 16 interceptions.

Special Teams: It's a battle for the top kicking spot on special teams for the Warriors in the upcoming season. Wayne relied heavily on the kicking talents of now graduated David Chudzinski, who is the Warriors career leader in made field goals and points by a kicker.

Coaching: Paul Winters is set to enter his sixth season as the head football coach at Wayne State and he is coming off his best campaign in 2008. Last season, the Warriors finished 8-3. Winters was named the 2008 GLIAC Coach of the Year.

Key Dates: Wayne opens its season at home against Mercyhurst on Aug. 29. Homecoming is on Oct. 3 as the Warriors host nationally-ranked Ashland. The regular-season finale for Wayne is a trip to Allendale to face perennial national power Grand Valley State on Nov. 7.

5. Saginaw Valley State (7-3 overall, 7-3 GLIAC)

Overview: The climb back toward the upper echelon of the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference continues for Saginaw Valley State. The Cardinals, under second-year head coach Jim Collins, hope to build on a 2008 season during which they finished with a record of 7-3. While Saginaw Valley does have some holes to fill on offense and defense, it does have some talented younger players who hope to step in this season and fill in at some key positions on the depth chart.

Offense: The passing game looks like it could be the strength of this offensive unit this season led by quarterback Dan Stiefel, who passed for 2,113 yards and 14 touchdowns through 10 games. One of his top targets will be receiver Galen Stone who played some at tight end and some at wide out for Collins' offensive unit. Stone hauled in 47 receptions for 631 yards and eight touchdowns. Joining Stiefel in the backfield is likely to be sophomore Brandon Hayes, who will be one of the leaders to replace the departed Brandon Emeott, who rushed for better than 1,000 yards. On the offensive line some spots need to be filled, but the Cardinals do return experience in Jordan DeRosia, an All-GLIAC player in 2008.

Defense: This could be a strong point for the Cardinals with quality players returning on the line and at linebacker. On the line, Saginaw Valley welcomes back the likes of Rob Callaway and Brian Koblucar in the middle and Toby Goetz and Jordan Barley on the ends. At linebacker, All-American John Jacobs and Mike LeVand, who collected All-GLIAC accolades, are headliners. In the backfield, Saginaw Valley will have some new but talented faces. The Cardinals are high on Ja'Vae Ingraham, a Florida native who competed in 12 games last season and helped his cause with solid work during the off season.

Special Teams: Saginaw Valley has to replace an All-GLIAC kicker this season and it looks like Austin Borchard is the top candidate. At punter, Saginaw Valley feels it has one of the best in the league in Kurtis Fournier, who helped SVSU in the battle for field position during games last season.

Coaching: Jim Collins returns for his second season on the sidelines after leading the Cardinals to a record of 7-3 during his first campaign. Collins came to Saginaw Valley from Division III Capital University where he was 44-13 during his last five seasons.

Key Dates: Saginaw Valley opens at California (Pa.) on Aug. 27 in the first of three contests away from University Center to begin the campaign. The Cardinals next are at Wayne State (Sept. 5) and then at national power Grand Valley State on Sept. 12). The Cardinals play Northwood in the Axe Bowl on Sept. 19 at SVSU.

6. Hillsdale (7-4 overall, 6-4 GLIAC)

Overview: Under the direction of head coach Keith Otterbein, it appears Hillsdale is knocking on the door of the top GLIAC teams. Like the rest of the GLIAC, the Chargers can see that the top three projected teams in the conference are Grand Valley, Ashland and Michigan Tech. The Chargers, however, are confident they've reached the point that they can play with those teams on any given night. Clearly, Otterbein and his players hope now is the time to turn the belief they can achieve great things into the reality of having achieved great things in the GLIAC.

Offense: The Chargers are hopeful that a very experienced offensive unit will pay dividends this season against what will be a challenging schedule of GLIAC competition from start to finish. Leading this veteran offense will be starting quarterback Troy Weatherhead, who had a banner year in 2008 as he threw for 2,874 yards and 21 touchdowns. Three times, last season, he threw for more than 300 yards. Weatherhead will have quality targets to look for with a group that is led by A.J. Kegg, who led the team with 74 catches and 888 receiving yards. Joining Weatherhead in the backfield is one of the league's better running backs in Vinnie Panizzi, a two-year starter. Up front, the offensive line is anchored by Jared Veldheer, a left tackle Hillsdale believes is one of the best at his position in the nation. Also, three-year starting tight end Matt Patillo (29 receptions and four touchdowns) is a key player in the team's offense.

Defense: Experience is not just a factor for the offensive unit at Hillsdale. On the other side of the ball, the Chargers welcome back a veteran crew. Drew Berube, a senior, is a key component of Hillsdale's line after leading the GLIAC last season in sacks and tackles for loss. Mat Szula leads the linebackers coming back for Hillsdale. In the defensive backfield, a three-year starter in senior Lance Smith will be the glue for the unit. Young guys like Nick Hixson, Joe Vear and David Bakker are in the battle for spots on the depth chart.

Special Teams: Mark Petro is an All-GLIAC performer returning at placekicker for the Chargers, again this season. Another All-GLIAC player, Eric Schweller, returns at punter for Hillsdale.

Coaching: During the last two seasons, Keith Otterbein's Chargers have a record of 15-7 as they battle for respect from the top teams in the GLIAC.

Key Dates: Hillsdale opens at St. Joseph's on Aug. 29. The Chargers face nationally-ranked Michigan Tech, on the road, Sept. 5 in week two. Hillsdale takes on nationally-ranked Ashland on Sept. 26 in Ohio and hosts national power Grand Valley State on Oct. 10 for homecoming.

7. Ferris State (6-5 overall, 5-5 GLIAC)

Overview: Ferris State again is fighting to prove it still belongs in the upper echelon of the GLIAC in spite of being picked seventh in the preseason poll. The Bulldogs return a veteran unit on offense with experienced quarterbacks and a group of receivers working with a solid offensive line that hopes to become more of a dominant group this fall. The schedule is loaded with tough games at the front end with battles against national powers like Grand Valley State, Ashland and Michigan Tech as three of their first six.

Offense: Ferris feels fortunate to have two quarterbacks with starting experience as senior Kyle Parrish and redshirt sophomore Tom Schneider return to lead the offense. Parrish is known more for his passing while Schneider is known more for his ability to make things happen with his legs. But, Parrish can hurt defenses with his legs and Schneider can make opponents pay with the pass, too. At receiver, Matt Ryan, Damien Miller, Seth Hubbard and Chris Wilson lead a unit that is still relatively young, but with a nice dose of experience. Up front, Joe Doman, Matt Wellman and Brad Bammert bring experience on the line.

Defense: Consensus All-American Jake Visser has graduated from Ferris State's lineup. The Bulldogs, however, welcome back Kory Deering, Joe Morrow and Jacob Moreno as leaders on that front line. At linebacker, Ferris will have an entirely new starting crew. Nick Butler, Chad Schoen, Kyle Fitzpatrick and Matt Ryan are among those battling for spots on the depth chart at linebacker. In the defensive secondary, Ferris welcomes back experience with corner Angelo Williams, young corner Russell Weatherspoon, safety C.J. Lee and safety Santino Favot.

Special Teams: The Bulldogs will lean on Shawn Snoor to step in and handle the bulk of the kicking duties this season. During recruiting, Ferris invested a lot of time in working to solidify its punting and kicking areas.

Coaching: Jeff Pierce returns for his 15th season as the head coach of Ferris - his alma mater.

Key Dates: Ferris opens the season Aug.29 against Tiffin at 7 p.m., in a non-conference game. The Bulldogs host nationally-ranked Ashland on Sept. 5. Ferris welcomes archrival Grand Valley State, one of the top teams in the nation and a national championship contender, in the Anchor-Bone Trophy Game on Sept. 19.

8. Indianapolis (5-6 overall, 4-6 GLIAC)

Overview: Indianapolis was hard hit by the departures of 10 starters from last season's team. But, don't think that expectations are low for head coach Joe Polizzi's squad this fall. The Greyhounds are hopeful 10 starters lost will be replaced by a hungry and talented group of newcomers, including Paul Corsaro, a transfer from Division I-AA Youngstown State.

Offense: Indianapolis welcomes back some talented players it hopes will lead to big numbers on the scoreboard this season in GLIAC competition. At quarterback, Paul Corsaro (a transfer from Division I-AA Youngstown State) and sophomore Rob Doyle are expected to battle it out for the starting signal-caller spot. On the perimeter, the Greyhounds have some intriguing threats with wide receiver Stephen Geller, who finished with 31 catches for 365 yards with two touchdowns. Another wide receiver, Tyren Fakes had 24 catches for 297 yards with a touchdown. Indianapolis had a prolific offense that racked up more than 380 yards per contest. The Greyhounds have four starters returning on the offensive line in Tim Dury, Adam Prichard, Andrew Mansaray and Eric Quintana.

Defense: In the secondary, the Greyhounds expect to be strong at shutting down opposing passing games led by Craig Ray, who had 80 tackles with four interceptions and J.T. Owens, who recorded 54 tackles and was credited with four sacks. In all, UI has five returning defensive backs. On the defensive line, The Greyhounds return junior Josh Martin and senior Randall Courtney (11.5 sacks).

Special Teams: Jace Morrison will be the man as a placekicker while Fakes and Aaron Puntarelli should handle the punting duties. Working for field position, the return game will feature Geller, who totaled 1,000 all-purpose yards to rank him 14th in the GLIAC at 1,089.

Coaching: Joe Polizzi is in his 16th season as head coach of the Greyhounds and owns a record of 80-82-1.

Key Dates: Indianapolis opens at Kentucky Wesleyan on Aug. 27. The Greyhounds are at home against national power Grand Valley State on Sept. 5, home against nationally-ranked Michigan Tech on Oct. 17 and at nationally-ranked Ashland on Oct. 31.

9. Findlay (2-9 overall, 1-9 GLIAC)

Overview: Findlay had some tough times last season as it came so close only to taste defeat in a number of hard-fought battles. The Oilers were defeated six times by eight points or less, finishing the season 2-9 after beginning 2-0. Findlay hopes that adversity will lead to good things in 2009 as the Oilers return 32 players with game experience last season (a number that includes 24 with starter experience).

Offense: Offensively, Findlay returns some skilled players to its offensive unit led by wide receiver Mike Chambers, who was a second-team All-GLIAC performer in 2008. Chambers finished with 74 receptions for 915 yards with five touchdowns last fall on the gridiron. At quarterback, Jonathan Mora and Billy Noonan will battle to be the man calling the shots from the field. Also in the backfield, Findlay should feel comfortable putting the ball into the hands of running back Melvin Jackson, who led the team with 661 rushing yards in 10 games.

Defense: Senior defensive back Anthony Fields and linebacker Joe Knopick return as the headliners for the Oilers' defense. Fields was an All-GLIAC player who also collected second-team all-region recognition for his efforts on the gridiron. He totaled 62 tackles, five interceptions and three forced fumbles. Knopick, an honorable mention All-GLIAC pick, totaled 127 tackles. At linebacker, Findlay returns a lot of experience led by Jesse Kontras, Ben Bates, E.J. Whitlow, John Williams, Brandon Craft and Andrew Leddy.

Special Teams: Junior Cameron Stevens broke a school record for field goals in a career and went on to be named an honorable mention All-GLIAC player.

Coaching: Jon Wauford is entering his third season as the head coach of the Oilers. Wauford helped recruit former Findlay High School star Ben Roethlisberger to Miami University. Since then, Roethlisberger has led the Pittsburgh Steelers to Super Bowl championship success.

Key Dates: Findlay opens its season on Aug. 27 by hosting Urbana. The Oilers' season is back-loaded with some tough competition. Findlay travels to nationally-ranked Michigan Tech on Oct. 10, to nationally-ranked Grand Valley State on Oct. 17 and then ends the season at home against nationally-ranked Ashland on Nov. 7.

10. Northern Michigan (2-8 overall, 2-8 GLIAC)

Overview: Northern Michigan had a tough time last year winning only two football games, but head coach Bernie Anderson is hopeful his Wildcats can take a big step this season and climb a challenging GLIAC ladder toward a higher status.

Offense: Anderson is pleased to return a ton of experienced players on the offensive side of the football during the 2009 season. At quarterback, Carter Koach and Ben Hempel bring experience to a critical position. NMU has added junior college transfer Brad McClellen, who could compete for playing time. Standout back Mark Bossuah returns for Northern. In 2008, he finished with 660 yards on 124 carries as he battled injuries throughout the season. The offensive line returns with experience led by three seniors in center Jack Rustman, guard Nicholas Owens and tackle Jonathan Otto.

Defense: Preseason All-American Nathan Yelk, at linebacker, returns as a big-time playmaker. Yelk, last season, finished with 98 tackles en route to earning second-team All-GLIAC honors. He also totaled six tackles for loss and two sacks. During recruiting, Northern worked to address some needs at linebacker and in the secondary to improve depth.

Special Teams: Garrett Peck returns at punter and Anderson feels solid with that position being set. Field goals and extra points will be handled by Anthony Leandri and Jon Laue.

Coaching: Bernie Anderson is ready to start his fourth season as head coach of Northern Michigan, his alma mater. In 2007, Anderson earned his 100th victory as a college coach. Anderson was the head coach of rival Michigan Tech from 1987-2005.

Key Dates: Northern opens the season on Sept. 5. The Miner's Cup Game this season will be at Houghton as the Wildcats face rival and nationally-ranked Michigan Tech on Sept. 19. Northern travels to national power Grand Valley State on Oct. 31.

11. Northwood (2-8 overall, 2-8 GLIAC)

Overview: Northwood has made a strong reputation for itself by running the football behind a strong offensive line, and in that respect the team should not be all that different. But, the Timberwolves hope that a nice blend of experienced players who are back will join with talented newcomers to help Northwood end up better than 11th in the conference (where it was picked in the preseason poll).

Offense: Returning to run the offense this season for Northwood is quarterback Spencer Klukowski, a duel threat that can be particular dangerous with his legs. Last season, he averaged more than six yards per carry bursting out of the backfield of the Timberwolves. The returning experienced wingbacks, in Northwood's "Woodbone" offense, are Dmitri Banks, Jimmy Parsons and O'Neil Thomas. In front of that group, the Timberwolves will be young in 2009 having to replace all five offensive linemen. Up front, the Timberwolves return tight end Josh Rauser, a receiver with good hands who has made strides as a blocker. Northwood does not put the ball in the air a lot, but the Timberwolves do have a pair of honorable mention All-GLIAC receivers returning in Antoine Carr and Quillan Mathis.

Defense: One of the bright spots for Northwood this season could be on the defensive side of the ball with a solid number of experienced players coming back to Midland this season. On the line, ends Baher Faik and Emmanuel Southern will lead the way in front of a group of linebackers led by Tommy Paulsen, who totaled 72 tackles, and Andrew DeWeerd, who was credited with seven tackles for loss. In the defensive backfield, safeties Fabian Jackson and Kevin Berrien return after stepping in last season for the Timberwolves. NU should have good depth at defensive back as well.

Special Teams: The Timberwolves should be solid in the kicking game with the return of Pat Sijan. Northwood has a hole to fill at the punter spot. In the return game, the Timberwolves have O'Neil Thomas to return kicks and punts.

Coaching: Mike Sullivan enters his second season as head coach of Northwood. Prior to being named the head coach, Sullivan paid his dues as he had served as an assistant coach for the Timberwolves for eight seasons.

Key Dates: Northwood opens at home against Northern Michigan on Sept. 5. The Timberwolves host rival Saginaw Valley State in the Axe Bowl on Sept. 19.

12. Tiffin (1-10 overall, 1-9 GLIAC)

Overview: Tiffin got its first taste of the competition that presents itself week in and week out in the GLIAC. This season, the Dragons hope to use that experience to achieve bigger and better things in 2009. Tiffin battled some of the top teams in the conference losing 32-28 to Michigan Tech and 37-36 to Hillsdale in the final two games of the regular season.

Offense: Tiffin has some talented receivers returning to the lineup in 2009 with the likes of Greg Raspberry and Trey Williams being key components in a passing game. In 2008, Raspberry had 59 receptions for 574 yards with five touchdowns). Williams had 50 catches for 556 yards with a pair of touchdowns.

Defense: The Dragons lost some firepower on defense, but also welcome back talented players in lineman Wyatt Thames and John Pemberton. Tiffin dipped into the junior college ranks to replace a crew of strong linebackers led by Parris Burt. Tiffin is hopeful the large recruiting class it signed will help the program this season as well as in the seasons to come.

Special Teams: Tiffin hopes to break some big plays in the return game this season on the gridiron. But, at kicker, the Dragons hope to be able to limit the field position of opponents and put opponents in a hole thanks to the leg of kicker Boris Bede.

Coaching: David Walkosky is entering his second season. Coming off a one-win season in 2008, Walkosky and his crew will try to build on that and pull off maybe a couple of more victories.

Key Dates: Tiffin opens on the road against Ferris State on Aug. 29 in Big Rapids (it will be a non-conference game again this season). The Dragons host nationally-ranked Ashland on Sept. 19 and visits national power Grand Valley State on Oct. 3.

Please visit this link for the 2009 GLIAC Football Media Guide:
Football Media Guide