Editor's Note: This is the third installment of an
eight-part series produced by the FSU Athletics Communications
Office looking at different position groups as the Bulldogs prepare
for their 2010 season opener on Friday, Sept. 3, at
Big Rapids, Mich. - If the spring football game was any indication, one thing should definitely remain constant as Ferris State University transitions from its old spread offensive system to a new look shotgun spread attack this fall.
Like many teams across the nation, the Bulldogs hope to spread the ball around and put it in the hands of playmakers if all goes according to plan.
On the outside, first-year offensive coordinator Chris Boden should have several options when he looks to throw the football.
The talented junior duo of Damien Miller (Elsie/Ovid-Elsie) and Mike Ryan (Howell) figure to earn the starting roles at the receiver positions after solid sophomore campaigns a season ago while another veteran returnee, senior Matt Schuelke (Paris/Reed City), should make a strong push and also contend again for catches on the outside.
Together, the trio combined for 63 catches and more than 750 receiving yards last campaign.
"We've got a good group of veteran receivers back and we'll place an emphasis this year on making plays after the catch," Boden said. "If we can get them enough touches, hopefully they'll be able to break some big plays for us."
The 5-11 Ryan was the Bulldogs' leading receiver a season ago with 25 catches for 365 yards and a pair of touchdowns while starting all 11 contests. He averaged 14.6 yards per catch and was tabbed as FSU's Most Valuable Offensive Skill Player last season.
"Mike is a playmaker who provides a deep threat," said Boden. "He runs good routes and can get open deep. We're expecting him to have a great year."
Miller made 10 starts at one of the other outside receiver spots in 2009 and was the squad's third-leading receiver with 18 grabs for 222 yards (12.3 average). The 6-1 junior also provides a valuable role as one of the squad's top return men on special teams and earned FSU's Most Improved Offensive Player honor in '09.
"Damien had a great spring and really learned the new offensive system," Boden said. "He has good hands and is a great route runner.
"Also, he's a smart and heady player who has improved his quickness after the catch," he added.
While Ryan and Miller earned the bulk of the starts last season, the Bulldogs are fortunate enough to return their top five pass catchers overall this year. That includes both Schuelke, who was second on the team with 20 catches for 172 yards, along with senior Chris Wilson (Hingsville, Ga./Long County). He caught 16 balls for 207 yards after missing all of the 2008 season due to injury. However, he was forced to sit out the spring to preserve eligibility this fall and will have to make a quick adjustment to the new offense.
Boden expects Schuelke to challenge hard for opportunities while Wilson gives the Bulldogs added size as a receiver with his 6-7 frame.
"Matt is a tough and hard nosed player who has good hands," said Boden. "He had a nice spring and has shown the ability to play both the inside and outside receiver spots.
"We didn't get a chance to see Chris in the spring, but he's a guy who's had some experience and can create some advantages with his height," he added.
Wilson could also see time at the tight end spot as the position is implemented into the new offensive system. The addition of the position should help both the receiving and running game this fall under 16th-year head coach Jeff Pierce.
Sophomore Kevin Guirand (Antioch, Ill./Lakes Community) will be among the challengers for a starting role at tight end after a solid freshman season. He played in nine games as a receiver and on special teams in 2009.
"Kevin is battling for a starting job at tight end in the new system," said Boden. "He's a good athlete with good hands and is improving his overall blocking ability. We expect him to become a very good tight end in the league over time."
Added depth on the outside could be supplied by senior Keenan Bowman (Detroit/Cass Tech) and a pair of transfers in John Webster (Richmond, Calif./El Cerrito) along with Taylor Leonard (Stanwood/Morley-Stanwood). Redshirt freshman Chris McCall (Warren/Fraser) is also back and the Bulldogs added a handful of young wideouts and tight ends in the recruiting process.
Meanwhile, the Bulldogs will count on sophomore Mark Lomasney (Grand Rapids/Forest Hills Northern) and redshirt freshman Jace Heneveld (Zeeland/East), a converted quarterback, to help add depth and compete for time at the tight end spot.
The new system also figures to see more passes thrown to receivers out of the backfield, which should help create catches again for players such as Aaron Olman (Grandville) and Skyler Stoker (Jackson/Grass Lake), who both played in the slot most of last year. Other running backs like Tyler Thomas (Jackson) and Dwayne Williams (Saginaw/Heritage) could give the Bulldog quarterbacks additional options when looking to throw.
"We want to spread the ball around and get it into the hands of our playmakers in a position where they can use their speed," Boden said.
Next Installment: The "Countdown To Kickoff" series will resume on Monday (Aug. 30) with a look at the offensive line.