NMU Wildcat Football Preview

Georgette Breen-Naylor

With the last days of summer having come to an end, and the school year having started up, the Wildcat football team spent their last week before school preparing for this year’s football season.

The ’Cats started off slow last season, winning only one of their first six games. The ’Cats were then able to make a comeback, winning three of their last five games of the season, leaving them with a record four losses and seven wins.
For the 20113 football season, the ’Cats will be returning several starters on each side of the ball. One of those returning starters is senior linebacker Morgan Stenz. Stenz said there is plenty of talent on the team in order to improve.

“These guys have fully bought into what the coaches are telling us,” Stenz said. “We’re extremely talented and also still a young team in a new system.”
On the other side of the ball, the offense is excited to use all of its players. Junior running back Wyatt Jurasin will be one of the returning starters and brings experience to a younger backfield.

“They’re getting accustomed to the system still,” Jurasin said. “But they are getting more confident every practice.”
The ’Cats will be graduating 11 seniors after this season and they have added 22 new freshmen to the roster. During the ’Cats summer camp these numbers will help give rest to those starters, while also increasing the competition for any given position.

A position in which the ’Cats will need some numbers is at wide receiver. Junior wide receiver Julian Gaines will be sitting out this season due to a shoulder injury suffered last season. The 6’6’’ receiver led the team with 33 catches last season.
“Our coaches did a great job with recruiting new weapons,” Gaines said. “Plus we removed the tight end so we are even more spread out.”
One of those tight ends who was forced to change positions is junior Trever Kruzel. Kruzel played tight end for the ’Cats last season but with the new move to no tight end offensively, he will now be playing defensive end.

“It’s been a huge change for me. I haven’t played defense in five years,” Kruzel said. “Transitioning was hard at first but I feel like I’m getting more comfortable after every practice, meeting and film session.”
With school having started, the ’Cats summer camp will be coming to an end. Some of the athletes have been up here since school ended in May but the whole team has been practicing since mid-August.

“We need to be smarter, better conditioned, tougher and more disciplined than our opponent,” Stenz said. “In order to accomplish our goals we need to truly trust one another.”
Gaines said the main goal this season is to win the GLIAC. Four of the last 11 National Champions have been from the GLIAC.
If the ’Cats want to be part of that success, Gaines said they need to start playing better on both sides of the ball.

“Our offense needs to put points on the board,” Gaines said. “Our defense will make stops but without points you can’t win ball games.”
With the ’Cats starting their season late this year due to a by week the first week of the season, the anticipation is building for their first game. While camp may be winding down, the first game is not until Saturday, Sept. 14.
Jurasin said the additional practices will help the team in a positive way.
“Having more time will definitely help us polish some things,” Jurasin said. “And also perfect our game plan.”

The ’Cats will start their season off at home against conference opponent University of Findlay, who they lost to last year 45-10. The game will be at 1 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 14 at the Superior Dome.