College Football: Warriors feature speed and depth
Here’s what the Ridgewater College Warriors have going for them heading into the 2013 season starting 7 p.m. Thursday at Hodapp Field in Willmar versus the Itasca College Vikings out of Grand Rapids.
Numbers (75 on roster, 20 second-year players), plenty of big linemen, overall team speed with fast receivers and quick linebackers, depth at running back with three scaling 200 pounds and quarterback position four deep.
Coach Rob Baumgarn starts his eighth year with expectations of improving on a 5-3 regular season followed by a first-round playoff loss to Rochester.
“I like the team unity we’ve seen and the numbers which assure completion in practice to hold or improve your spot,” said the Montevideo native and former Warriors linebacker.
The Warriors need a fast start beginning with three Northern Division foes. After Itasca, the team travels to Ely to meet the Vermilion Ironmen, and then is back home on Sept. 14 to host Northland College of Thief River Falls.
Quarterback: Trevor Nystrom (St. Cloud Tech) is back after a year out football. He was a starter in 2011 and will be the opening-day starter. It’s been a heated race with Tony Ayala (Minneapolis Washburn) and returnee Wes Oswald (Isle) ready to go. Jeremiah Grimsley (Mayer Lutheran) also has the tools but, for now, is fourth in line.
Running back: Many to choose from but sophomore Martell Baker (Indianapolis) is expected to get the call and is a returning first-team All-South Division. But others will get carries in the Warriors’ ground-pounding attack, including: Darrice Orkmon (Indianapolis), Roosevelt Austin (Sauk Centre), Shae Hanvelt (Robbinsdale Armstrong), Daniel Maras (Red Rock Central) and DaMarko Thomas (Truman), the latter slowed by a sprained ankle.
Fullback: No question, it will be hard replacing two-year starter Nathanial Swoyer, a crushing lead blocker now on the coaching staff. Auditioning are Matt Koerner (Berkley, Mich.), Matt Alberts (Lester Prairie) and Michells Algarate (Hancock).
Tight end: Top prospects are Beau Stough, a 6-foot-4, 235-pound freshman out of Redwood Falls, Johnnie Pope (Highland Park, Mich.) and Kelvin Jones (Brunswick, Ga.).
Wide receiver/slotback: The pass-catchers will be a key to the team’s success; it’s hard to reach the top in this league without some ability for a quick-strike air game. Depth and speed here with returnee Kevin Parks (Ft. Carson, Colo.), Jorge Cabrera (Brooklyn Center), Andrew Walstrom (Watertown-Mayer), Greg McPherson (Buffalo), Josh Hall (Detroit) and Eric Hudson (Berkley, Mich.). Baumgarn singled out the 150-pound Cabrera, a slotback, for having a “great camp”.
Line: Dan Stuewe (Norwood Young America) is back after earning All-South Division second-team designation. He’s 6-feet-2, 270 pounds and will go at left tackle. Tyler Fountain (Kinross, Mich.) is 6-3, 285 at left guard with 6-3, 305 Jalen Carey (Detroit) at center. On the right side will be 6-foot-6, 340-pound Craig Smith (West Palm Beach, Fla.) at tackle and 6-4, 280 Aaron Kerkow (Jordan) at guard. Addonise Crews (Pensacola, Fla.) and Scott Saunders (Rosemount) will see action.
Defensive end: Pass rusher Chris Hanson (New Prague) is back, a smart, disciplined player, notes the head coach. He’s 6-2, 235. The run-stopper at the other side, lining up opposite the opponent’s tight end, is 6-2, 245 Larry Alexander (Indianapolis). Backing up and primed to rush the passer are Jeremy Boykins (West Palm Beach, Fla.) and C.J. Jones (Clute, Texas).
Interior line: Jakurr Thomas (Madison, Wis.) plugs up the middle at 5-9, 240 but is described as defender who is “quick off the ball and can move.” Ronnie Johnson out of Redford Union High School on Detroit’s west fringe returns and is slated to deploy his 6-foot-3, 305-pound frame at defensive tackle. Alex Kluver (Rothschild, Wis.) and Joachim Stevenson (Miami) will also play in the trenches where there’s good depth.
Linebacker: Smart, athletic Mickey McGuire (Wake Forest, N.C.) returns to lead the tackling cadre. Luke Blanch (Plain City, Utah), Jordan Meine, a sophomore from Springfield, Emmanuell Bellamy (Berkley, Mich.) and Josh Kelly (Willmar) will all see front-line duty.
Cornerback: This is an area of concern with not a lot of depth surfacing through two weeks of practice. So far, the prime coverage guys will be Deshon Johnson (Cleveland, Ohio) and Jacobi Sruggs (Indianapolis), a transfer from the Fergus Falls Spartans, Ridgewater’s fourth opponent this year.
Safety: Hunter Smith (Sioux Falls, S.D.) is back to stabilize the secondary. Joining him will be Adihia Bell (Milwaukee) but there’s others ready to play, like, Creston Tolbert (Minneapolis Patrick Henry), Shae Hanvelt (Robbinsdale Armstrong), Kelly Ferguson (Bloomington Jefferson) and Jeremiah Oyetunji (Miami).
Kelvin Jones (Brunswick, Ga.) will punt and Modesto Cruz (Gainsville, Ga.) will kick off and place kick. Roosevelt Austin (Sauk Centre) is slated for long snap and Trevor Nystrom (St. Cloud Tech) as holder. Kevin Parks (Fountain, Colo.) will return both punts and kickoffs with Eric Hudson (Berkley, Mich.) and Adihia Bell (Milwaukee) also in the mix.
Rob Baumgarn: Head coach (8th year), Offensive Coordinator
Jim Mitteness, Defensive Coordinator
Greg Thorstad, Defensive Backs
Cal Kosminskas, Offensive Line
Joey Clancy, Wide Receivers
Nathanial Sawyer, Running Backs
Aug. 29: Itasca College, 7 p.m.
Sept. 9: vs. Vermilion at Ely, 3 p.m.
Sept. 14: Northland College, 2 p.m.
Sept. 21: Fergus Falls (Homecoming) 6 p.m.
Sept. 28: vs. Minnesota West at Worthington, 1:30 p.m.
Oct. 5: vs. Fond du Lac at Cloquet, 6 p.m.
Oct. 12: Rochester, 1:30 p.m.
Oct. 19: vs. Central Lakes at Brainerd, 1:30 p.m.
Oct. 26: Playoffs, quarterfinals