Going into the 2008 football season the Yellow Jackets are finding out that there is a continuation of many things from a year ago that gave them another Dakota Athletic Conference Championship and many things that are new to the program. “We have great numbers in our seniors that are promoting an example of solid leadership. It has been very evident throughout the spring, summer, and in the first two weeks of fall camp that the seniors are setting the tone for our upcoming season. They have been great examples to our younger guys on what it takes to get back to where we finished a year ago” said Head Coach John Scott. On paper the Yellow Jackets don’t have the physical brawn they have had in the past few years but nevertheless they will be a very aggressive team.
One of the things that will be different than the past seasons is the Yellow Jackets will be counting on offensive experience rather than developing it throughout the season. The most evident position is at quarterback where sophomore Drew Hodgs has a year under his belt. Last year after a rocky start Hodgs settled into the offense and passed for over 1700 yards. “We are so much further along right now than we were a year ago” said Assistant Coach Jay Long who is in his first year as the offensive coordinator.
Also helping carry the load on offense will be sophomore running back Tanner Ehrlich who was 17 yards short of 1000 yards rushing in 2007. “He gives us a threat to break a big play at anytime” added Coach Long. In addition to Ehrlich, the Yellow Jackets have two veteran running backs in senior James Lemke who was All-Conference in 2006 and sophomore Ryan Palmer. At the fullback position returning starter Clint Nicholes will look to carry most of the responsibilities along with sophomore Mike Jager who is returning after a medical redshirt year.
The Yellow Jackets will also have a group of experienced wide receivers with seniors Joe Beehler, Justin Kloppel, Josh Redden, and transfer Jamie January. Two-year returning starter junior Corey Wheeler will also assume a big role in the offensive passing game.
The offensive line will return the most experience Coach Long has ever had up front and the group doesn’t include one senior. The
offensive line is led by juniors Josh Breske, Jason Boeding, and Cody Geffre who have started together for the past two seasons. Sophomores Kale Deminck and Tom Owsiany will look to fill the void of losing two seniors. Both Deminck and Owsiany saw time a year ago. “Depth may play an issue because our backups will be true freshman” said Coach Long.
Going into 2008 Coach Long feels that the tight ends will carry the least amount of experience on the offensive side of the ball. Senior Cliff Bryan and sophomore Matt Gottlob will be heading into their first year of playing a major role. Bryan saw some time as a backup in 2007.
The defense will be under the direction of Assistant Coach Pat Fackrell who is entering his sixth season on Coach Scott’s staff. The defensive unit will return 1st Team All-Conference junior Wacey Coleman who played a major role in helping the Yellow Jackets earn a #1 conference ranking in 2007. The defensive line is looking to replace All-Conference nose tackle Rodney Wasche and defensive end Andy Seamann. Seniors Kyle King and John Crosswait will compete at nose tackle to replace Wasche. Seniors Talon Tucker and Justin Thorpe plus sophomore Clay Smith are all competing to replace Seamann.
“Our most experienced group returning on defense is the linebackers which will be anchored by senior Tyler Tetrault who was All-Conference in 2007. Junior Sean Sweet and sophomore Richard Fairhead both saw action a year ago for us and both will help in assisting Tetrault at linebacker” said Coach Fackrell. Senior Josh Fundis, junior Nick Prather, sophomores Chris Opitz and Tom Tripp plus freshman Michael Kreitman will all compete for action at linebacker in 2008.
The defensive back unit returns seniors Tony Dill and Dustin Dooley who return experience from the 2007 season. Junior Darrell Neiman has had an excellent camp and is competing for a starting position. Juniors Josh Wood and Clayton Schleusner, and freshman Tyler Robinson are also competing for starting positions.
“We are looking to replace a majority of the special teams unit from a year ago. We have been trying to find consistency through several fundamental special teams drills so far in camp” said Assistant Coach Jeff Larson who is entering his first year as the Special Teams Coordinator. Sophomore Micah Nielsen will take on all kicking duties, sophomore Tanner Ehrlich and freshman Trey Masterson are competing for punter. Freshman Brady Weischedel and junior Jason Boeding are battling for long snapping duties while senior Kyle King has really looked good so far in camp as the short snapper. “We have a strong group competing for both kick returning and punt returning spots. Darrell Neiman, Jamie January, Joe Beehler, and Ryan Palmer will all battle for those two spots” added Coach Larson.
The Yellow Jackets will open up on the road at Southwest Minnesota State University on September 6th at 4:00PM CST. They will then return home the following weekend against Northwestern Oklahoma at Lyle Hare Stadium. Kickoff will be at 1:00PM MST.