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Dutch picked third in league preseason football poll

Football | Aug. 21, 2013

CEDAR RAPIDS-The Central College football team was picked to finish in third place in the Iowa Conference preseason poll, voted on by league coaches. The Dutch finished tied for second last season, but return 19 starters and 44 letterwinners. Central was one of three teams to receive a first-place vote in this year's poll.

Preview by Josh Schroeder, Iowa Conference director of information:

Defending league champion Coe College, which captured its first outright title and fourth crown overall last season is the favorite to capture the 2013 Iowa Conference football title. The Kohawks received six of seven possible first-place votes (coaches are not allowed to rank their own team) for a total of 54 points. Wartburg College did not receive a first-place vote but was named second of seven ballots and is second in the Preseason Poll with 47 points.
Central College sits third with 43 points, followed by University of Dubuque (37 points) and Simpson College (36). The Storm and Dutch split the two remaining first-place votes. The complete 2013 IIAC football coaches' poll follows:

Rank  School (1st place votes)     Points    2012 Record
   1       Coe (6)                                       54        10-1, 7-0 IIAC
   2       Wartburg                                    47          6-4, 4-3 IIAC
   3       Central (1)                                 43          5-5, 4-3 IIAC
   4       Dubuque                                   37          5-5, 4-3 IIAC
   5       Simpson (1)                             36          6-4, 4-3 IIAC
   6       Buena Vista                              29          4-6, 4-3 IIAC
   7       Loras                                         18          2-8, 1-6 IIAC
   8       Luther                                        16         0-10, 0-7 IIAC 

Preseason National Polls:  Defending Conference Champion Coe is ranked 20th by The Sporting News and 21st by, while Central was picked 17th by Lindy's.
Preseason All-Americans:  Four Iowa Conference players have been named to preseason All-America teams. Coe senior offensive lineman Nathan Yelton was a first-team pick by, The Sporting News, Lindy's and USA College Football and a second-teamer by Beyond Sports Network (BSN) and Cutting Edge Sports Management. Simpson senior wide receiver/kick returner Brad Vogel received first-team honors from Lindy's as a return specialist and Cutting Edge Sports Management as a wide receiver, second-team honors from (RET) and USA College Football (WR) and third-team honors from BSN (WR). Central junior placekicker Kevin Sheldon was named to the USA College Football preseason second team and the BSN third team. Wartburg senior linebacker Ryan Billings was a second-team pick by lower-tier outlets USA College Football and BSN.
New Faces:  The Iowa Conference has one new head coach – Aaron Hafner at Luther. Hafner spent the last seven seasons as the offensive coordinator and offensive line coach at William Penn University, helping lead the Statesmen to two Mid-States Football Association-Midwest League titles and a berth in the 2012 NAIA playoffs. His offense was ranked in the top-five nationally from 2008-2012, setting the William Penn single-season rushing mark of 4,476 yards in 2010. This is his first collegiate head coaching position.
Season Openers: Loras kicks off the 2013 season at Elmhurst on Thursday, September 5. The seven remaining Iowa Conference schools open up on Saturday, September 7. Simpson hosts Iowa Wesleyan, Central hosts Wisconsin-Oshkosh, Coe travels to Monmouth (Ill.), Wartburg is at MacMurray, Luther treks to Presentation (S.D.) and Buena Vista is at Wisconsin-Platteville for 1 p.m. kickoffs. Dubuque closes out the weekend with a 6 p.m. game under the lights at Wisconsin-La Crosse. The 2013 Iowa Conference season begins October 5 with four games – Simpson at Wartburg, Loras at Luther, Central at Dubuque and Coe at Buena Vista.

Team-By-Team Preview:  A brief preview for each Iowa Conference team follows.

Buena Vista University Beavers
Head Coach: Jay Anderson (Eighth year at Buena Vista, 29-41 overall [7 years])
2012 Record: 4-6 overall, 4-3 IIAC (tie-second)
Starters Returning/Lost:  5/6 offense, 7/4 defense, 2/1 special teams
Letterwinners Returning/Lost:  24/15
Iowa Conference Titles (Last): 4 (1978)
NCAA Playoff Appearances (Last/Result): 2 (1986; lost to Central 37-0 in first round)

Buena Vista returns 14 starters and 24 letter winners from last season’s 4-6 team that finished in a five-way for second in the Conference with a 4-3 record. The Beavers will be looking for improvement from a unit that ranked seventh in the league in total offense at 292.0 yards per game. A key will be the play of the offensive line where three starters from 2012 return.

The Beavers also graduated a pair of all-conference skill players but have experience back at the quarterback position in the form of senior quarterback Bobby Brown. Brown completed 125 of 273 passes last year for 1,704 yards with 11 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. He ranked sixth in passing average and total offense (174.6 ypg) and 10th in pass efficiency (99.1). A top target will be sophomore wide receiver Jalen Henningsen. Henningsen caught only nine passes a year ago, but ranked third on the team with 259 yards after averaging a team-high 28.8 yards per grab. That average was helped by a 93-yard touchdown catch against Luther.

Junior running back Dylan Barrett is the Beavers’ top returning rusher. Barrett ran for 504 yards and eight touchdowns, averaging 7.3 yards per carry and ranking eighth in the league in yards per game. He surpassed 100 yards twice, including a 181-yard total at Loras on October 20 that ranked third for a single game in the IIAC last season. Barrett also caught four passes last season, one for a touchdown. He was also the team’s top kick returner last season, averaging 22.5 yards per kick return and led the Beavers in all-purpose yards at 101.6 yards per game, ranking second in kick return average and sixth in all-purpose yardage.

The Beavers will be looking for improvement from a defensive unit that ranked eighth in the league in total defense at 456.9 yards per game. Defensively, Buena Vista will be led by a trio of seniors. Senior linebacker Brady Randall was second on the team and the IIAC in tackles with 114, fourth in the league with a team-high 6.5 sacks and eighth in the conference with a team-high 11 tackles for loss, adding two pass break-ups, two fumble recoveries and a forced fumble. He also tied for fourth in the league in sacks and was eighth in tackles for loss. Senior defensive end TJ Bruch, a 2012 second-team all-conference pick, will anchor the defensive line after posting 40 tackles, 8.0 tackles for loss, 2.0 sacks and one forced fumble.

In the defensive backfield, senior free safety Mason Nielsen leads the way. A second team all-IIAC selection in 2011, Nielsen tied for fifth on the team with 50 tackles, recovered one fumble, intercepted two passes and broke up a team-high 10 passes, ranking second in the league in passed defended. Nielsen will also figure in on special teams where he returned 19 kickoffs for 348 yards, an average of 18.3 yards per return.

Bruch also served as BVU’s punter last season, averaging 37.7 yards per attempt with a long of 67 yards. He also had five punts of 50 yards or more and dropped 13 inside his opponents’ 20-yard line. His average ranked second in the league.

Buena Vista head coach Jay Anderson says, “We are looking forward to building off a strong finish in 2012. The IIAC season should be exciting with several potential conference contenders."

Central College Dutch
Head Coach: Jeff McMartin (10th year at Central, 73-23 overall [9 years])
2012 Record: 5-5 overall, 4-3 IIAC (tie-second)
Starters Returning/Lost:  7/4 offense, 8/3 defense, 4/0 special teams
Letterwinners Returning/Lost:  44/20
Iowa Conference Titles (Last): 30 (2009)
NCAA Playoff Appearances (Last/Result): 20 (2009; lost to Mary Hardin-Baylor 42-40 in first round)

Central returns 19 starters and 44 letter winners from last season’s 5-5 team that tied for second place in the Iowa Conference with a 4-3 record. The 2012 Dutch offense ranked second in the IIAC in rushing offense at 187.1 yards per game. Junior running back Josh Osborn was Central’s leader in all-purpose yards last season, averaging 96.7 yards per game. He ranked second on the team in rushing with 548 yards and two touchdowns while also hauling in 17 passes for 158 yards and a 9.3 yard-per-game average. Osborn was also one of Central’s top kick returners, averaging 23.7 yards over 11 returns. He ranked seventh in the IIAC in rushing and all-purpose yards (96.7 ypg). Senior left tackle Travis Hook anchors an offensive line that returns three starters.

The Dutch also return five of their top six receivers from a year ago, led by sophomore Brandon Boerm, who caught a team-high 34 passes for 364 yards and a touchdown. He also ran for 137 yards and three touchdowns, led the team in both punt returns (nine for 43 yards) and kickoff returns (16 for 332 yards) and spent some time at quarterback while finishing second on the team in all-purpose yards (86.1 yards per game). Providing leadership in the receiving corps will be senior Grant McArdle. In eight games, McArdle caught 15 passes for 237 yards and two touchdowns.

Central will be led defensively in 2013 by senior linebackers Keith Rush and Michael Young. Rush, a first team all-IIAC linebacker in 2011 who missed last season with an injury, led the Dutch in 2011 with 79 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss and 7.0 sacks. Young, who was a second-team all-IIAC pick last season, was Central’s leading tackler last season with 79 stops, a team-high 12.0 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks and three pass break-ups. He ranked sixth in the league in tackles and fourth in tackles for loss.

Up front, Central returns defensive tackle Danny Samson. Samson, a senior who picked up first-team all-league honors in 2012, made 42 tackles last season, 11.5 for loss and a team-high 5.5 sacks. He also forced one fumble and broke up one pass. He ranked sixth in the league in sacks. Senior defensive back Jacob Edelman picked off a league-high six passes and made 57 tackles in nine games last year. He ranked 18th in the IIAC averaging 6.3 tackles per game.

Junior Eric Larson will anchor the defensive backfield. Larson, a second-team all-conference pick, made 27 tackles, including one for loss, intercepted three passes, broke up two others and forced a fumble. Also back is senior Jason Breon, who played in three games last season before being lost with an injury. He made 11 tackles (1.0 for loss) last season, but in 2011 made 36 tackles, including 1.0 for loss, broke up three passes and recovered a fumble.

Placekicker Kevin Sheldon earned first team all-conference honors for the second year in a row after ranking fifth in the IIAC (and first among kickers) in points scored. He converted 25 of 25 PATs and was 12-of-17 on field goals for 61 points.

Central head coach Jeff McMartin says, “This will be an exciting year in the Iowa Conference. We gained experience last fall and we will need to use that development this season. It will be fun to watch this team compete.”

Coe College Kohawks 
Head Coach: Steve Staker (Sixth year at Coe, 39-15 overall [5 years])
2012 Record: 10-1, 7-0 IIAC (champion)
Starters Returning/Lost:  3/8 offense, 4/7 defense, 2/0 special teams
Letterwinners Returning/Lost:  36/21
Iowa Conference Titles (Last): 4 (2012)
NCAA Playoff Appearances (Last/Result): 8 (2012; lost to Elmhurst 27-24 in first round)

Coe returns nine starters and 36 letter winners from last season’s 10-1 team that won the Iowa Conference title with an unblemished 7-0 record. There has been significant turnover on both sides of the ball, however, meaning that a much different team will take the field in 2013 than the team that led the IIAC in scoring offense, scoring defense, total offense, rushing offense and pass efficiency and ranked second in total defense, rushing defense and pass defense.

Senior all-American lineman Nathan Yelton, a two-time first-team all-IIAC selection, anchors an offensive line that allowed a league-low 11 sacks last season and created avenues that allowed Coe to post 211.6 yards per game on the ground and 34 touchdowns. Yelton and Company will be making holes for senior running bank Gage Mohs. Mohs ranked second on the team last year in rushing with 555 yards and seven touchdowns. He also caught seven passes for 103 yards. Mohs posted the IIAC’s fifth-best rushing performance in 2012 with 173 yards in the opener against Monmouth (Ill.)

Behind center, the Kohawks will need to find a replacement for Jared McNutt, who completed 68.9 percent of his passes last season. Assisting in the transition to a new signal caller will be senior tight end Chase Cooling. Cooling hauled in nine passes for 179 yards and a touchdown.

Defensively, the Kohawks will need to replace the team’s top four tacklers from a year ago, including all-Americans Frank Weymiller and Demetreus Johnson. Leading the charge up front will be senior defensive tackle Mitch Montgomery. Montgomery, a 2012 second team all-IIAC honoree, ranked sixth on the team with 48 tackles and third in tackles for loss with 8.0. He also registered 2.5 sacks, intercepted one pass, broke up three others, forced a fumble and recovered two.

Behind Montgomery will be linebackers Gaetano Tarantino and Dylan Youel. Tarantino, a junior, was fifth on the team in tackles with 51, including 4.0 tackles for loss and 2.0 sacks. He also broke up three passes, forced one fumble and recovered two. Youel posted 36 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, 0.5 sacks, one pass break-up and a fumble recovery.

Seniors Antoine Allen-Jackson and Jordan Atwater both return to patrol the defensive backfield. Allen-Jackson, a second team all-league pick, made 45 stops, including three for loss, with an interception, seven pass break-ups, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and a blocked kick. Atwater had 44 tackles, 2.0 for loss, an interception, broke up an additional pass and two fumble recoveries.

On special teams, senior placekicker Wes Anderson, a second-team all-league pick, returns after converting 45 of 51 extra points and 5 of 7 field goal attempts. Cooling, a two-time all-IIAC honorable mention selection, returns as Coe’s punter. He averaged 33.0 yards on 47 punts, dropping 18 inside the opponents’ 20-yard line.

Coe head coach Steve Staker says, “The conference race will once again be very competitive, so to predict a favorite is next to impossible. The Kohawks have graduated many key players from last year so our success will hinge on the development and performance of many new faces. Our strength will be in the offensive line led by senior all-American guard Nathan Yelton and four returning starters. Defense took the biggest hit losing four first-team all-conference players, two of whom were all-Americans. New faces will appear along with a few who had limited, but quality, varsity time last year. We do have high expectations, however.”

University of Dubuque Spartans
Head Coach: Stan Zweifel (Fifth year at Dubuque, 55-44-2 overall [10 years])
2012 Record: 5-5 overall, 4-3 IIAC (tie-second)
Starters Returning/Lost:  12/3 offense, 7/4 defense, 2/0 special teams
Letterwinners Returning/Lost:  45/19
Iowa Conference Titles (Last):  7 (2011)
NCAA Playoff Appearances (Last/Result):  3 (2011; lost to North Central [Ill.], 59-13, in first round)

Dubuque returns 19 starters and 45 letter winners from last year’s 5-5 squad that finished in a five-way tie for second with a 4-3 mark. The Spartans’ offense returns starters at eight positions but will need to replace quarterback Wyatt Hanus, who was the league’s top passer a year ago. Running back Kyle Acker will carry much of the load as a new quarterback gets settled in. Acker led the Spartans in rushing last season with 993 yards and eight touchdowns, an average of 4.5 yards per rush. He ranked third in the IIAC in rushing, fourth in all-purpose yards (1,037), eighth in scoring (48) and also had six 100-yard games a year ago.

Through the air, Dubuque returns wide receivers Sean Anderson and Tyler Rutenbeck. Anderson, named all-IIAC honorable mention by the coaches in 2012, ranked second on the team with 68 catches for a team-high 835 yards and five touchdowns. He was also the team’s top punt returner, averaging 6.8 yards per return. Rutenbeck played in only eight games but had 28 catches for 520 yards and a team-high nine touchdowns. His breakout game came against Simpson on October 27 with eight catches for 190 yards and a league season-high four touchdowns. The yardage total ranked fourth-best for an IIAC receiver in 2011. Anderson ranked fourth and Rutenbeck sixth in the IIAC in receiving yards per game, while Anderson tied for third in receptions per game. Rutenbeck ranked third in the league in scoring.

The offensive line will be anchored by senior guard Austin Hatzinger. The Spartans ranked in the top 30 in Division III in passing offense (14th, 318.50 ypg), passing efficiency (24th, 152.88) and total offense (27th, 456.10 ypg).

Seven starters return from a Spartans defense that ranked first in the league against the pass (191.8 ypg), sixth against the run (184.1 ypg) and fifth overall (375.9 ypg). Leading the group in the trenches will be defensive lineman Ryan Arnold. Arnold posted 23 tackles, including 5.0 for loss and 1.5 sacks. He also broke up one pass and blocked a kick.

Free safety Vinny Whipple and defensive back Dylan Ramsey will play a significant role in the defensive backfield. Whipple ranked second on the team with 71 tackles, 2.5 for loss and 1.0 sacks. He also intercepted a team-high-tying four passes and broke up three others. Whipple ranked second in the league in interceptions, seventh in tackles and ninth in passes defended. Ramsey, another all-league honorable mention, ranked fourth on the team with 57 tackles with 1.0 for loss. He also broke up a team-high 10 passes and blocked a kick and tied for second among league players in passes defended (10).

Dubuque head coach Stan Zweifel says, "It will be a great year in the IIAC. There are many teams capable of winning the league. It may come down to who stays healthy. UD will look forward to being competitive this season.”

Loras College Duhawks
Head Coach: Paul Mierkiewicz (Third year at Loras, 68-58 overall [12 years])
2012 Record: 2-8 overall, 1-6 IIAC (seventh)
Starters Returning/Lost:  5/6 offense, 4/7 defense, 1/3 special teams
Letterwinners Returning/Lost:  41/26
Iowa Conference Titles (Last): 0 (n/a)
NCAA Playoff Appearances (Last/Result): 0 (n/a)

Loras returns 10 starters and 41 letter winners from last season’s 2-8 team that finished seventh in the Conference with a 1-6 record. The Duhawks return five starters on offense, including first-team all-Iowa Conference running back Nate Carrier. Carrier, the league’s top rusher, ran for 1,210 yards and five touchdowns in only nine games as a freshman, averaging 5.4 yards per carry. He posted seven 100-yard rushing games, including the only two 200-plus yard games of the year highlighted by a 226-yard performance against Buena Vista. Carrier also ranked third in the IIAC in all-purpose yards (139.4 ypg) and eighth in total offense (134.4 ypg). He also caught seven passes for 45 yards.

Senior Dylan Jones will be directing the offense for a second year. In 2012, he completed 44.9 percent (101-of-225) of his passes for 1,363 yards and eight touchdowns to rank eighth in the IIAC in passing average (136.3 ypg) and ninth in total offense (126.2 ypg). Protecting Carrier and Jones in the backfield will be senior fullback Kyle Bergquist. Bergquist played in all 10 games last season, carrying the ball once and hauling in five passes. Junior Nate Even was the Duhawks’ top receiver a year ago. He hauled in 31 passes for 388 yards and two touchdowns. Even also returned nine kickoffs for 124 yards, averaging 13.8 yards per return.

Senior Dan Murray is the lone returning member of the Loras offensive line and the efforts of the Duhawks offense may be determined in large part by how quickly a new starting front can come together.

On defense, senior defensive backs Mike Cannevello and Dave Pirkle lead the way for a unit that ranked fourth in the IIAC last year in pass defense. Cannevello ranked second on the team and 14th in the IIAC with 69 tackles with 2.5 for loss. He also intercepted a team-leading two passes and broke up another. Pirkle, an all-IIAC honorable mention last year, was third with 53 stops. He also intercepted a pass and broke up five others.

Sophomore Logan Kuehl will lead the linebacking corps. As a freshman in 2012, he ranked fourth on the team in tackles with 47 while also recording 1.5 tackles for loss, 1.0 sacks and recovering one fumble. Up front, senior defensive lineman Will Tumberger returns. He accounted for 17 tackles, 1.0 sack and two forced fumbles.

Loras head coach Paul Mierkiewicz says, “I expect our team to continue to get better each day. We still have some work to do but we have come a long way and I like the direction we are going.”

This league is always very tough and usually the team that can stay healthy has the best chance to be successful.”

Luther College Norse
Head Coach:
 Aaron Hafner (First year at Luther, 0-0 overall [first year])
2012 Record: 0-10 overall, 0-7 (eighth)
Starters Returning/Lost: 3/8 offense, 6/5 defense, 1/1 special teams
Letterwinners Returning/Lost: 32/23
Iowa Conference Titles (Last): 11 (1978)
NCAA Postseason Appearances (Last/Result): 2 (1970; to Capital [Ohio] 34-21 in Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl) 

Luther returns 10 starters and 32 letter winners from last season’s 0-10 team that finished eighth in the Conference with an 0-7 record. The Norse return six starters on defense but only two of the top six tacklers from 2012. The strength of the unit will be in the defensive backfield where three starters – all seniors – return. Rich Vickers, who ranked fourth on the team with 70 tackles, is the team’s top returning tackler. Vickers, who ranked 12th in the conference in tackles, also contributed 1.5 tackles for loss, 1.0 sacks, one fumble recovery and six pass break-ups.

Vickers will be joined by Robby Jewell and Alex Peterson. Peterson posted 44 stops, 1.5 for loss, intercepted two passes and broke up another pass. Jewell made 38 tackles including 1.0 for loss while posting team-highs with three interceptions and nine pass break-ups.

Up front, senior Colin White anchors the line. White posted 55 tackles with 8.5 for loss and 1.5 sacks, ranking 15th in the conference in tackles for loss. He also recovered a fumble.

Luther’s starting offensive unit was decimated by graduation, with only three regulars returning. Up front, seniors Andrew Turnacliff and Andrew Waites and junior Alex Ockenfels are back for a squad that ranked fifth in the IIAC in pass offense at 188.5 yards per game. The trio will look to improve on the league-high 31 sacks allowed by last year’s group.

Having lost all but one of its starting skill position players, the Norse will rely on senior wide receivers Matt Jaronik and Jake Schwalbach to carry much of the load, at least early on. Jaronik led the Norse in receptions (48) and receiving yards (494) and scored three touchdowns. He ranked sixth in the IIAC in receptions per game. Schwalbach will look to step in and contribute in 2012 after catching one pass for six yards last season.

On special teams, junior return specialist J.J. Sirios and senior long snapper Stuart Dybdahl return. Sirios led the team in punt returns with 16 for 92 yards. He also returned one kick 14 yards and posted 35 tackles, intercepted two passes and broke up four others for the Norse.

Luther head coach Aaron Hafner says, "We will be installing a new offensive and defensive scheme in 2013. It will be important that our team improves throughout our season in preparation for a very competitive Iowa Conference schedule.

“The Iowa Conference has many good teams. Coe has a very solid group of players returning, so they will continue to be the favorites. The rest of the conference will be extremely competitive with many teams challenging for that top position.”

Simpson College Storm
Head Coach: Jim Glogowski (Sixth year at Simpson, 23-27 overall [5 years])

2012 Record: 6-4 overall, 4-3 IIAC (tie-second)
Starters Returning/Lost:  5/6 offense, 4/7 defense, 2/0 special teams
Letterwinners Returning/Lost:  33/29
Iowa Conference Titles (Last): 12 (1997)
NCAA Playoff Appearances (Last/Result): 6 (2003; lost to St. Norbert 26-20 [2OT] in first round)

Simpson returns 11 starters and 33 letter winners from last season’s 6-4 team that finished in a five-way tie for second place in the Conference with a 4-3 record. The Storm return an experienced set of skill players on offense, but will need to fill a couple of holes up front to start the season. Senior quarterback Taylor Nelson was named to the all-IIAC second team for the second year in a row after throwing for 3,034 yards and 25 touchdowns. He also had a school-record 252 completions last season, breaking his own record from 2011 (246). Nelson tied Dubuque’s Wyatt Hanus with six 300-yard passing games, including the top two marks of 2012 – 441 yards against Gustavus Adolphus on September 8 and 439 yards against Wartburg on September 29. A dual threat, Nelson also ran the ball 110 times – one-third of Simpson’s overall carries last season – for 214 yards and six touchdowns. He led the league in total offense, averaging 324.4 yards per game.

When he chooses to give up the ball, Nelson has the services of a couple players who have drawn the eyes of the league’s coaches in the past. Senior wide receiver/return specialist Brad Vogel, a two-time first-teamer as a return specialist who also received second team honors as a receiver last season, caught 81 passes for 1,116 yards and 10 touchdowns, all team-highs. He also ran the ball 12 times for 165 yards and a touchdown. In the return game, he took back 11 punts for 104 yards (9.5 ypr) and returned 32 kickoffs for 818 yards (25.6 ypr), including the opening kickoff against Eureka 93 yards for a touchdown. Vogel led the IIAC in receptions, receiving yards, kick return average, all-purpose yards (220.3 ypg) and ranked second in scoring (7.4 ppg).

Senior wide receiver Mike Kuhn ranked third on the team with 21 receptions for 259 yards. He also returned a pair of punts and five kickoffs, averaging 10.5 and 22.6 yards per attempt, respectively.

Senior right tackle Patrick Thompson started all 10 games last season and earned second team all-conference honors after helping anchor the conference’s second-ranked passing attack. He was part of an offensive line that allowed a league-low 11 sacks in conference play.

Defensively, Simpson lost its top six tacklers from last season. The strength may be on the line where starters Johnnie Sims and David Adams return. Sims, a junior who received all-IIAC honorable mention last season, is the team’s top returning tackler. He ranked seventh on the team a year ago with 34 tackles, was second with 10.5 sacks and tied for the team lead with 7.0 sacks. He also blocked a kick. Sims tied for second in the conference in sacks and ninth in tackles for loss. Adams, a senior, ranked eighth with 33 tackles, including 6.5 for loss and 4.5 sacks, while also breaking up a pass and recovering a fumble. He ranked 10th in the league in sacks. The pair will be joined up front by junior Clay Finley, who had 22 tackles, 6.0 for loss, 3.0 sacks and a fumble recovery.

The Storm linebacking corps will be led by senior Ted Haag. Haag played in eight games last season, starting the last two. He finished the year with 32 tackles and 2.0 for loss. In the defensive backfield, Corey Sterling appeared in nine of 10 games, making six starts at cornerback. He finished with 24 total tackles and one pass break-up.

Simpson head coach Jim Glogowski says, “I am looking forward to working with this year’s group. We have a senior class that has a lot of potential. The league race is wide open – consistency week-in and week-out will be the key. It should be an exciting year.”

Wartburg College Knights
Head Coach: Rick Wills (15th year at Wartburg, 119-31 overall [14 years])

2012 Record: 6-4 overall, 4-3 IIAC (tie-second)
Starters Returning/Lost:  5/6 offense, 6/5 defense, 2/0 special teams
Letterwinners Returning/Lost:  27/16
Iowa Conference Titles (Last): 12 (2010)
NCAA Playoff Appearances (Last/Result): 9 (2010; lost to Bethel [Minn.] 28-20 in first round)

Wartburg returns 13 starters and 27 letter winners from last season’s 6-4 team that tied for second in the Conference with a 4-3 record. The Knights offense will be led by a pair of sophomores – quarterback Logan Schrader and running back Brandon Domeyer.

Schrader started nine games last year completing 146 of 240 passes for 1,892 yards and 11 touchdowns. He also ranked fourth on the team in rushing with 245 yards on 99 carries with a touchdown. Schrader ranked third in the IIAC in total offense (237.4 ypg) and fourth in passing yardage (210.2 ypg). Domeyer was the team’s second leading rusher with 353 yards on 72 attempts with four touchdowns. He also caught 19 passes for 215 yards.

Junior offensive lineman Chris Brinkmeier returns to the line for a squad that ranked in the top half of the league in all four offensive categories – scoring offense (3rd, 30.9 ppg), total offense (4th, 399.9 ypg), rushing offense (180.8 ypg) and pass offense (219.1 ypg).

Last year, Wartburg has the top ranked total defense (280.9 ypg) and rushing defense (62.0), had the second-best scoring defense (17.9 ppg) and was fourth against the pass (219.1 ypg). The squad posted a league-high 33 sacks. Senior linebacker Ryan Billings, a first-team all-IIAC pick last year, led the team with 81 tackles, including 19.0 for loss and 5.0 sacks. He also intercepted one pass, forced two fumbles and recovered two fumbles. Billings led the IIAC in tackles for loss, ranked fifth in tackles and seventh in sacks.

Senior defensive lineman Ben Bentil, an all-IIAC honorable mention last year, recorded 26 stops, 11.0 for loss and 4.5 sacks. Bentil also forced one fumble and recovered one. He ranked seventh in the league in tackles for loss and ninth in sacks. Junior defensive back Spencer Capitani ranked sixth on the team in tackles with 52, including 5.5 for loss and 3.5 sacks. He also tied for the team lead with three interceptions, broke up five other passes and forced a fumble. Capitani tied for seventh in the IIAC in passes defended and tied for 15th in sacks.

Sophomore punter Grant Zimmerman earned first-team all-conference honors last season after averaging a league-high 38.6 yards per punt last year. He recorded six punts of 50 yards or more and dropped 16 inside his opponents’ 20-yard line.

Wartburg head coach Rick Willis says, “We are excited about our team and anxious to get the season started. We expect the Iowa Conference to be balanced and tough.”

Central College