Football 2011 Season Preview: Offense and Special Teams Seek Improvement
/>/>- A year ago
the Concordia/> University/>/> Wisconsin/> football team struggled
offensively, never establishing an identity on that side of the
football. This is a new season and with that comes the renewed
sense of determination to compliment an already established defense
with quality performances, individually and as a unit.
"I believe the most effective way to win football games is to play great defense and control the football on offense," said head coach Greg Etter. "We are going to run the football, run the football, and then run the football some more. It might not be a pretty style of offense, but it has been successful around the country, and that will be our personality."
The Falcons stayed true to form as the season progressed last year running the football nearly 50 times in three of their last four games. Honorable Mention All-Northern Athletics Conference performer Carlton Austin (Kingsford, Heights, Ind.) returns for his junior season after leading CUW with 415 yards on 113 attempts (3.5 average). Senior Matt Gould (Prattville/>, Ala./>/>) and sophomore Joe Paul (West Bend/>, Wis./>/>) return to comprise a three-headed backfield attack.
A team can't run the football - or for that matter throw the ball - without a quality and cohesive offensive line leading the way. The Falcons return a group that includes senior Alex Lawton (Hinsdale/>, Ill./>/>), senior Matthew Laabs (Manitowoc/>, Wis./>/>), sophomore Wil Goodman (Waukesha/>, Wis./>/>), and sophomore Cody Freeman (Wauconda/>, Ill./>/>). Although just sophomores, Goodman and Freeman combined for nine starts last year, and the off-season leadership and work ethic of this four-man group has been praised by Etter. If this contingent stays healthy and gels early, the foundation will be laid for a solid season up front.
While Etter's formula for winning games is running the ball, the signal caller is unquestionably the most important position on the offensive side of the ball. Junior Patrick Czerwiek (Norridge/>, Ill./>/>) returns for his second full season under center. The 6-foot, right hander threw for 899 yards and four touchdowns in 2010.
Last year, Czerwiek completed 13-of-30 passes for two touchdowns against Concordia University Chicago, and Etter feels his confidence will grow under the direction of new offensive coordinator Henny Hiemenz. He brings a pro-style offense that features an inside-outside zone running scheme and a play-action passing game.
Hiemenz joins the staff after five seasons as the head coach at Carroll/> University/>/> (Waukesha/>, Wis./>/>) where he led the Pioneers to a 28-22 record. During his time as leader of the program he coached 72 All-Midwest Conference performers and 52 All-Academic student-athletes. Hiemenz twice finished with seven victories, tying the program record for wins in a season.
Czerwiek will be throwing to a receiving group that is green and filled with potential. Senior Vincent Greefkes (Jackson, Wis.) returns as the most experienced wide receiver, having led the Falcons last year with 469 all-purpose yards - 208 kickoff return, 150 receiving, and 105 punt returns, six rushing.
Having an offense that can put points on the board is important, however special teams is a third of the overall game and often overlooked.
"We want to win football games because of special teams," Etter said. "I want our people to know that we spend a lot of time game planning and practicing special teams. There are a lot of intricacies involved with defending punt and kick coverages, returning the ball, and kicking PATs and field goals. Even though there are only a few plays during a game, they are very important in the overall scheme of things."
Senior Bobby May (Palm Beach/>, Fla./>/>) has a leg up in the punting competition after being named Second Team All-NAC last year, averaging 35.6 yards on 63 punts. Sophomore Peter Morton (Albany/>, Ga./>/>) is the most experienced kicker on the roster having kicked in junior varsity contests.
As the football team reports to camp in one week - 66 returners, plus an estimated 57 in-coming freshman - Etter isn't penciling anyone into a starting role.
"All of our positions are up for grabs," Etter said. "I want the best players in my system to play, end of discussion. I want to win now. These guys work hard, which was evident by the offseason conditioning program numbers. I want to win now, so they see some rewards for the efforts, beliefs, and hard work they have given to this program."
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