Bods open against Lopers

Bods open against Lopers

Drew Egnoske

Washburn University football takes the field on Thursday, Aug. 30 against the University of Nebraska-Kearney (UNK) Lopers.  Last year at this time, the Ichabods were armed with an offensive juggernaut, quarterback Dane Simoneau.  WU head coach Craig Schurig then took his team on an amazing run that ended with a 10-3 record, the best in school history.  With a new year comes new faces and the roles that they play will be crucial to the success of the team.

Thursday’s contest will be the first opportunity for Schurig’s team to answer questions that have nagged them all offseason and finally take to the gridiron against a newcomer to the MIAA conference.

The Ichabods went all offseason without a No. 1 at quarterback. Sophomore Mitch Buhler won the quarterback battle that played out between him and fellow sophomore quarterback Joel Piper, but Buhler saw only limited playing time behind Simoneau last season (11-20, 167 yds, 1 TD).  He will have to show early that he is ready to lead an offense that has plenty of weapons for him to throw to including DaJuan Beard, 2011 All-American honorable mention.

But look for UNK to bring some pressure to the unexperience WU offense. UNK’s defense is very talented with 8 starters returning. Expect them to pressure Buhler constantly to see what he is made of.  Defensive tackle Justin Thiel and defensive end Dex Schwieger will look to penetrate the Ichabods offensive line and create havoc in the backfield.

“They’re a good team and they have a lot of experience coming back this year,” said senior left tackle Steve Dieckhaus. “They have a couple of stand outs on the d-line (Thiel and Schwieger)” said Dieckhaus.

Dieckhaus was a 2011 honorable mention All-MIAA and offensive captain. Dieckhaus and the Bods offensive line is equally as talented as the Lopers devensive front and it will be their job to keep Buhler upright in the pocket.

While Buhler is adjusting to the speed of the game, the Ichabods will rely a lot on the run game.  Donnie Lockhart leads a backfield that has just as much to prove as does the new quarterback.  Lockhart is a redshirt freshman who was very talented in high school at the local Shawnee Heights High School where he racked up 1,700 yards and 23 touchdowns as a senior.  His downhill running style will be complemented by junior Hayden Groves and redshirt freshman Kameron Stewart who are more shifty.  All three running backs are very talented.

The offense will need the help of their defense to stop the Lopers. UNK runs a spread offense which requires a defense to be fast and swarm to the ball.  That is exactly what the Bods have.  They will be led by linebackers Jahmil Taylor and Bryce Atagi, both second team All-MIAA selections a year ago. Aric Kaiser, UNK quarterback, is a redshirt freshman and will have to endure the constant barrage by a seasoned defense who returns eight starters.  This group is full of play makers who dominated fall camp.  Nonetheless they are not taking UNK’s potent offense lightly.  

“They’re really good at what they do.  We all have to be assignment sound on the zone read and speed option,” said Atagi. “If one person makes a mistake and doesn’t do their job it could be six.”

Washburn’s secondary will need to prove themselves against the Loper’s spread attack. Because UNK will want to pass the ball, the Bods secondary will need to produce plays.  

If there is one place that the Ichabods defense is suspect it is in the secondary, because they are mostly unproven.  The Bods  return only two starters in their secondary in junior cornerback Devon Connors and sophomore Calvin Kenney who switches back to safety after starting the final eight games at corner.