The 2011 Northern Michigan football team looks to bounce back after a 5-6 finish a season ago. The ‘Cats started the season winning three of their first four games. Close losses and injuries set back team goals. NMU looks to climb back up the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference rankings as 31 lettermen return including 13 starters.
NMU will run the spread offense for the second year and have four-year starting quarterback Carter Kopach under center. Kopach has played in 26 games as a Wildcat and is itching to get the season underway after a shortened 2010 campaign and no spring ball due to injury. He was twice named GLIAC player of the week before his season ended. Kopach has thrown for over 1,000 yards in each of the last three seasons and has 31 touchdowns in the air. The 6-0 senior also rushed for over 500 yards and 14 touchdowns on the ground. Junior transfer Cody Scepaniak and redshirt freshman Gerritt Mortensen will work along-side freshman Ryan Morley to round out the depth at quarterback.
The backfield will be led by senior running back Jon Privitelli who was named GLIAC honorable mention last season after rushing for 693 yards and five touchdowns in his first season at NMU. Casey Cotta and Nick Awrey will compete for the backup.
Jared Buss, Brett Parrett and Trevor Kruzel play fullback and tight end but turn into h-backs in the spread offense to block and pass protect.
Sophomore Christian Marble will be the go-to receiver and will lead the young receiving core. Marble caught 27 balls for 299 yards and a touchdown in 2010. Senior Craig Thompson and sophomore Christian Jessie also return with plenty of experience at the wide out spot. Senior Kyle Senn and freshman Josh McNeil will fill in as backups.
The offensive line is the biggest it’s been during the Bernie Anderson era with an average of 312 pounds. Three-year starter Jace Daniels and sophomore James Bester will anchor the tackle sports. Chad Anderson (so.), Nate Linsmeier (sr.) and Pat Fehlberg (so.) will be at the guard positions. Chad Pepper (so.) and Brad Kaatz (rfr.) will add depth as freshmen Kyle Steuck and Ken Kalish compete for time as well.
The NMU defense last year was spectacular, only giving up 16.6 points per game and 253.6 yards per game, ranking it at the top of the GLIAC. Inside linebacker Eddie Knoblock is back for his senior year after being named to the GLIAC first team a year ago. Knoblock led the ‘Cats with 83 tackles and five interceptions.
Also at the linebacker position will be senior Zach Pierson who had nine tackles for loss and five sacks. Josh Droese and Robert Edmonds also bring a wealth of experience at the position.
All-conference tackle Zach Anderson returns for his junior year after having 60 tackles, 12 tackles for loss and five and a half sacks a year ago. Seniors Matt Forward, Tony Propson and Anthony Echols all bring plenty of experience to the defensive line
The secondary loses two-of-four starters and replaces them with young but strong talent. Senior Marcus Tribble has the ability to play both zone coverage and the length and agility to play man-to-man. Senior Junior Michel is the other returner.
Junior Rockne Belmonte returns as the kicker. He has made 16 field goals in his career with his longest from 51 yards. Garrett Peck returns as the punter for the ‘Cats. Peck averaged 39.8 yards per punt in 2010.
NMU plays 11 games this year. Six games will be in the Superior Dome, including its lone non-conference game against Minnesota State-Mankato. Northwood comes to town in September, Wayne State will be on Homecoming and the reunion of the 1981 team, Grand Valley will be on Family Weekend, Tiffin will be on Band Day and the ‘Cats host Michigan Tech after a two-year hiatus from the Dome on the final day of the regular season on Senior Day for the rights to the Miners Cup.
Away games slated for 2011 are at Findlay, Ashland, Ferris State, Indianapolis and Saginaw Valley State.
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