GLIAC foes take aim at king
David Goricki / The Detroit News
Grand Valley State has been king of the mountain in the GLIAC this decade, winning six conference championships and four national titles (2002, '03, '05 and '06). The Lakers have won four consecutive conference titles and enter the season with a 40-game conference winning streak.
Can anyone in the GLIAC knock Grand Valley State from the top spot?
• Ashland held a 36-21 third-quarter lead last season before Grand Valley State scored 27 straight points to earn a 48-42 victory. Grand Valley State went on to dominate Ashland in the second-round of the D-II playoffs, 40-7.
• Wayne State played Grand Valley State tough in the regular-season finale. The Warriors held a 10-3 third-quarter lead before falling 24-10.
Simply, Grand Valley State has the poise and experience to win close games.
Grand Valley State also is loaded with talent, led by the nucleus of QB Brad Iciek , RB James Berezik and WR Blake Smolen .
Ashland moves to improve defense
Ashland has one of the most potent offenses in the country, led by first-team QB Bill Cundiff , RB Dawon Harvey and WRs Joe Horn and Nick Bellanco .
Ashland averaged 34.8 points, but had trouble stopping opponents, allowing 29.5 points a game.
With the defensive deficiency in mind, and the fact Ashland is opening a 5,217-seat stadium, coach Lee Owens is hoping to give fans a new look.
So, Owens hired 67-year-old Tim Rose as defensive coordinator. Rose has 29 years of Division I experience and was coach at Miami of Ohio (1983-89) and defensive coordinator of Toledo, where the Rockets improved from 98th in the nation in defense to 23rd his first season (2005).
Owens hopes for the same kind of quick fix at Ashland.
Will Wayne State make playoffs?
Wayne State made a major climb in the standings last season, improving from three to eight victories.
The next question is obvious: Can the Warriors take the next step and make the Division II playoffs?
Well, it could be tough to beat Grand Valley State and Ashland, but Wayne State could still make a playoff appearance if it wins the rest of its games, including a big test against Hillsdale.
With All-America RB Joique Bell in the lineup, anything is possible.
Bell holds conference season records for rushing yards and points scored.
Watch out for Hillsdale
Hillsdale finished 7-4 last season and is picked to finish sixth in the preseason conference coaches poll.
Still, Hillsdale is considered a threat to upset any of the contenders with its explosive offense led by 6-foot-8, 310-pound All-American tackle Jared Veldheer .
QB Troy Weatherhead returns, and is accurate -- 66.1 percent -- and efficient -- 2,874 yards, 21 TDs.
But what makes Weatherhead an even bigger threat is the return of WR A.J. Kegg (74 receptions, 9 TDs) and RB Vinnie Panizzi (1,086 yards, 11 TDs).
All-America K Mark Petro was 15 for 19 on field goals last season.
The Sporting News rated Veldheer, Petro and DL Drew Berube (10.5 sacks) as All-Americans.
Friday, September 04, 2009
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