The 2007 Gustavus Adolphus College football team will be looking to pick up where it left off at the end of the 2006 season when the Golden Gusties won their final four games of the season to finish with a record of 6-4-0. Head Coach Jay Schoenebeck will build the squad around 30 returning letterwinners, 15 of which were starters (nine on offense, three on defense, and three on special teams). Gustavus will begin a new era in the program’s history with the dedication of a new $4.6 million stadium on Saturday, September 8 when the Gusties face Willamette University.
On offense, Gustavus returns nine starters including all-conference quarterback Jordan Stolp (Sr. Mankato, Minn./West), all-conference guard Jared Thelemann (Jr., Kilkenny, Minn./Waterville), and all-region wide receiver Chad Arlt (Jr., St. Michael, Minn.). On defense, the Gusties will be in rebuilding mode due to the graduation of eight starters, however all-conference linebacker Jared Sieling (Sr., Watertown, Minn.) returns along with senior defensive ends Blake Theisen (Cold Spring, Minn./ROCORI) and Pat Riordan (Virginia, Minn.). Special teams will be led by Stolp, who will handle the field goal kicking and kickoff responsibilities, while Joe Welch (So., Hastings, Minn.) and Ethan Armstrong (Jr., Wheaton, Minn.) will once again handle the kickoff and punt return duties.
The offensive unit will have a new look as long-time assistant coach Tom Brown moves in to the offensive coordinator position after previously coaching the wide receivers. Brown has been intimately involved with the offense for the past 16 years, however this is the first time that he will handle the majority of the play calling. Veteran quarterback Jordan Stolp is primed to have a big senior year after directing the offense for the past three seasons. Stolp is on the verge of breaking numerous school records including career passing yards, career completions, and career attempts. A key to Stolp having a big year is the offensive line where the Gusties return all five starters including senior tackle Andy Klaers (Loretto, Minn.), senior guard Ian Ruppel (Edina, Minn.), senior center Mike Johnson (Rushford, Minn.), junior guard Jared Thelemann, and junior tackle Mike Klayum (Lakeville, Minn.). This group stacks up to be one of the best the Gusties have had in a while. At running back, the Gusties will use a trio of veterans that includes senior Mitch Anderson (Sleepy Eye, Minn.), junior Ray Wilson (Brooklyn Park, Minn.), and junior Adam Lukes (Watertown, Minn.). Anderson led the team in rushing last year with 75 carries for 418 yards and four touchdowns. The receiving corps will be led by senior Tom Johnson (Mankato, Minn./West), and juniors Chad Arlt and John Retka (Shoreview, Minn./Totino Grace). Arlt, who has breakaway speed, made 56 catches for 765 yards and six touchdowns last season.
The key to the defense will be the leadership of seniors Jared Sieling, Blake Theisen, and Pat Riordan, and the ability of a talented group of underclassmen to step into starting roles. The eight players who are scheduled to assume starting positions played significant minutes last year, but had the luxury of playing behind a strong group of seniors. The biggest question mark will be in the backfield where all four starters graduated. Those predicted to start this year include juniors Ethan Armstrong and Isaac Perry (Wabasha, Minn.) at cornerback, sophomore Hamada Omar (Minneapolis, Minn./Washburn) at free safety, and sophomore Joe Welch (Hastings, Minn.) at the rover position. Jared Sieling is the lone returning starter at linebacker, however the senior All-America candidate has the experience and talent to ease the loss of graduated seniors Adam Miron and Taylor Beahrs. Sieling will take over in the middle, while junior Peter Keegan (Apple Valley, Minn.) and sophomore Tony Palma (Lino Lakes, Minn.) will fill the outside linebacker openings. On the line, seniors Riordan and Theisen will give the team good speed and experience on the perimeter, while juniors Brian Berglund (Lauderdale, Minn.) and Ted Aleckson (Weston, Wis.) will team up to stop the run game in the middle.
Special teams will be solid with the return of Stolp, who will handle extra points, field goals and kickoffs, and could also handle the punting duties. On the return side, junior Ethan Armstrong and sophomore Joe Welch will once again team up to field punts and kickoffs.
The 2007 season looks to be one of great promise for Gustavus as the team opens the season in a festive atmosphere by dedicating its state-of-the-art stadium against non-conference foe Willamette. The Gusties will then play three of their next four games on the road with key league contests at St. Thomas (9/15), at St. Olaf (9/29), and at Bethel (10/6). If this young squad can manage to stay in the hunt through the first half of the season, the second half sets up nicely with four of the final five contests at home including Saint John’s (10/13), Macalester (10/20), Concordia (11/3), and Carleton (11/10).