St. Peter, Minn. - The Gustavus Adolphus football team enters its 97th year of existence in the 2013 season with renewed goals and expectations. The Gusties will look to improve on an overall record of 3-7 and an MIAC mark of 2-6 from a year ago. To do so, Gustavus will turn to its 41 returning letterwinners from last season to lead the way. Those 37 letterwinners include 17 starters (eight offense, nine defense), who will bring valuable experience to the field in 2013.
“Our guys had a great summer and that’s a testament to our seniors and our captains,” said Head Coach Peter Haugen. “They did a great job of setting the example and we built on that through training camp. I think we have a very clear direction of where we are going and our guys are on board with that direction and our mission as a team.”
Gustavus’ key offensive strength rests in its veteran offensive line. While losing All-MIAC Second Team performer Brian Grundmeyer due to graduation will leave a void, all five linemen expected to start in Saturday’s season-opener started at least two games with three of the five starting eight or more games last season. The group of Marcus Kelly (So., Woodbury, Minn.), Lyle Opdahl (Sr., Norwood Young America, Minn.), David Gschneidner (Sr., Edina, Minn.), Trevor Winkelman (Sr., Eagan, Minn.), and Wyatt Adams (Sr., Chaska, Minn.) bring a great deal of experience back to a front that cleared the way for 2012 All-MIAC running back Jeffrey Dubose (Sr., St. Paul, Minn.).
Dubose returns for his senior season just 40 rushing yards shy of 2,000 in his career. Despite playing in just seven games last season, Dubose rushed 135 times for 665 yards and an average of 4.9 yards per carry to go along with seven touchdowns. The senior also caught 16 passes for 192 yards and three touchdowns as a receiver out of the backfield a season ago. Dubose currently sits 11th on the Gustavus all-time rushing list, 119 yards behind Scott Anderson `92 who ranks 10th.
Dubose is joined by wide receivers Phillip Butler (Sr., St. Paul, Minn.) and Michael Hintze (Jr., Brooklyn Park, Minn.), who return as threats on the perimeter. Butler caught 36 passes for 346 yards and two touchdowns while also rushing for 231 yards last season. Hintze hauled in 33 receptions for 449 yards to go along with five touchdowns. With the graduation of quarterbacks Muresuk Mena and Tim Stepka, Mitch Hendricks (So., Laporte, Minn.) is expected to take the reigns of the Gustie offense in 2013. Gustavus completed 138-of-241 passes for 1,654 yards and 12 touchdowns compared to eight interceptions last season.
Rounding out the offense at the tight end position will be Jordan Rudenick (Sr., Nicollet, Minn.) and former offensive tackle Alex Brodjeski (Sr., Savage, Minn.). Last season, Rudenick was a big play factor for the Gusties. The senior caught eight passes for 152 yards for an average of 19.0 yards per catch. Brodjeski played in nine games last season, starting four of them while playing on the offensive line.
“Offensively, we have a group up front that is seasoned, a running back that has proven himself, and some skill pieces around those groups that are strong,” said Haugen of his offense. “Both of our quarterbacks were able to be here in the spring and got to practice, which was key because now we feel more comfortable being able to operate with two guys who know the system.”
On defense, the Gusties will look to once again force turnovers. Last season, Gustavus ranked third in the MIAC with 27 takeaways, which included 18 fumble recoveries and nine interceptions. As the leader of the ball-hawking brigade, Torey Asao (Sr., Chaska, Minn.) returns at the cornerback position after picking off three passes a season ago. Jake Forcier (Jr., Watkins, Minn.) intercepted two passes while playing just five games last season, reassuming his spot at the strong safety position. Free safety Beau Bachman (Sr., St. Peter, Minn.) and cornerback Zach Dilger (Jr., South St. Paul, Minn.) each recorded one pick last season and will likely round out the starting defensive backfield. Kellan Euerle (Sr., St. Cloud, Minn.) will add depth in the secondary after intercepting two passes in 2012.
Senior Joe Haas (Mission, Kan.) will anchor a linebacking corp that featured the top four tacklers for the Gusties a season ago. A 2012 All-MIAC Second Team selection, Haas led the way with 91 tackles (45 solo, 46 assist) including five tackles for losses and two sacks. Lucas Kleinschrodt (Sr. Alden, Minn.) was second on the team in tackles with 68 (39 solo, 29 assist), followed by Matt Keller (Jr., Eagan, Minn.) with 63 (24 solo, 39 assist), and Anthony Boyce (Jr., Excelsior, Minn.) with 50 (26 solo, 24 assist). Boyce also led the team in sacks (3.5) and was second in forced fumbles (3).
The defensive line will take shape around 2012 All-MIAC Second Team performer Donte Green (Sr., Minneapolis, Minn.). Green was the “Man in the Middle” last season, posting 41 tackles (17 solo, 24 assist), four of which were for losses. Mitch Snare (Jr., Rosemount, Minn.) is expected to fill the hole left by the graduation of Jesse Newell at the other defensive tackle. At the ends, the Gusties welcome back Andrew Lonneman (Jr., Adrian, Minn.), who missed six games with an injury last season. Cameron Cropsey (Jr., Eagan, Minn.) will be the other bookend of the defensive line. Cropsey recorded 30 tackles (16 solo, 14 assist) last season and led the team in tackles for loss with 5.5.
“Defensively, everybody in our two-deep has played varsity minutes,” stated coach Haugen. “Our secondary is a strong group and we are solid up the middle with Donte Green at defensive tackle and Joe Haas at middle linebacker. Our linebacking crew has five guys coming back that have good experience, and at the defensive end we have two really athletic guys in Andrew Lonneman and Cameron Cropsey, so defensively we will be solid with a lot of guys coming back.”
On special teams, the Gusties bring in a fresh new face in the kicking department as Thomas Schleusener (Jr., Rapid City, S.D.) makes the switch from the soccer pitch to the gridiron. Schleusener, a goalkeeper on the men’s soccer team last season, will handle both the placekicking and kickoff responsibilities. Jordan Rudenick (Sr., Nicollet, Minn.) will once again take his place as the punter after punting 37 times for 1,380 total yards and an average of 37.3 yards per punt. Rudenick downed 13 punts inside the 20-yard line and recorded three punts over 50 yards.
Gustavus will open its 2013 season on Saturday, Sept. 14th when it plays host to Simpson College for a 1:00 p.m. kick-off at Lloyd Hollingsworth Field. The Gusties will search for success similar last year’s opener, which resulted in a 35-26 victory over Simpson in Indianola on Sept. 8th.