MINNEAPOLIS -- For the past four seasons, the Augsburg College football team has hovered around the .500 mark, finishing 5-5 in both the 2007 and 2008 campaigns, while finishing 4-6 each of the last two years.
But head coach Frank Haege says that it's time for the Auggies to shed its recent "middle of the road" finishes and take command of their own destiny in the always-competitive Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
"We've been at or around .500 for the last four years, so we've got to break out. We need a breakout season," said Haege, entering his seventh season as the Auggies' mentor. "With our quarterback and skill players back, this will be as good a season as any to do it."
Returning 13 starters, including the bulk of the Auggies' trademark high-flying passing offense, along with several key defensive starters, hopes are high for improvement in the 2011 campaign. Augsburg enters fall camp with nearly 90 players on the preseason roster, a high-water mark in recent years. Forty-nine letterwinners are among the large group at fall camp.
The theme of the 2011 Auggie season is "Taking Care of Business," a tribute to former Auggie assistant coach Chris Bergstrom, who died on April 20, 2011 at the age of 37. Bergstrom served as an offensive line coach for the Auggies from 2002-09, and the slogan was one of his favorite sayings, Haege said.
After hosting its first four games at Edor Nelson Field last season, Augsburg opens the 2011 campaign on the road for its first three games this season. The Auggies have home games at Edor Nelson Field in four of the five Saturdays in October. Augsburg will make a return visit to the Metrodome for its final home game on Nov. 12 against Bethel, after ending a string of 20 straight seasons with a game at the Minneapolis domed stadium last year.
The 2011 campaign marks the 80th season of Augsburg football. Augsburg started its football program in 1926 and competed until 1934. The Auggies resumed football from 1939-42, and have fielded teams every year since 1945.
Brumm healthy, ready to lead Auggie offense
Quarterback Marcus Brumm (SR, Lakeville, Minn./Lakeville South HS) enters his senior season healthy, after missing the final three games of 2010 with a shoulder injury. Despite playing in only seven games, his 191 pass completions, 2,161 passing yards and 18 passing touchdowns were all second-most among MIAC players in overall statistics, and his 326 passing attempts led the league. After earning All-MIAC first-team honors in 2009, he was an All-MIAC second-team selection in 2010.
Brumm enters the 2011 campaign with a chance to cement his position as one of the top passing quarterbacks in school history. In 17 career games, he ranks third in school history in career completions (411), while ranking fifth in passing yardage (4,679), fifth in passing touchdowns (31) and sixth in pass attempts (762).
Quarterbacks Steve Harvey (SO, Champlin, Minn./Champlin Park HS) and Tim Lund (SR, Circle Pines, Minn./Centennial HS) return to back up Brumm, along with newcomers Jesse Santana (FY, Tucson, Ariz./Desert View HS), Jacob Smith (FY, Malabar, Fla./Palm Bay HS) and Tyler Woodward (FY, Lakeville, Minn./Lakeville South HS). Santana was an all-conference selection in his high school days in Arizona.
While losing D3football.com All-America honorable-mention selections Muneer Al-Hameed and Josh Pronschinske from the receiving corps to graduation, Augsburg still returns a solid group of receivers, led by returner Hakeem Bourne-McFarlane (SO, Bloomington, Minn./Kennedy HS). In his first season at Augsburg after transferring from Division II Winona State where he redshirted, Bourne-McFarlane produced solid numbers for the Auggies, catching 40 passes for 459 yards and five touchdowns.
Tight ends Adam Carl (SO, Eagan, Minn.) and Tyler Swanson (JR, Lakeville, Minn./Lakeville North HS) return to the Auggie lineup, along with receivers Chris Osborn (JR, Eagan, Minn.), Jordan Freeman (SO, Northfield, Minn.), Luke Johnson (SO, Bowlus, Minn./Upsala HS), Emmanuel Marcellino (SR, Rochester, Minn./Century HS) and Matt Renne (SO, Nicollet, Minn.). Wesley Waytashek (JR, Little Falls, Minn.), a defensive back last year, will move to the offense this year as a wide receiver.
Michael Harley (JR, Scandia, Minn./Stillwater HS) transfers from Rochester Community and Technical College, where he earned All-Minnesota Collegiate Athletic Conference honorable-mention honors as a defensive back in 2009. He will shift to the offense at Augsburg as a wide receiver.
Heath Anderson (FY, Clearwater, Fla.), a Pinellas All-Star Football Classic selection in 2010, is among the newcomers at wide receiver. Corey Blexrud (SO, Savage, Minn./Burnsville HS) transfers to Augsburg from MIAC rival Gustavus. Noah Kenny (FY, Cocoa, Fla./Rockledge HS) joins the Auggies at tight end, as does Joe Brom (FY, LeClaire, Iowa/Pleasant Valley HS), who transfers back to Augsburg after playing baseball for the Auggies in 2009.
In the backfield, Waylon Hartwick (SR, Minneapolis, Minn./South HS) returns to the Auggie lineup after a year's absence. He gained 291 yards on 68 carries with five touchdowns in the 2009 season. David Murray (JR, St. Paul, Minn./Harding HS) also returns to the Auggie backfield.
Tyler Maxwell (FY, Prior Lake, Minn.), an 1,000-yard rusher for Prior Lake last season who earned all-conference honors, is among a host of new running backs for the Auggies. Newcomers Alex Obanor (SO, Fischers, Ind./Marian Catholic (Ill.) HS) and Jerise Washington (FY, Roseville, Minn./Mounds View HS), an all-conference selection in high school, should also compete for running back time, along with Mario Arroyo (FY, Le Center, Minn.) and Joshua Foster (FY, Merritt Island, Fla.). An all-conference selection, Arroyo set Le Center's school record for career rushing (3,215 yards), scoring 40 touchdowns. Foster was a Brevard Football All-Star game selection in 2010, while Johnson was an all-conference selection.
Up front, four starters return to the offensive line -- center Nick DeVet (SR, Shoreview, Minn./Mounds View HS), tackles Eric Dooley (JR, Eagan, Minn.) and Brian Rud (JR, Londsdale, Minn./Montgomery-Lonsdale HS) and guard Josh Beck (SR, Rush City, Minn.). The quartet has been part of a line that has protected an offense producing an average of 345.7 yards per-game over the last two seasons, while giving up just 21 quarterback sacks in 20 games.
There's plenty of depth on the offensive line as well, with six reserves returning -- Jake Gagne (JR, Cambridge, Minn./Cambridge-Isanti HS), Dane Koengeter (JR, Minoqua, Wis./Lakeland Union HS), Chad Thompson (SO, Maple Grove, Minn.), Matthew Anderson-Jones (JR, Fort Lauderdale, Fla./Plantation HS), Jake Corrigan (JR, Cottage Grove, Minn.) and Brandon Johnson (SO, Hopkins, Minn./Roseville HS). Jordan Anfinson (SO, Watertown, Minn./Watertown-Mayer HS) moves from defense to the offensive line this season, as does Cory Strasser (SO, Blaine, Minn./Spring Lake Park HS) and Eric Arlien (SR, Howard, Lake, Minn./Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted HS).
Newcomer Aaron Odland (FY, Roseville, Minn./Concordia Academy HS) transfers to Augsburg after redshirting at Division II Bemidji State last year. He was an all-conference offensive lineman at Concordia Academy. Eric Alfuth (FY, North Prairie, Wis./Waukesha Catholic Memorial HS) was an all-conference honorable-mention selection on a state runner-up team in 2010, and will join Nick Crayne (FY, Maplewood, Minn./North St. Paul HS) and Luke Gaudette (FY, Savage, Minn./Prior Lake HS) in competing for time on the offensive line.
Defense: Depth at all positions
There's solid depth throughout the Auggie defense, which has five starters and several key reserves returning.
On the defensive line, end Tony Rickoff (SR, Winona, Minn.) is the lone starter back, after accumulating 41 tackles (11 solo) and a sack last season. Several key reserves last season will move into more prominent roles, including Aaron Perry (JR, Lino Lakes, Minn./Centennial HS), who had 22 tackles (10 solo) and two sacks last year. Edmond Smith (JR, Minneapolis, Minn./North HS) finished fifth on the team in tackles last year with 56 (31 solo), including six tackles for loss.
Returners Mitch Gerold (SR, Braham, Minn.), Lincoln Buege (SO, Rochester, Minn./Century HS), Sean Crayne (JR, Trimont, Minn./Martin County West HS), Chris McCollom (JR, Rochester, Minn./Century HS), Andrew Swanson (JR, Lakeville, Minn./Lakeville North HS) and Jake Haehnel (SO, Sauk Rapids, Minn./Sauk Rapids-Rice HS) will also be key factors in the defensive line's depth.
Newcomer Tanner Wiseman (FY, Lakeville, Minn./Lakeville North HS), an all-conference honorable-mention selection last year in high school, could make an immediate impact on the defensive line, Haege noted. Fabien Dubbe (FY, New Prague, Minn.) also earned all-conference honorable-mention honors last season. Dustin Buhr (FY, Byron, Minn.) was an all-conference selection, and Harold Smith (FY, Palm Bay, Fla./Melbourne Central Catholic HS), John Parry (FY, Minneapolis, Minn./South HS) and Demond Johnson (FY, Crystal, Minn./Irondale HS) also join the defensive line.
The linebacking corps has always been a strength of Augsburg's defense, and it should continue to be the case this year, with two key starters back in Bryce Vee (JR, Coon Rapids, Minn./Blaine HS) and Adam Sonntag (JR, Green Lake, Wis.). Sonntag finished second on the team in tackles last year with 82 (35 solo), including three sacks and a team-best seven tackles for loss. Vee was fourth on the team in tackles last year with 59 (18 solo).
A key addition to the linebacking unit will be Phil Putratz (SO, Mazeppa, Minn./Zumbrota-Mazeppa HS), who moves to defense after spending last year as Augsburg's top running back, gaining 524 yards with a team-best eight touchdowns.
Tyler Jensen (JR, Minneapolis, Minn./Washburn HS), Enrico Barrozo (SO, Plymouth, Minn./Robbinsdale Armstrong HS), John Milam (SO, Sartell, Minn.) Andrew Lund (SO, Circle Pines, Minn./Centennial HS) and Mitchell Brumm (SO, Lakeville, Minn./Lakeville South HS) all return to the linebacking group.
Several newcomers could also contend for playing time at linebacker, including Tyler Sis (FY, Brooklyn Park, Minn./Osseo HS), who was an all-conference selection at Osseo last season while recording both single-season (95) and career (132) tackle records for the Orioles. Chris DeVet (FY, Shoreview, Minn./Mounds View HS) was an all-conference selection for a Mounds View squad that reached the state football semifinals for the second straight year. Kyle Heinl (FY, St. Paul, Minn./Harding HS) earned all-conference honors in his career, while Raesean Sneed (FY, Ada, Mich./Forest Hills Eastern HS) was a three-year starter at his Michigan high school.
Brett Steadham (FY, Winter Haven, Fla./Lake Region HS) earned his team's defensive MVP honors twice in his career, while Daric Thomas (FY, St. Paul, Minn./Como Park HS) was an all-conference honorable-mention selection last year. Matt White (FY, Mayer, Minn./Mayer Lutheran HS) also joins the linebacking corps this season.
Haege notes that there should be a good competition for time in the secondary, with two starters returning in cornerback Tyler Phillips (SR, Lino Lakes, Minn./Centennial HS) and safety Cameron Krugerud (JR, Plymouth, Minn./Wayzata HS). Last year, Phillips stood third on the team in tackles with 62 (41 solo), along with two interceptions and five passes defensed. Krugerud finished the season with 25 tackles (15 solo) and an interception.
Kaleb Williams (JR, Lakeville, Minn./Lakeville North HS) returns with valuable experience to the secondary, along with Avery Dorsett (SO, Minneapolis, Minn./South HS), Paye Tengben (SO, Fridley, Minn.), DeAndre Dennis (SR, Minneapolis, Minn./Washburn HS), Shep Sonstegard (JR, Sioux Falls, S.D./O'Gorman HS) and Marques Townsend (JR, Minneapolis, Minn./Southwest HS).
Several newcomers will also contend for time in the secondary, including Felix Coleman (FY, Alexandria, Minn./Jefferson HS) and Demetrice Whittaker (JR, Cocoa, Fla.), who was an all-region, all-conference and Preseason NJCAA All-America selection during his playing days at Mesabi Range Community and Technical College. Another Mesabi Range transfer, Brandon Hinton (JR, Rock Hill, S.C./South Pointe HS), also joins the Auggie defensive backfield, while Kaleb Anderson (JR, Trimont, Minn./Martin County West HS) transfers from Central Lakes College.
Forrest Moe (FY, Bemidji, Minn.), an all-section player and member of two state tournament teams at Bemidji, will join the Auggie squad in the secondary, along with John Spray (FY, Mount Dora, Fla./Mount Dora Bible HS), an all-conference selection during his prep days.
Special teams: New kicker/punter stepping into play
The biggest question for the Auggies will be who will fill the kicking and punting duties this season after the graduation of four-year veteran kicker/punter Jack Christopherson, who set Augsburg's school records for career kicking points (161) and career points-after-touchdown (110).
Wide receiver Waytashek will likely fill the team's kicking and punting duties, Haege said, and will also likely fill the kick return role, after returning 14 kicks for a 20.9-yard average last season. Bourne-McFarlane will likely fill the punt return role this season.