/seasons/2018/contrib/20180724nxv8nl

Anticipated Approach – Manchester University looks to 2018 with confidence

The pages on the calendar can't turn quick enough in Manchester University head coach Nate Jensen's office.

"We can't wait to get going again," he reflected as he looked towards the start of preseason camp over the second weekend of August. "There is a lot of excitement. We're coming off our second winning season in three years … there's a buzz out there in recruiting, on campus, when we talk to high school coaches as they look back at what we've done [of late] and so on. The prospect of the new football stadium moving forward adds to that excitement."

"It's been hurry up and wait since the 2017 season ended," he added.

Looking around the field at the new edition of Black and Gold football, there are positives at almost every turn. That's especially true in what could be a rock-solid defense.

A strong defensive line is led by the likes of senior Jacob Cooper (Fairland, Ind.), senior Garrett Walker (Valparaiso, Ind.), and junior Nolan Sipe (Fort Wayne, Ind.) guiding the unit. Cooper was a menace to opposing offenses with five and a half sacks and 49 total tackles which led to all-Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference honorable mention honors; Walker, looking to return to the starting rotation after injuries kept him off the field at times in 2017, has seen action in seven-or-more contests as a sophomore and junior; and Sipe tallied 22 tackles with four going for opposing losses to join Cooper on the all-league honorable mention list.

The defensive line will be supported by a veteran secondary. Senior Austin Coughlin (Fairland, Ind.) tallied four picks as a junior and was responsible for five more break-ups; sophomore Nick Tillman (Lawrenceburg, Ind.) made the most of his freshman playing times with 28 tackles; senior Dillon Nelson (Fairland, Ind.), a regular starter in the area and second team all-loop honoree in 2017, is back with impressive career numbers that include over 130 tackles and 11 interceptions; and junior De'Lon Barnes (Los Angeles, Calif.) registered 42 tackles and a fumble recovery during an active sophomore slate.

"It's always nice to have that kind of returning experience along the line and in the secondary," Jensen said. "However, as is always the case, competition will still be important [in camp] between those returners and some fresh faces that can make an impact."

The most prominent spot with some question to it is linebacker. Graduated standouts Jack Kay and Mitch Oskam made the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference offenses dizzy with their tackle numbers and defensive prowess over the last two seasons. Junior Justin Thomas (Lowell, Ind.) and sophomore Conner Sherwin (Pierceton, Ind.) give defensive coordinator Brad Higginson and the coaching staff some building blocks to work with.

"You can't replace what guys [like Jack and Mitch] meant to the program," Jensen admitted. "However, Justin and Conner have both seen success, and they will need to play an important leadership role as we start out."

The Burt Field scoreboard saw the 2017 offensive average almost 25 points a game due to over 350 yards of production in each instance. Even with losses like standout receiver Dakota Nelson along with Jared Bourff, Eric Beard, and others, Jensen feels offensive coordinator Vince Cashdollar has plenty of options.

"[Coach Cashdollar's] biggest key will be how quickly the young guys step in and understand what we do," the head coach said. "We're going to need to rely on some new people due to graduation losses, but the talent is there. Our players' leadership is vital all over the field, but especially on offense, to the season's success."

The Spartans return junior quarterback Alex Downard (Indianapolis, Ind.) who is 8-5 in his last 13 starts; junior wide receiver Austin Roberts (Indianapolis, Ind.) who was named honorable mention all-conference as a sophomore; junior running back Donovan Henderson, Jr. (Hollywood, Fla.) who was just shy of 1,000 yards and a 100 yards per game and was second team all-league; and an offensive line unit that includes senior Brady Nyland (Avon, Ind.) and sophomore Conner Bettis (Rockville, Ind.) each of whom have seen a significant amount of playing time.

"There are some other possibilities we can look to," Jensen hinted. "We looked at some defense to offense changes over the spring, development of our young men this offseason and this freshman class has plenty of ability."

Beyond the linebacker two-deep setup, the special teams' corps will be up in the air as camp begins. Sophomore Kody Graham (Indianapolis, Ind.) did achieve 22 extra points and a field goal as a freshman but more will be needed with an opening at punter. The return area is also up for grabs, according to Jensen.

"We were able to turn the field in our direction many times due to what our kicking and returning people did [last year]," he noted. "We need to find a combination that works and quickly."

"The overall key for the team is how quickly can we gel together and how quickly they can mature," he added. "This senior class has stayed through the coaching change and bought into our philosophies. This freshman class will do the same. If we can do that, we could be pretty doggone good."

Aug. 30: All times Eastern
6:00 PM
Alma at Baldwin Wallace
Live stats
7:00 PM
Frostburg State at Stevenson
Video Live stats
7:00 PM
University of New England at Coast Guard
Live stats
7:00 PM
Randolph-Macon at Johns Hopkins
7:00 PM
Hamline at Buena Vista
Video Live stats
7:00 PM
LaGrange at Birmingham-Southern
7:00 PM
Trinity (Texas) at McMurry
7:30 PM
Manchester at Trine
7:37 PM
Rowan at Widener
8:00 PM
Millsaps at Belhaven
8:00 PM
UW-Platteville at East Texas Baptist
Live stats
Aug. 31: All times Eastern
7:00 PM
Utica at St. Lawrence
7:00 PM
Delaware Valley at Wesley
Live stats
7:00 PM
WPI at Anna Maria
Live stats
7:00 PM
Western New England at Springfield
Video Live stats
7:00 PM
Nichols at Westfield State
7:00 PM
Millikin at Hope
Video Preview Live stats
7:00 PM
TCNJ at FDU-Florham
7:00 PM
Becker at MIT
Video Live stats
7:00 PM
Albright at Salisbury
Live stats
7:00 PM
Dean at Curry
Video Live stats
8:00 PM
St. Olaf at Crown
Sep. 1: All times Eastern
TBA
Southern Virginia at Christopher Newport
12:00 PM
Endicott at Framingham State
Live stats
12:00 PM
Morrisville State at Norwich
Video Live stats
12:00 PM
Buffalo State at Bridgewater State
Live stats
12:00 PM
Ursinus at Bethany
Video Live stats
12:00 PM
Salve Regina at Worcester State
Live stats
12:00 PM
Sewanee at Kenyon
Video Live stats
12:00 PM
SUNY-Maritime at Maine Maritime
Video
12:00 PM
Thomas More at N.C. Wesleyan
Video Live stats
1:00 PM
Merchant Marine at Misericordia
1:00 PM
Husson at Union
Live stats
1:00 PM
Apprentice at Greensboro
1:00 PM
RPI at Allegheny
1:00 PM
Wabash at Hiram
1:00 PM
Cortland at Fitchburg State
Live stats
1:00 PM
King's at Moravian
Video Live stats
1:00 PM
Westminster (Pa.) at Wittenberg
Live stats Audio
1:00 PM
Washington and Lee at Dickinson
Video Live stats
1:00 PM
Hobart at Brockport
1:00 PM
McDaniel at Catholic
Live stats
1:00 PM
Huntingdon at Guilford
Live stats
1:00 PM
Gallaudet at Alvernia
1:00 PM
Mass-Dartmouth at Alfred State
Live stats
1:00 PM
Shenandoah at Methodist
Live stats
1:00 PM
Thiel at Alfred
1:00 PM
Emory and Henry at Ferrum
Video Live stats Audio
1:00 PM
Susquehanna at Lycoming
1:00 PM
Washington and Jefferson at St. John Fisher
1:00 PM
Oberlin at Kalamazoo
Live stats
1:00 PM
Hartwick at Wilkes
1:00 PM
St. Vincent at Ithaca
Live stats
1:00 PM
Concordia (Wis.) at Finlandia
1:00 PM
Lebanon Valley at Franklin and Marshall
Video Live stats
1:00 PM
Plymouth State at Castleton
Live stats
1:00 PM
UW-Oshkosh at Carthage
1:00 PM
Grinnell at Lawrence
1:30 PM
Muskingum at Waynesburg
1:30 PM
Juniata at Grove City
1:30 PM
Wooster at Bluffton
1:30 PM
Bridgewater at Gettysburg
1:30 PM
Albion at Defiance
Video Live stats
2:00 PM
Wilmington at Earlham
Live stats
2:00 PM
Augustana at Coe
2:00 PM
John Carroll at UW-Stevens Point
2:00 PM
Eureka at Knox
2:00 PM
Wisconsin Lutheran at Lake Forest
Live stats
2:00 PM
Ripon at Augsburg
2:00 PM
Aurora at St. Norbert
2:00 PM
Nebraska Wesleyan at Concordia-Moorhead
2:00 PM
Gustavus Adolphus at Martin Luther
2:00 PM
MacMurray at Rockford
Video Live stats
2:00 PM
UW-La Crosse at Luther
2:00 PM
Monmouth at Wheaton (Ill.)
2:00 PM
Minnesota-Morris at UW-River Falls
2:00 PM
Lakeland at Carroll
Live stats
2:00 PM
UW-Stout at St. John's
Video Live stats Audio
2:00 PM
UW-Eau Claire at Loras
Audio
2:00 PM
Bethel at Simpson
Video Live stats
2:00 PM
Beloit at Concordia-Chicago
Video Live stats
2:00 PM
Southwestern Assemblies at Austin
Video
2:10 PM
Trinity Int'l at St. Thomas
3:00 PM
Puget Sound at Claremont-Mudd-Scripps
Live stats
4:00 PM
La Verne at Whitworth
6:00 PM
Adrian at Ohio Northern
Live stats Audio
6:00 PM
Maryville (Tenn.) at Berry
Video Live stats Audio
6:00 PM
Capital at Mount St. Joseph
Live stats
6:00 PM
Hampden-Sydney at Averett
Video Live stats
6:00 PM
Benedictine at Franklin
Video Live stats
6:00 PM
Central at Northwestern (Minn.)
6:00 PM
Willamette at Simon Fraser
7:00 PM
Brevard at Davidson
7:00 PM
Geneva at Marietta
7:00 PM
Rochester at Case Western Reserve
Video Live stats
7:00 PM
Hanover at Centre
Video Live stats
7:00 PM
Rose-Hulman at Mount Union
Live stats
7:00 PM
Ohio Wesleyan at Otterbein
7:00 PM
Olivet at Heidelberg
Audio
7:00 PM
UW-Whitewater at Dubuque
7:00 PM
Chicago at Washington U.
Video Preview Live stats
7:00 PM
Anderson at North Park
8:00 PM
Illinois College at Rhodes
8:00 PM
Lyon at Hendrix
8:00 PM
Greenville at Wartburg
8:00 PM
Cornell at Iowa Wesleyan
8:00 PM
Denison at Southwestern
Video Live stats
8:00 PM
Carleton at Macalester
10:00 PM
Pacific at Chapman
Live stats
10:00 PM
George Fox at Redlands
Video Live stats Audio
10:00 PM
Sul Ross State at Arizona Christian
10:00 PM
Lewis-Clark Valley at Pomona-Pitzer
Video Live stats
Dec. 9: All times Eastern
Final
Mount Union 43, at UW-Oshkosh 40
Box Score Recap Recap Photos
Final
at Mary Hardin-Baylor 24, Brockport 0
Box Score Recap Photos
Dec. 15: All times Eastern
Final
Mount Union 12, at Mary Hardin-Baylor 0
@ Salem, Va.
Video Box Score Recap Photos