Monday, August 29, 2011

WIAC Preview 2-a-days part 2


Fast Facts:

Head Coach: Clayt Birmingham; 2nd season at UWS; 6-4
Starters Returning/Lost on Offense: 6/5
Starters Returning/Lost on Defense: 8/3
Starters Returning/Lost at Kicker: 3/0
Returning All-WIAC: Tyler Butzler (Sr., OL, 2010-Second); Ryan Pearcy (Sr., LB, 2010-First); Richard Marteney (So., Kicker, 2010-Second)

2010 Recap:

In their first year under Clayt Birmingham the Blue Devils went 6-4 overall and 4-3 in the WIAC good for 3rd place in the conference.  Stout was 2nd in both total offense and total defense in 2010 behind only eventual national champion UW-Whitewater.  Stout started the season with a heartbreaking loss in overtime to Black Hills state of South Dakota due to a missed extra point by Ryan Howg.  The Blue Devils won their next 2 non-conference games and beating UW-River Falls to start the conference slate.  They then dropped back-to-back games to UWW and Stevens Point.  In that game against Point the Blue Devils thought they had it won when it appeared as though Billy Rosenthal returned a interception for a touchdown but he was ruled down on the catch and Stout could not move the ball on offense and suffered a heartbreaking 27-21 lost to the Pointers.  After a bounce back win against Eau Claire the next week Stout dropped a game they should have won against UW-Lacrosse.  Down by 7 late in the game the Eagles converted on 2 fourth downs and a 2-point conversion for the win on a 76-yard drive in the final minutes of the ball game.  Stout would rebound and finish the season with wins against Platteville and Oshkosh.  In all Stout was 2 breaks away from a pretty special season.

2011 Outlook:

In the Blue Devils’ season preview video two things stood out to me.  First was this team’s confidence, all they players spoke to the talent of the team. Second was the acknowledgement of a higher level of maturity.  That to me is huge for this team.  Their losses to both Point and even more so Lacrosse were about a lack of focus and maturity in my opinion.  If this team has that on top of the talent they have coming back they will be very dangerous and might just be able to knock off Whitewater.  They return their top 3 tacklers on defense and their Quarterback Ross Carey who had the fewest interceptions of starters in the league last year with only 3 picks with 15 TDs and over 1,800 yards passing.  This defense is deep and experienced and will be the strength of this team in 2011.  The offensive line also looks to be a strength boasting 5 seniors anchored by 2010 All-WIAC selection Tyler Butzler.

Big Question:

How will Ross Carey adapt with losses at the skill positions on offense?

The Blue Devils lose 8 of their top 9 receivers from last season and starting running back Craig Warminski who gained over 1,000 yards on the ground and rushed for 8 TDs as well. Daniel Vyvyan is the returning lead rusher with 120 yards last year.  One of those 8 receivers is actually Tight End and safety blanket Patrick Mengelkoch.  Mengelkoch was Carey’s go-to-guy last year catching 48 balls for 655 yards and 4 touchdowns.  Antawan Walker is also gone and he led the team in touchdowns through the air with 7 in 2010.  So that leaves tight end Josh Peterson as the lead-returning receivers with 7 catches for 78 yards and no scores.  If Peterson can become Megelkoch 2.0 and Stout can find a running back or more likely running backs to replicate Warminski’s productivity, this could be a special season.  If not Stout will likely in a lot of low scoring affairs.

Player to Watch:

Ross Carey

The fate of this offense relies heavily on Carey’s ability to step-up his game from game manager to playmaker.  Not that Carey has been bad or that the game manager tag should be taken as an insult.  He was just behind Nate Wara last year statistically in the passing game and could maybe get himself into the best QB in the conference conversation with Wara and Matt Blanchard of Whitewater.  But how he will deal with being the focus of the opposition’s game plan will go a long way in determining how Stout’s season goes.

Bottom Line:

I expect good things from Stout this year.  Would Coach B love to have some more skill players coming back? Sure he would.   However, games are won and lost in the trenches and Stout is strong on both sides in that area.  It is also been said that defense wins championships and Stouts defense looks to be championship caliber this season.

Tomorrow I'll take a look at Stevens Point and River Falls.


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