Tuesday, August 30, 2011

WIAC Preview two-a-days Part 3: UW-Stevens Point

UW-Stevens Point:

Fast Facts:

Head Coach: John Miech; 24th season at UWSP; 152-78-2
Starters Returning/Lost on Offense: 7/4
Starters Returning/Lost on Defense: 6/5
Starters Returning/Lost at Kicker: 1/1
Returning All-WIAC: Jered Fohrman (Sr., Kicker, 2010-First); Joe Mleziva (Sr., DB, 2010-First); Justin Ourada (Sr., Center, 2010-Second)

2010 Recap:

In my opinion the Pointers were the WIAC’s most overachieving team last season.  They finished 7-3 on the season with one loss coming at home in the first game of the season to West Coast power Williamette.  Point’s 2 conference losses both came on the road, at Eau Claire in overtime to start conference play and at Whitewater.  Point managed to stay within two touchdowns of the Warhawks which is something that few teams can boast.  They did all this despite losing their leading passer from 2009 and using a converted wide receiver at quarterback as well as losing their leading rusher from 2009 as well.  They were also missing key defensive pieces from 2009 in leading tackler John Jones and Bryan Blum.  Despite those loses the defense was still a strength for the Pointers as Joe Mleziva, Peter Peterson and Mat Lunder had great years.  It also helps to have a guy that made it into NFL camp in Jared Jenkins who caught 67 balls for 946 yards and 10 TDs in 2010 after catching 80 passes for 1210 yards and 12 TDs in 2009 with Jared Beckwith at the helm. Jenkins was also the team’s All-American punter in 2010 averaging 44 yards per punt with 13 inside the 20 and 9 that went 50 yards plus.  The Pointers rode Jenkins and their defense to a successful season in 2010.

2011 Schedule

2011 Outlook:

Some pundits have tabbed Point as a team that might challenge Whitewater this year and the Pointers are ranked 23rd in the nation by d3football.com. I, personally, am not so optimistic.  The Pointers will have their third different Quarterback in 3 years.  Tyler Wolf and Casey Barnes are two candidates for the job and my guess is the nod will go to Barnes who started last year against Williamette but was pulled in favor of Jake Swank.  After that game Barnes only threw 3 passes in a game going 2 for 2 in mop-up duty against Albion and 0-1 against UW-Oshkosh.  Wolf attempted 2 passes last year against UW-Lacrosse and went 0 for 2 getting picked off once. Obviously quarterback is a position of concern for Coach Miech.    Not only that but the Pointers need to fill the void left by not only Jared Jenkins but the teams number 2 receiver in 2010 Anthony Aker.  Those 2 accounted for 1,484 of Point’s 1,895 yards through the air and 15 of the team’s 20 passing touchdowns in 2010. The Running back situation is a bit murky.  The Pointers roster doesn't have Keith Ingram listed but this article has Ingram in the mix. So, that really leaves me in the lurch as to my ability to make a comment. The rest of this preview will go based off the information from the Pointer roster, i.e. no Ingram. The O-line does return 4 starters plus a two other guys who made a combined 4 appearances last season.  On defense Joe Mlezvia is back as a grad student and has been one of this team’s top three tacklers in the past two seasons and earning All-WIAC honors last year. Other returning contributors include Curtis Krump, Skylar Stecker, Kody Morgan, Colton Zimmerman, Cody Seibel, Dan Wall, Ethan Firgens, Ryan Marnocha, Colin Johnson, Brad Davis and Greg Peterson. In case you weren’t counting that means Point returns 12 of its top 18 tacklers from last season.  This along with the losses on offense makes it pretty obvious what type of team Point will be this year which leads me to my big question.

Big Question:

Will the offense improve enough by October 29th to give the Pointers a chance to knock-off Whitewater?

It’s going to be baptism by fire for this offense as the Pointers see the flip side of their favorable home schedule last season.  Their first game is in Salem, Oregon against a Williamette team that beat them last year. In all, the Pointers only play 4 home games this season and have 3 of their first four and 3 of their last 4 games on the road.  While I would say defense tends to travel better than offense it is going to be very tough for this defense, as good as I think it will be, to carry this young offense especially on the road.  But I thought the same thing last year and the Pointers ended up in 2nd place in the conference when all was said and done.  In order for this team to succeed the offense will need to grow up fast.

Player to Watch:

Joe Mlezvia

Mlezvia is a very good player and an absolute ball hawk.  Over the past 2 seasons he’s had 174 tackles, 6 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, and 7 interceptions with 174 return yards on those picks.  He has come up huge time and time again and I expect the same from him this year.

Bottom Line:

This team will go as far as their defense can carry them this year.  While the game against UWW is a big match-up, the Pointers cannot look past UW-Stout on October 8th.  That game will feature to similar, defensive minded teams and will likely determine who has the best shot to take down Whitewater and at the very least who will finish in 2nd in the conference with a possible playoff berth on the line.  The season will likely hinge on the development of the offense to take some of the burden off the defense.

Extra Point:

Here is a link to a video of Point’s intrasquad scrimmage on August 20th, for what it’s worth.

Part 4 will be out later today and will feature the UW-River Falls Falcons.

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