Thu, Aug. 2, 2012 - [Football]
Last week, head football coach Paul Mierkiewicz and his staff, along with Athletics Director Bob Quinn joined alumni and friends in the Chicago suburb of Elmhurst to spend time together ahead of the start of the 2012 season - answering questions and socializing before the calendar turned to August.
Jim Naprstek joined the group and asked some more questions about 2012 and how the Duhawks plan to improve.
By Jim Naprstek
Loras College Sports Information
Now that Coach Paul Mierkiewicz has one full season under his belt, he's ready to take on the Iowa Conference and lay a lick into opposing teams, something that the Duhawks showed promise of last year. One interesting note from 2011 was that in 7 out of 10 games last year, Loras was either tied or leading at halftime. Mierkiewicz referenced that statistic as proof that they have the pieces needed to win, they just need to refine them and make sure to play a full 60 minutes every week.
With only 6 seniors on last year's roster, Mierkiewicz points to that as a reason for last year's record. When most teams are fielding 20-plus seniors, it can be an added challenge to compete with such a young team.
However, Mierkiewicz and his staff have taken great strides to expand the football program, not just for the 2012 season, but for years to come. So far, the Duhawk Football staff has recruited 61 new players to the program; 54 freshmen with 35 of those coming from the Chicagoland area.
"His attention to detail is great, and his ability to develop young men is amazing," Athletic Director Bob Quinn said, "but most of all, he works to create a positive culture around the program."
Following the spring season, Coach Mierkiewicz is pleased with several aspects of his team, including the five returning offensive lineman, led by Captain Sam Ross.
"Sam is one of the guys that I trust completely," Mierkiewicz said, "I never have to check with him to make sure he's doing the right thing."
Thoughts were echoed by Assistant Coach Steve Helminiak who works primarily with the offensive lineman.
"When Sam is out there, it's like having a coach on the field. If you could find two Sam Ross', then you'd be golden."
Offensively, look for the Duhawks to run a similar playbook to what Mierkiewicz introduced last season, mainly a Pistol formation, with adaptations off of that. Following Vaughn Gesing's season ending shoulder injury, then-sophomore Sean Brennan stepped in and took the reins for the Duhawks for the last four games. Brennan is an early favorite to lead the Duhawks once again, but it won't be a shoo-in, as Loras has recruited five new quarterbacks to the program. Two transfers and three freshmen will accompany Brennan when camp opens up August 11. Only time will tell which will put in the hard work and effort and earn the starting job.
On defense, Loras will be challenged to fill a lot of holes. With the graduation of Zach Myers, Eric Meyer, David Zoeckler, Nate Suchomel, and Frank Pereiro, they will have their hands full of young players whom most of which did not see much playing time last season.
Following the spring season new assistant coach Mike DuFrane feels that the defense will be ready to go full blast on opening day.
"Everyone out there wants a chance to compete and play hard. There will certainly be some good competition for those starting spots."
Loras will open up their 2012 season on September 1st in the Rock Bowl against Elmhurst College, with hopes to exact revenge on last year's 50-24 loss. They will then play two more non-conference games against Rockford College and at Augustana College before opening up Iowa Conference play on September 29th as they take on Luther College on Homecoming weekend.
"We're definitely going to come out with a chip on our shoulder after last year," Mierkiewicz said, "we're not going to take any breaks and hope to catch some teams off guard."