Courtesy of NMU Athletics
MARQUETTE, Mich. – The Northern Michigan University football team kicks off its 100th with a new coach, several new assistants, 23 letterwinners and 41 new faces.Chris Ostrowsky was named the 21st head coach of the NMU program on Nov. 30. Ostrowsky spent two seasons as the ‘Cats offensive coordinator after coming to NMU with over 15 years of coaching experience.
The ‘Cats finished 4-7 in 2011 after starting the season 3-0 and being ranked nationally in the top 25. The Wildcats begin the season at the University of Findlay (Ohio) on Thursday, Aug. 30.
Ostrowsky’s spread offense is back for the third year. Eight starters return led by a strong group of offensive lineman, running backs and receivers.
Redshirt freshman Ryan Morley has received the starting nod after a battle with senior Cody Scepaniak, following the graduation of all-GLIAC quarterback Carter Kopach. Morley was a redshirt in 2011 while Scepaniak backed up Kopach. Morley brings plenty of experience to the position, playing in the spread at Grand Blanc (Mich.) High School.
Senior Prince Young returns as the featured running back. He led NMU with 960 yards on 202 carries and was a GLIAC honorable mention selection in 2011. Freshmen Keon Collier and Lance Smith will also see time in the backfield.
The receiving trio of juniors Christian Jessie and Christian Marble-King and sophomore Julian Gaines provide Morley with plenty of options. Marble-King and Gaines are both taller than 6-2 and Jessie finds gaps in the slot. Valparaiso transfer Kelvin Smarwt, along with redshirt freshman Trey Hipke and freshman Sterlin Darling will also supply depth at the position.
Senior Jace Daniels and junior Chad Anderson anchor an experienced offensive line. Daniels was selected to the GLIAC second team in 2011. Juniors James Bester and Patrick Fehlberg, as well as senior Chad Pepper and sophomore Brad Kattz, also have experience protecting the quarterback.
Two-time GLIAC second team selection Zach Anderson returns for his senior season to lead newly hired defensive coordinator Brian Newberry’s defense. A year ago, Anderson led the team with 68 total tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss and four sacks. Joining him on the defensive line will be senior James Brito-White, sophomore Jordan Adideran and redshirt freshman Matt Smith.
The experienced linebackers are led by seniors Eddie Knoblock and Josh Droese, junior Morgan Stenz and sophomore Wyatt Jurasin. Knoblock returns for his final season after an injury shortened two-game 2011 season. He was NMU’s male athlete of the year and a GLIAC first team selection in 2010.
After losing a large number of defensive backs to graduation, junior Brandon Parson will lead a young group to protect the endzone. He led the team with two interceptions last season. Sophomore Derek Beltrame, redshirt freshman Levi Perry and Loran Jaddou and freshman Keshawn Walker will see significant action in the defensive backfield.
Rockne Belmont, NMU’s all-time leader for field goals made in a season, will once again be a steady leg for the ‘Cats. With his 31 career field goals, Belmonte now has a chance to break Northern’s record for field goals in a career, currently held by Kyle Marotz (2002-05) who made 41. He will also handle the punting duties.
Following the Aug. 30 season opener, NMU meets its lone non-conference opponent Wisconsin La Crosse on Sept. 6. Ashland comes to town for Homecoming on Sept. 22. Michigan Tech (Oct. 6), Grand Valley State (Oct. 13), Saginaw Valley State (Nov. 3) and Ferris State (Nov. 10) also make appearances at the Superior Dome. The Wildcats travel to Ohio Dominican (Sept. 15), Hillsdale (Sept. 29), Wayne State (Oct. 20) and Northwood (Oct. 27).