MARQUETTE - The Northern Michigan University football team went through some changes this offseason leading to the opening of training camp on Thursday.
The Wildcats shuffled their coaching staff with the promotion of Chris Ostrowsky from offensive coordinator to head coach and the hiring of defensive coordinator Brian Newberry, among others.
Northern is in the process of finding a new starting quarterback, as well, though Ostrowsky plans to kill that storyline early in camp by naming a starter sooner rather than later.
First-year Northern?Michigan University head football coach Chris Ostrowsky works with the quarterbacks on the first official day of practice for the 2012 season on Thursday afternoon inside the Superior Dome. (Journal photo by Matt Keiser)
It's all part of what Ostrowsky called "a culture of change" surrounding the team's passion and energy, one he hopes pays off in his first season at the helm of NMU football.
"Like every team, everyone is pretty excited. Everyone is undefeated now," he said. "We're very young. We're going to work as hard as we can to be as good as we can be.
"I can't tell you how excited I am to lead the program and to represent this university as the head coach.
"At the same time, you feel pressure to produce something people are proud of."
Ostrowsky, who spend the previous two seasons as a coordinator for NMU, saw 47 fresh-faced players and trio of new coaches hit the freshly painted Superior Dome turf on Thursday afternoon following morning walk-throughs.
Northern practices again today at 3:45 p.m. followed by a 7:15 p.m. session on Saturday and 3:45 p.m. practices on Monday and Tuesday.
NMU's season is at Findlay on Thursday, Aug. 30.
"It's a new beginning for us. It's a new program in every sense of the word," Ostrowsky said. "
"We lost a ton of kids to graduation, the program did. There were some kids who moved on that didn't feel the program was a good fit for them anymore. We went out and actively recruited a great class. It's a new swing, if you will.
"The kids that stayed are kids who are truly committed to our vision."
Two returnees battling to take the spot of departed senior starting quarterback Carter Kopach are redshirt freshman Ryan Morley and senior Cody Scepaniak.
Both split time with the first and second units during the spring season, with neither being declared the starter prior to the offseason.
Ostrowsky said he doesn't plan to let the battle linger much longer, however, emphasizing the importance of getting Morley or Scepaniak the reps necessary with the top offensive unit.
"For this team right now, it's critical we have a starting quarterback, no question, that can work with the 'ones' and get the reps needed for everyone to feel comfortable," Ostrowsky said.
"Whatever the case, we're not going to let this thing go all the way and alternate quarterbacks. That's not going to happen."
Defensively, Ostrowsky said Newberry's retooled unit has caught up to the offense following the spring season.
That's much easier to do when you have key components such as senior defensive lineman Zach Anderson, senior linebacker Josh Droese and second-year senior Eddie Knoblock, who returns from injury for a second chance with the 'Cats.
"When you consider those three guys plus (junior defensive back) Brandon Parsons in the back, they're good football players," Ostrowsky said. "They could be as good as anybody in the league. I anticipate us on defense being pretty good."
Ostrowsky's "culture of change" began in the spring with the blending of the offensive and defensive units to create one team after witnessing a divide between the two in his previous two seasons. It will continue this fall from meetings to the weight room.
Everything the Wildcats will do in 2012, is predicated off the idea of one team, Ostrowsky said.
"You can't fool kids," he said. "When they know there's unity, it creates a togetherness and a bond that's critical to success.
"If you asked me my three goals, they would be play with energy and passion every single day, create an identity and become a team. Those are the three things that have to happen in the next three weeks."
NOTE: Following practice Thursday, Ostrowsky announced the teams captains for 2012.
On the defensive side, Ostrowsky selected senior defensive lineman Zach Anderson of Sault Ste.?Marie and second-year senior linebacker Eddie Knoblock, who received a medical redshirt as a senior last season.
On the offensive side of the ball, senior offensive lineman Jace Daniels of Escanaba and junior wide receiver Christian Marble-King will serve as captains.
Matt Wellens can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252.