A deeper pool of talent
Playing younger players in ‘17 helps Marquette Redmen build experience
(* Great Northern Conference game)
Friday, Aug. 24 — TRAVERSE CITY ST. FRANCIS, 7 p.m.
Thursday, Aug. 30 — at Traverse City Central, 7 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 7 — SAULT STE. MARIE, 7 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 14 — * ESCANABA, 7 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 21 — PETOSKEY, 7 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 28 — * at Kingsford, 7:30 p.m. EDT
Friday, Oct. 5 — at Minocqua Lakeland Union, Wis., 8 p.m. EDT
Friday, Oct. 12 — * GLADSTONE, 7 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 19 — * at Menominee, 8 p.m. EDT
MARQUETTE — If there was a word to describe the Marquette Redmen football team last year, it was young.
The Redmen started seven juniors on offense and eight on defense, so players might’ve gotten thrown into varsity game action a little sooner than expected.
However, those players got some good playing time and they’re back this fall knowing what is to be required of them.
“That was a great learning experience for them,” Marquette head coach Dave L’Huillier said. “It wasn’t great for us record-wise or anything like that, but it was a great team experience and you can tell in this first week of practice, that those experiences have helped things go smooth the first few days.”
Now if there was a word to describe the 2018 Redmen, it’s deep. Marquette has 39 varsity players suiting up this season, including a quarterback who progressed over the course of last year and two players named All-Upper Peninsula Dream Teamers by the U.P. Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association.
“Brendan Kaski will be back (at quarterback) and he started all nine games last year,” L’Huillier said. “He really improved and he’s a very intelligent young man. He makes great decisions and he had very minimal turnovers last year.
“That was the biggest thing that really helped us stay in games was him just making good decisions. Like throwing the ball away if there was nothing there and not forcing it into bad situations.
“Brendan really came a long way for us last year and he’s off to an excellent start so far in camp.”
Helping Kaski in the backfield will be Dream Teamer Drew Gale, along with Isaac Johnson and fullback Ethan Hayes, both of whom are moving up from the JV.
The receiving corps will be led by Dream Teamer Ethan Martysz, who is getting quite a few looks from NCAA Division II programs. Martysz, Gale and Johnson will also split duties at kick and punt returner.
“Drew had an excellent year and he tore his ACL on the first play of the Menominee game,” L’Huillier said. “Everything went really well with the surgery and he’s been able to go full speed since Day 1 and he’s looked really good. He’s a big part of our offense, obviously.
“Isaac is a little different running style than Drew. Drew is more of a straightforward runner who will blaze by you with his speed, while Isaac is more shifty. He runs really well and has some great moves. There’s a little bit of a (difference in) running style between the two tailbacks.
“Obviously having Ethan back is going to be really big for us. He had a great year last year as an All-U.P. Dream Team wide receiver. He’s went on a circuit to a few (college) camps and getting some good looks from D-II schools. He’s done a good job at the beginning with his speed and his abilities and he’s going to be huge for us.”
On the offensive line, L’Huillier is looking at Beau Zorza, Josh Iwanicki and Alex Cannoot to lead the charge. L’Huillier also said he’s going to try to do a 1 1/2-player concept, while most teams will be forced to have their players play on both offense and defense. The concept involves starting on one side of the ball and being in a rotation on the other side.
If there’s a distinct advantage that the Redmen have over other squads is at placekicker. Marquette has two players who can drill field goals, while a good chunk of schools will be forced to try a two-point conversion after every one of their touchdowns.
Martysz performed the kicking duties last year and he’ll do so again this season, but L’Huillier also has soccer player Drew Wyble there to step in if needed.
After just a few days of practice, L’Huillier liked what he’s saw.
“This has been a really smooth camp for us the first three days,” he said. “We’ve got some guys with a lot of experience. Our numbers are pretty good. We’re at 39 kids and 20 seniors and 19 juniors.
“The juniors have fit in really well with the group of seniors that we have, and six of the seniors we have with us are in their third year on the varsity.
“You can tell with the pace of practice that their knowledge of what we want and what our expectations are has been great and it’s probably one of the smoother camps we’ve had in a few years.”
Ryan Stieg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.