Early wake-up call
MARQUETTE – They’re attend positional meetings at 6 a.m., then hit the Superior Dome turf for spring practice a half-hour later.
Northern Michigan University’s football players and coaches must be serious about the coming season to take part in spring drills that early.
“You really get the guys’ attention early. You’re freshest when you start the day rather than when you finish the day,” Northern fourth-year head coach Chris Ostrowsky said Wednesday.
“It’s also important to let our guys be students. It gives them the opportunity to take in some classes and be in labs.
“These kids are certainly dedicated (to report that early),” he added.
Ostrowsky, who’s 10-22 overall at NMU, said 73 players – “a phenomenal number” – are on the roster right now.
He said he wants to accomplish at least a couple of things during 15 sessions of practices and scrimmages leading up to the annual spring game set for Saturday, April 18.
“It’s important to get our players to understand the speed of the game on a scholarship level. We want to create a competitive edge,” Ostrowsky said.
“Fundamentals are also critical in the spring. It’s important to become a mentally better football team with the little things.”
The coach said he also wants to create some “great competition” at every position group.
Offensively, Ostrowsky wants his players to understand run-blocking techniques, protect the quarterback and run crisp pass routes.
“On defense, we want to play with great effort and be a great tackling football team,” he said.
He said Shaye Brown, a junior-to-be this coming season, and sophomore Quintez Jones are leading candidates for the quarterback position, though he expects to have five to seven players at that post in fall drills.
“Shaye’s back and he has done a great job both in the classroom and on the field,” Ostrowsky said. “Jones is a big (6-foot-2, 232 pounds), strong kid from Chicago who’s doing a great job.”
The coach is excited about a pair of newcomers to the program in junior Zach Parrella, a 6-foot, 225-pound middle linebacker from Chabot Junior College in Hayward, California, and Paris Woods, a 6-2, 200-pound junior wide receiver from Minnesota State Community College.
Ostrowsky added at least three Upper Peninsula players – Wyatt Jurasin of Marquette (Ishpeming High School), Gabe Eppert (IHS) and Austin Young of Escanaba – will be counted on to provide strong seasons.
“Jurasin (6-2, 231 senior tailback) is a tough kid with a competitive edge,” the coach said. “His athleticism for his size is special.
“Eppert (6-4, 226 sophomore wide receiver) is coming off toe injury. His potential is endless – he can be the whole package. He’s big, strong fast and athletic.
“Young (5-9, 185 senior wide receiver) is special to me,” Ostrowsky said. “He was first kid I recruited for Northern. He’s a heckuva football player.”
Team leadership, the coach said, has been developing over the winter and will continue to strengthen during spring and fall drills.
The squad’s ultimate goal, naturally, is a national championship.
“That doesn’t happen overnight and hasn’t happened here for a long time,” Ostrowsky said about a 1975 championship. “We’re razor-close and we know it.
“In my view, anyone who sees it differently either has an agenda or doesn’t know what they’re looking at.”
He said a more immediate goal is to develop as much competition at every position as possible to foster a quality starting lineup and depth. That will ultimately result in more wins than losses.
“You win with good coaches and players who believe in each other,” Ostrowsky said. “(You do that and) wins will come in bunches.”
Craig Remsburg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 251. His email address is email@example.com.