MARQUETTE, Mich. (WLUC) – Northern Michigan University Football set several records last season and will look to continue their growth they have shown over the past two season as the enter the 2019 season ranked ahead of Northwood University and Michigan Technological University in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Preseason Coaches Poll.
NMU received 19 points, while Northwood received 17 and Michigan Tech finished with 16.
The Wildcats will be led be redshirt-sophomore quarterback Ryan Johnson (De Pere, Wis.) as he returns from an injury he suffered on the second play of the season last year. The QB returns to lead a new-look offense as NMU features a new Offensive Coordinator. His partner in the backfield will also be different as two-time Offensive Back of the Year and career and single-season rushing holder, Jake Mayon, graduated. Looking to fill those shoes will be junior Deandre Caldwell (Kankakee, Ill.). Caldwell has rushed for 668 yards the past two season and two touchdowns and averaged 21.8 yards on 25 kickoff returns last year.
In the passing game, Johnson will look to reconnect with senior Ryan Knight (Grand Rapids, Mich.). Knight led the team with 453 reception yards and five touchdowns in 2017. Sophomore Benjamin Loutsis (Aurora, Ill.) led the way with 27 receptions for 482 yards and four touchdowns while junior Ravon Johnson (Willowbrook, Ill.) added 409 yards and two touchdowns.
Three starters will return for the offensive line. Center Jay Young (New Baltimore, Mich.) returns to lead the offensive front while junior left guard Gabe Baumann (Rockford, Mich.) and sophomore left tackle Peyton Muljo (Marquette, Mich.) anchor the left side.
Defensively, the Wildcats return their top two tacklers. Junior safety Brady Hanson (Kewaskum, Wis.) returns after leading the team with 82 tackles and three pass breakups while senior captain Troy Mayon (Plainfield, Ill.) notched 79 tackles and led the team in interceptions along with a team-best four pass breakups.
In the defensive backfield, Hanson and Mayon are joined junior Deantae Young (Clinton Township, Mich.) and sophomores Trevor Roberts (Kingsford, Mich.) and Anthony Ladd (Columbus, Ohio). Young tied for the team with four pass breakups while Ladd and Roberts both added two. Roberts also chipped in with a blocked kick while Ladd helped seal a victory at Wayne State University with a 97-yard interception return for a touchdown with less than a minute to play.
At the linebacker spot, sophomore Isaac Darkangelo (Brighton, Mich.) tallied 60 in his freshman year while junior Austin Potter (Warren, Mich.) had 54. Darkangelo tallied the most yards for loss last season while Potter serves as the groups leader.
Up front, sophomore Jacob Dudeck (Manhattan, Ill.) posted 33 stops last year along with a forced fumble and a half sack. Senior Jeremy Statz (Wisconsin Rapids, Wis.) notched a sack for ten yards along with 17 tackles. Senior Logan McHone (Pleasanton, Calif.), sophomore Mequon Hudson (Zion, Ill.), and freshman Edward Pierson (Calumet Park, Ill.) will look to make a larger impact after significant playing time last season.
The team also returns sophomore kicker Daniel Riser (Ada, Mich.) and senior punter John Kwiecinski (Plymouth, Mich.). Riser made nine field goals in his rookie campaign, connecting on a season-long of 40 yards. Kwiecinski was named an All-GLIAC performer last year.
NMU enters their third season under Head Coach Kyle Nystrom and will look to continue their improvements. In addition to breaking rushing records last year, they also rushed a for a school record 24 first downs. Defensively, the team has allowed 118 fewer rushing yards per game since Nystrom took the helm, and allowed 107 fewer total yards per game.
Ferris State University received 64 points and eight first place votes to earn top-billing in this year's poll after reaching the NCAA Championship game last year. Ashland is ranked second with 55 points while Grand Valley State University had 51 points along with a first place vote. Saginaw Valley State University, 42 points, is fourth with Davenport University and Wayne State University are tied for fifth with 30 points each. NMU's 19 points puts them seventh, Northwood is eighth and Michigan Tech rounds out the league in ninth place.