The 2015 MIAC Football Camp Tour stayed in St. Paul for its seventh stop, as I spent the afternoon at Hamline University on Tuesday, Aug. 25. Though it was getting near the end of Piper camp, the energy was still remarkably high and it was one of the most aggressive and physical practices I attended on the tour. This team is fired up.
Hamline nearly made it to .500 last season, and even getting to four wins was a huge step in the right direction for a program that appears to be on the rise under third-year Head Coach Chad Rogosheske. The Pipers have started carving out an identity as a smash-mouth team, and they're embracing that philosophy as they hope to continue their progress in 2015.
My top four observations from last Tuesday's practice are below in "Four Downs" and be sure to check out our updated photo gallery with some images from Hamline's practice, as well as a video with highlightsand interviews with Head Coach Chad Rogosheske, Senior RB Ryan Ferkinhoff and Junior DB Zach Schwalbach.
|Hamline looked energetic and aggressive|
during the MIAC Camp Tour stop in St. Paul.
The majority of Hamline's offensive identity over the past three seasons has resided in the backfield in the form of now senior star RB Austin Duncan. He's already the Pipers' all-time leader in rushing yards (3,434) and touchdowns (25). Last season, Duncan ran for 1,237 yards and seven scores in just nine games. As a senior, Hamline will hope to ratchet down his carries a bit (228 in 2014) and hope for the similar bruising, dynamic style that has made him one of the MIAC's best throughout his career. However, keeping him healthy all season will be key, which brings me to my next point...
SECOND DOWN - Bring the Balance
The Pipers will need to find some other playmakers around Duncan to take that next step. Gone is QB Tim Bona, who had a solid season in 2014 with 2,115 passing yards and 13 scores. The new signal caller will benefit from the return of TE Phillip Sherman, who was ninth in the MIAC in receptions (43) and eighth in receiving yards (596) and he could be an even bigger part of the plan in 2015. Naji El-Araby and Nick Kampa are also back, and Ferkinhoff offers a great change of pace and solid receiving skills in the backfield to compliment Duncan. The balance extends to the other side of the ball, where Hamline hopes to have a good defense led by a strong secondary. Schwalbach (71 tackles) and fellow DB Anthony Hill (94 tackles) give the Pipers an athletic, aggressive back end, and Jonny Nguyen returns at LB. Hamline improved to sixth in points allowed (31.5 per game) and yards allowed (417.6 per game) and hopes to continue that trend in 2015.
|Last Tuesday's visit to Hamline was|
filled with big hits and big plays.
As I alluded to in my intro, this is year three under Rogosheske's guidance, and each year the team gets a little crisper, a little more polished and a little more enthusiastic. Schwalbach told me that they embrace being one of the MIAC's "blue collar" schools and want to bring that same attitude and work ethic into each week. Rogosheske said that he's pleased with the direction the team is heading, and that this camp has more veterans and more guys that know what to expect, so things have moved quicker than his first two years. He said they're pleased with the step up to four wins in 2014, but he's cautioned his team that they still have a long way to go to reach their goals. This was my third year attending a Hamline preseason practice, and I have definitely noticed the evolution. They had a ton of energy during my visit, and it was one of the sharpest workouts I saw on the tour. It also featured some of the hardest hitting, especially from the aforementioned defensive backs.
FOURTH DOWN - Strength in Numbers
During each of Rogosheske's first two seasons, they've had single-digit senior classes. This year they increase a little, but next season (2016) they'll have their first group of more than 20 seniors and have much bigger classes in line behind them. The result of the increased numbers is twofold: there are more upperclassmen and, therefore, more leadership and more individuals to help instill that culture, and it also makes the team deeper and more able to put guys in spots to succeed. The increased roster is further evidence of the building going on in St. Paul, and as the roster and talent grows, so too should the win totals. Four was the magic number last season after winning just four total games over the four prior season (2010-2013). Getting to .500 this season would be continued evidence of that progress, and if Hamline could find a way to get to six or seven wins, heads would really start to turn toward Klas Field.
CAMP TOUR RECAPS CONTINUE WEDNESDAY
The MIAC Football Camp Tour has hit each of the nine schools, and this week we'll be finishing up with recaps from the final stops. Look for a report from Saint John's camp tomorrow, followed by Concordia Thursday. The full camp tour schedule is listed below with my date I visited each school.
Follow along with the tour on social media, as we've been posting on on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram at each stop, and we'll be using the hashtag #MIACcamptour for both our football and volleyball treks around the MIAC. Kelsey has been crushing it on the MIAC Volleyball Camp Tour as well, and you can follow her progress on the blog or the Volleyball Camp Tour home page.
Tuesday, Aug. 18 -Gustavus - St. Peter, Minn.
Wednesday, Aug. 19 - Bethel - Arden Hills, Minn.
Thursday, Aug. 20 - Augsburg - Minneapolis, Minn.
Friday, Aug. 21 - St. Olaf and Carleton - Northfield, Minn.
Monday, Aug. 24 - St. Thomas - St. Paul, Minn.
Tuesday, Aug. 25 - Hamline - St. Paul, Minn.
Wednesday, Aug. 26- Saint John's and Concordia - Collegeville and Moorhead, Minn.