Coaches tab UW-Whitewater football as preseason favorite - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Coaches tab UW-Whitewater football as preseason favorite

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MADISON, Wis.--Winners of five of the last seven NCAA Division III titles and eight of the last nine league crowns, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater is the preseason choice to win the 2014 Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC) football championship, according to the league’s head coaches and sports information directors.
The Warhawks, who enter the 2014 campaign ranked No. 1 by,Lindy’s Sports and USA Today Sports, welcome back 10 starters on offense and five on defense from the 2013 national championship squad.  UW-Whitewater also secured the 33rd WIAC crown in program archives a year ago.  In 2013, the Warhawk offense threw just one interception to finish as the lone team in NCAA Division III to accumulate a single turnover through the air.  Senior Matt Behrendt established school single-season records with 302 completions and 40 touchdown passes, while senior Jake Kumerow added a conference mark of 19 receiving touchdowns and a school record of 1,331 receiving yards.
UW-Whitewater also led the nation in scoring defense (9.1 points per game), while ranking second in turnover margin (+2.3 per game) and third in total defense (244.9 yards per game).  Since 2005, the Warhawks have amassed a record of 122-8 (.938 winning percentage).  Head coach Lance Leipold is six victories away from reaching 100 in his career.
UW-Platteville, ranked No. 8 by, is slotted for second in the eight-team league derby after making the program’s first-ever NCAA Division III Championship appearance a season ago and winning their first round game.  The Pioneers matched a program record with 10 victories and return nine defensive starters from last year’s unit, including senior Jacob Zilbar, who placed third in the conference with 101 total tackles.  Also back is senior Trevor Whitehead, who produced the program’s third 1,000-yard receiving season with 1,017 yards.  UW-Platteville finished third in NCAA Division III with 348.8 passing yards per game a season ago.  Ralph E. Davis Pioneer Stadium suffered significant damage following a tornado on June 16, however, the five-game home football schedule remains unaffected at this time.
UW-Oshkosh, ranked No. 18 by and No. 22 by Lindy’s Sports, has produced three consecutive winning seasons for the first time since 1969, and completed its best four-year run (32 wins) in school history in 2013.  Senior Cody Huemmer leads six returners on defense after finishing second in the conference with nine sacks a season ago.  Senior Nate Ray topped the WIAC in punting average last year with 39.9 yards per kick.  UW-Oshkosh visits NCAA Division I South Dakota State University on Sept. 20.  The last time UW-Oshkosh played such a highly affiliated opponent was Eastern Kentucky University in 1975.  The Titans have won 11 straight WIAC road games.
UW-Stevens Point’s 3-4 league record in 2013 was a two-game improvement from 2012 (1-6) - tied for the largest upgrade in the conference with UW-Whitewater.  The Pointers return seven starters to a defensive unit that ranked second in the WIAC - and 11th in NCAA Division III - in rushing defense at 98.2 yards per game, after ranking last in the WIAC in 2012 with 183.6 yards per game.  Junior Zach Vallafskey was second on the team with 63 total tackles a season ago, while senior Bo Seibel placed third with 56.  UW-Stevens Point will play six home games for the first time since 2010.
UW-La Crosse returns its top-four rushers and five of its top-six receivers, including senior Ben Hertrampf, who ranks 15th on the school’s career rushing yards chart with 1,623.  Seniors Tony Favre, Alex Lepp and Chris Stackhouse combined for 49 catches and seven touchdowns last season.  The Eagles also welcome back their top-two tacklers in senior Shane Rockweiler (90 total tackles) and junior Jake Perner (74 total tackles).  UW-La Crosse’s three non-conference opponents on the 2014 schedule went a combined 26-8 a season ago.
UW-Stout brings back eight offensive starters, including senior Hank Kujak and sophomore Adolfo Pacheco.  Kujak threw for more yards (2,813) than any UW-Stout quarterback since Matt Bunyan threw for 3,220 in 1998.  Pacheco recorded 965 rushing yards - the most by a Blue Devil freshman since Luke Bundgaard ran for 1,366 yards in 2000 (as a red-shirt freshman).   Senior Luke Bakkum was fourth in the WIAC with 94 total tackles.  The Blue Devils play just four home games in 2014 and have nearly a one month gap from their first home game to their second (Sept. 13 to Oct. 11).
UW-Eau Claire has seven starters returning on defense, including junior Cody Taubman, who was third on the team with 69 total tackles in 2013.  Three of the five returning starters on offense are linemen.  Gone from last year’s squad are Joel Sweeney, who finished third on the school’s all-time rushing list with 4,021 yards, and Paul Santi, who started all 40 games in his career.  UW-Eau Claire’s non-conference schedule in 2014 features three teams that posted a combined 23-7 record a season ago, while four of its first six games are against teams ranked in the preseason top 25.
UW-River Falls welcomes back its top-three rushers and top-five receivers (based on yards) from the 2013 campaign that saw the Falcons drop four games by a total of eight points.  Five of the top-six players in total tackles return for the 2014 season, including junior Nick Zimmerman, who compiled a team-leading 54 total tackles.  Junior Ryan Kusilek established a school single-game total offense record against Simpson College (Iowa) on Sept. 21, with 479 yards.  Senior Jordan Christianson had a team-high 612 receiving yards and seven touchdowns receptions.  Ramer Field is scheduled to have field turf installed prior to the start of the WIAC schedule, meaning every stadium in the conference now has an artificial surface.
2014 Preseason Predictions--Voted on by WIAC Head Coaches and Sports Information Directors
                                                                2013 Record
1.  UW-Whitewater                         15-0 overall, 7-0 WIAC
2.  UW-Platteville                             10-2, 6-1
3.  UW-Oshkosh                                               8-2, 5-2
4.  UW-Stevens Point                     5-5, 3-4
5.  UW-La Crosse                              3-7, 3-4
6.  UW-Stout                                      4-6, 2-5
7.  UW-Eau Claire                             2-8, 2-5
8.  UW-River Falls                             0-10, 0-7
Team Tidbits
UW-Eau Claire
Head Coach:  Todd Glaser; 12th season (9th at UWEC); 52-60 (overall) / 39-43 (UWEC)
Letterwinners Returning/Lost on Offense:  14/11
Letterwinners Returning/Lost on Defense:  16/7
Letterwinners Returning/Lost at Kicker:  1/1
Starters Returning/Lost on Offense:  5/6
Starters Returning/Lost on Defense:  7/4
Starters Returning/Lost at Kicker:  0/1
Returning All-WIAC:  Isiah Cage, Jr., OL (2013-Second); Erik Hulman, Jr., LB (2013-Honorable); Clint Larsen, Jr., WR (2013-Honorable)
UW-La Crosse
Head Coach:  Joel Dettwiler; 4th season at UWL; 10-20
Letterwinners Returning/Lost on Offense:  22/7
Letterwinners Returning/Lost on Defense:  19/15
Letterwinners Returning/Lost at Kicker:  1/0
Starters Returning/Lost on Offense:  9/2
Starters Returning/Lost on Defense:  7/4
Starters Returning/Lost at Kicker:  1/0
Returning All-WIAC:  Tony Bilderback, Sr., WR, (2011-Honorable); Austin Feuerhelm, So., DB (2013-Honorable); Ben Hertrampf, Sr., RB (2011-First); Matt Krier, Sr., OL (2012-Second); Grant Schultz, Sr., DL (2013-Second); Gavin Marquart, Jr., DB (2013-Second); Shane Rockweiler, Sr., LB (2013-Honorable); Zach Wall, Sr., LB (2013-Honorable)
Head Coach:  Pat Cerroni; 8th season at UWO; 47-26
Letterwinners Returning/Lost on Offense:  21/12
Letterwinners Returning/Lost on Defense:  29/8
Letterwinners Returning/Lost at Kicker:  1/0
Starters Returning/Lost on Offense:  3/8
Starters Returning/Lost on Defense:  6/5
Starters Returning/Lost at Kicker:  2/0
Returning All-WIAC:  Reese Dziedzic, So., LB (2013-Honorable); Cody Huemmer, Sr., DL (2013-First); Zach Kasuboski, Sr., WR (2012-First, 2013-First); Nate Ray, Sr., K/P (2012-Second, 2013-First); Joe Sommers, Jr., TE (2013-First); Alex Smith, Sr., DL (2012-Second, 2013-Second); Sam Versnik, Jr., OL (2013-Honorable)
Head Coach:  Mike Emendorfer; 16th season at UWP; 67-84
Letterwinners Returning/Lost on Offense:  19/5
Letterwinners Returning/Lost on Defense:  21/9
Letterwinners Returning/Lost at Kicker:  1/1
Starters Returning/Lost on Offense:  6/5
Starters Returning/Lost on Defense:  9/2
Starters Returning/Lost at Kicker:  1/1
Returning All-WIAC:  Rob Austin, Sr., DB (2013-First); Andrew Belken, Jr., LB (2013-Honorable); Bryce Corrigan, Sr., QB (2012-Second); Jayson Eddy, Sr., OL (2013-First); Ethan Fiene, Jr., OL (2013-Honorable); Brian Johnson, Sr., OL (2013-Second); Brian Lurquin, Sr., OL (2012-Honorable, 2013-Honorable); Andy Puccini, Sr., RB (2013-Honorable); Andrew Robinson, Jr., DL (2013-First); Devon Vance, Jr., DB (2013-Second); Trevor Whitehead, Sr., WR (2012-Second, 2013-First); Jacob Zilbar, Sr., LB (2011-Honorable, 2012-Honorable, 2013-First)
UW-River Falls
Head Coach:  Matt Walker; 7th season (4th at UWRF); 25-35 (overall) / 3-27 (UWRF)
Letterwinners Returning/Lost on Offense:  36/10
Letterwinners Returning/Lost on Defense:  28/17
Letterwinners Returning/Lost at Kicker:  2/1
Starters Returning/Lost on Offense:  8/3
Starters Returning/Lost on Defense:  7/4
Starters Returning/Lost at Kicker:  2/0
Returning All-WIAC:  Jordan Christianson, Sr., WR (2013-Honorable); Robbie Flom, Jr., WR (2012-First, 2013-Honorable); Cole Sirek, Sr., LB (2013-Honorable); Nick Zimmerman, Jr., DB (2013-Second)
UW-Stevens Point
Head Coach:  Tom Journell; 7th season (3rd at UWSP); 29-31 (overall) / 7-13 (UWSP)
Letterwinners Returning/Lost on Offense:  32/14  
Letterwinners Returning/Lost on Defense:  37/14
Letterwinners Returning/Lost at Kicker:  2/1
Starters Returning/Lost on Offense:  8/3
Starters Returning/Lost on Defense:  7/4
Starters Returning/Lost at Kicker:  2/0
Returning All-WIAC:  Jon Pahl, Sr., DL (2012-Honorable); Ryan Ramczyk, So., OL (2013-Second); Bo Seibel, Sr., LB (2013-Honorable); Zach Vallafskey, Jr., DB (2013-First)
Head Coach:  Clayt Birmingham; 5th season at UWST; 18-22
Letterwinners Returning/Lost on Offense:  12/11
Letterwinners Returning/Lost on Defense:  14/11
Letterwinners Returning/Lost at Kicker:  0/1
Starters Returning/Lost on Offense:  8/3
Starters Returning/Lost on Defense:  5/6
Starters Returning/Lost at Kicker:  0/1
Returning All-WIAC:  Luke Bakkum, Sr., LB (2013-Honorable); Hank Kujak, Sr., QB (2013-Honorable); Collin Laursen, Jr., DB (2012-Honorable); Tyler Naatz, Sr., DB (2012-Honorable, 2013-Honorable); Adolfo Pacheco, So., RB (2013-Second); Jamie Rohrig, Sr., DL (2013-Second)
Head Coach:  Lance Leipold; 8th season at UWW; 94-6
Letterwinners Returning/Lost on Offense:  27/6
Letterwinners Returning/Lost on Defense:  33/9
Letterwinners Returning/Lost at Kicker:  1/1
Starters Returning/Lost on Offense:  10/1
Starters Returning/Lost on Defense:  5/6
Starters Returning/Lost at Kicker:  1/1
Returning All-WIAC:  Matt Behrendt, Sr., QB (2013-Second); Mykael Bratchett, Sr., DL (2013-Honorable); Brady Grayvold, Sr., DB (2013-Second); Justin Howard, Sr., Returner (2013-First); Derric Junakin, Sr., TE (2013-Second); Jake Kumerow, Sr., WR (2013-First); Marcus McLin, Sr., DB (2012-Honorable, 2013-First); Jordan Ratliffe, Jr., RB (2013-Second); Lucas Skibba, Sr., OL (2013-First); Johnny Wiederholt, Jr., OL (2013-Honorable); Joe Worth, Jr., WR (2013-Second)
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