Four quarters strong

Four+quarters+strong

Photo by Elizabeth Jackson

 

“One of our big goals this year is that we want to go out and compete for all four quarters without any letdowns and hopefully see the same consistency level.”

That’s what UW-Eau Claire head football coach Todd Glaser, who on Saturday will begin his eighth fall at the helm of the Blugold program, has been stressing to his team in the dog days of the 2013 preseason.

And with an incredibly tough schedule standing in front of them, one that will feature road games at 2012 NCAA Division III runner-up St. Thomas (Minn.), national powerhouse St. John’s (Minn.) and the team predicted to win the conference in UW-Platteville.

However, the Blugolds, predicted to finish fifth in the conference with one first place vote according to WIAC Sports Information Directors, bring back an abundance of experience and accolades to the field in 2013 to tackle the schedule that sits out before them.

Seven starting offensive players return while five defensive starters will be back in 2013.

Anchoring the returners are three preseason All-Americans and the second fastest man in all of college football, according to CBSsports.com writer Chris Huston.

Senior offensive lineman Paul Santi was named an honorable mention preseason All-American by USA College Football while senior linebacker Sean Graham and senior running back Joel Sweeney were named to the second team by the same source.

Glaser said senior leadership will be key for the Blugolds in 2013, but he has been pleased with the effort from them so far.

“All of our seniors have done a good job at camp of being able to mentor the young guys and show them how to practice, how to work and how conduct themselves in player meetings,” Glaser said. “We’ve always got a good group of seniors and we’ve got a good group again this year.”

In June, CBSsports.com’s Chris Huston named junior Thurgood Dennis, fresh off a track season that saw him win a combined four national championships between the indoor and outdoor season, the second fastest player in all of college football, including Division II and I players.

Graham said the individual awards are nice, but it is even better to win team awards.

“It’s a great honor, but all and all it is a team sport and I’ll take any individual honor for a national title or conference championship, absolutely,” Graham said.

On the offensive side of the ball, Sweeney, who has started all three of his previous college seasons as the primary back in the Blugold backfield, returns after garnering first-team all WIAC honors at running back a season ago with 1,223 yards rushing and 13 touchdowns.

Sweeney said he is getting himself prepared to lead the Blugold offense in more ways than one.

“You never know what a game is going to turn out to be,” Sweeney said.”Maybe they’re going to pack the box, and maybe that’s going to help open up our pass game. If they lay off that, we can bring it back with the run. But if I got to carry load, I’ll do my best.”

On the defensive side of the ball, the Blugolds will look to improve upon a defensive effort that was eighth in the conference in total defense a year ago at 395 yards per game. However, they Graham leading the effort on that side of the football. The linebacker was the leading tackler on the squad a year ago with 63, and he said he expects the defense to step up in 2013.

“I’m going to do everything I can to make sure the other team has zeroes on that scoreboard,” Graham said. The defense does a lot for linebackers to make plays. We’re going to do everything we can and I can individually to make all of the plays to win.”

Glaser said the players all worked hard in preseason camp and he said fans can expect the same when coming out to Carson Park this fall.

“We think the players have worked hard and come out and competed everyday,” Glaser said. “You’re going to see a lot of effort out of our kids and hopefully good football.”

Playing hard for four quarters is the goal set out by the coaching staff for the 2013 Blugolds. They’ll play their first four Saturday at St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn. Kickoff is set for 1:10 p.m.