Head football coach Todd Glaser has new-faced defense with plans to end season-opening losing streak

    Blugolds prepare for fourth annual season opener against St. Thomas

    More stories from Austin Mai

    Head football coach Todd Glaser has new-faced defense with plans to end season-opening losing streak

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    Senior Jayden Dobbs has been an outside linebacker for his entire career and expected to finish his career at UW-Eau Claire as one. That was until last spring.

    With the departure of defensive end Jake Safstrom, head coach Todd Glaser told the 6’1’’, 230 pound player to prepare to convert to defensive end for his senior season. In the Blugolds’ defensive scheme, Dobbs shifts inside the defensive line when previously he played on the edge of the line or in space.

    His previous job was to cover opposing running backs and tight ends or rush around the offensive line to disrupt the play. Now, he must use his strength and quickness to bend around offensive tackles and push through offensive guards.

    The most difficult challenge for Dobbs was not learning the nuances on the new position, but instead trying to add weight and strength to his frame through offseason workouts without losing his valuable speed, he said.

    “I was trying to get as big as I possibly could get,” Dobbs said. “Keeping my speed was most important for me. I might not be able to body-up against some of the bigger lineman in the conference so that’s when my speed will help.”

    Dobbs has practiced with great competition to test his skills against in his new position, he said, because he faces senior tackles Isiah Cage and Charlie Bakalars every practice.

    “They’re two of the best in the conference,” Dobbs said. “They beat me up but it’s preparing me for the season.”

    Dobbs spoke to the team at the beginning of the year and expressed how the defense has an opportunity to “put a stamp” on Eau Claire football as their team because of all of the new faces at different positions and players that are up and coming, he said.

    “After last year’s game against UW-La Crosse, our focus went to (University of) St. Thomas,” Dobbs said. “No one likes to lose in the fashion we did to St. Thomas. We’ve been remembering the feeling.

    Although Dobbs is adjusting to a new position, he is one of the few remaining faces starting on defense this season. Both of last seasons’ starting cornerbacks Thurgood Dennis and Mack Sims graduated and left important shoes to fill on the perimeter. Noseguard Roger Steen graduated last year and left another hole for this year’s squad to fill.

    Unlike the defense, the offense is returning most of its starters. However, incumbent senior quarterback Joel Newman will not be starting. Redshirt freshman quarterback J.T. DenHartog, who transferred to Eau Claire from University of Minnesota-Duluth this season, was named the starter earlier this week for the season opener against St. Thomas.

    “We’re excited about his athleticism,” Glaser said. “We’re lucky to have two quarterbacks that we believe can get the job done for us.”

    Eau Claire is 0-3 against St. Thomas over the past three seasons, losing by a combined score of 101-48. St. Thomas won a close game last season at home against Eau Claire 22-17.

    The Blugolds suit up for their home opener at 6 p.m. Saturday at Carson Park against the Tommies.