Tigers fight for spotsEvery position is open.
By: Aaron Saunders, The Daily Republic
Every position is open.
For the second straight year, that is what Dakota Wesleyan University football coach Ross Cimpl is saying entering spring practice, which started Monday on the campus’ practice field.
Cimpl’s squad took the field as it worked on position skills and offensive and defensive scrimmages.
The Tigers battled cold, windy weather, along with a little bit of a muddy field, but completed the first day of spring ball without a glitch.
“The first day is always something where you are not quite sure about,” Cimpl said. “I think we came out and practiced extremely hard. We made a bunch of mistakes, but we are OK with that because we were really trying to get after it.”
DWU returns six players who started on offense last year and seven defensive starters. Five players who are members of the 2013 recruiting class were also taking part in practice.
Tyson Kayser, Chris Stockman, Keagen Hadley and Jared Van Winkle are transfers who are participating in the Tigers’ spring practice. Freshman running back John Fabrizius is the only player on the spring squad who played high school football last fall.
Fabrizius graduated from high school a semester early in order to enroll at DWU and participate in spring practices.
The 6-foot-1 running back is competing for time in the backfield with Francois Barnaud in hopes of filling the hole left by the departed Josh Endres. Cimpl said there is no front-runner of the job yet, and it may be filled by committee.
Last season, Endres rushed for 1,371 yards and nine touchdowns. He also became the school’s all-time leading rusher with 3,397 career rushing yards.
“Josh was a great running back who definitely left his mark on this program, and we are going to miss him,” quarterback Jon Bane said. “We have Francois Barnaud, Arthur Brown and a few freshmen coming in, and I think they are going to fill the role for us. They have been working hard all Spring.”
Bane, who is heading into his senior season, looked to be in complete control of things Monday. The quarterback conversed with his receivers to tell them where they were supposed to be during passing drills and communicated with them if there was a mistake on a route.
The soon-to-be fourth year starter passed for 2,157 yards and 18 touchdowns last season and was garnered all-Great Plains Athletic Conference honorable-mention honors.
“We have to establish where our strengths are offensively and defensively,” Cimpl said. “We have Anthony Muilenburg coming back doing some things in our receiving game but we also need to run the ball. We just have to figure out how to put our guys in the best situation to be successful.”
Last season, the Tigers finished fourth in the GPAC, going 5-4 in conference play and 6-4 overall. The team continues its spring practices until the annual scrimmage, which is scheduled for 10:25 a.m. April 20.