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Tiger football team ready for competitive spring

Competition will be at an all-time high for the Dakota Wesleyan University football team. The Tigers start spring football today, with 15 practices spread out until the annual spring game on Thursday, April 13. DWU will have 73 players participat...

Dakota Wesleyan University football coach Ross Cimpl coaches during a game last November against Concordia at Joe Quintal Field in Mitchell. (Republic file photo)
Dakota Wesleyan University football coach Ross Cimpl coaches during a game last November against Concordia at Joe Quintal Field in Mitchell. (Republic file photo)

Competition will be at an all-time high for the Dakota Wesleyan University football team.

The Tigers start spring football today, with 15 practices spread out until the annual spring game on Thursday, April 13. DWU will have 73 players participating in spring ball, which is a far cry from 43 during head coach Ross Cimpl's first year in 2012.

"We have consistently increased that number," Cimpl said. "Last year, I think we were right around 65, 68 guys. Now being able to have 73, that is a big benefit for us."

The high number of players will create more competition as players will be lobbying for jobs in the fall. The spring will give coaches a chance to see some players in new positions, while also developing depth.

"We want to get guys more comfortable in their assignments, executing at a higher level," Cimpl said. "But the big thing for us is we have to develop some depth at a lot of positions, probably all of our positions."

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Offensively, the Tigers return the Great Plains Athletic Conference offensive player of the year in quarterback Dillon Turner. But pieces around the signal caller are up for grabs.

Luke Loudenburg, Jonny Withrow, Gaige Marshall, Chayden Fitzsimmons and Zach Gors will take running back reps. The wide receiver spots will also be there for the taking as the Tigers graduated a pair of all-conference performers in Dustin Livingston and Kodi Larson. Hayden Adams is the top leading receiver from last season. Two new players were added to the wideout mix in ex-DWU basketball player Brandon Boggs and junior college transfer Tre Hobbs.

"We have some really, really good young guys at the wide receiver spot," Cimpl said. "Some guys that redshirted that are looking for their opportunities. Some guys that played last year that are looking to increase their role."

Defensively, the Tigers lost six starters and a pair of running backs switched sides of the ball. Mitch Johnson and Eathen Gaulke, who were both redshirt tailbacks last year, will get reps on defense. Johnson, a Mitchell graduate, will play cornerback. Gaulke, a Kimball grad, will play outside linebacker.

Also, two linebackers-Lukas Chase and Alan Murtic-will move to defensive line.

"They had a tremendous offseason and they put on a bunch of good weight and they are going to be guys fighting for jobs at the D-line spot," Cimpl said.

Winner grad Tyrel Haley will also make a position change as he'll move from safety to cornerback.

"Tyrel athletically is just a tremendous athlete," Cimpl said. "He has a great skillset and great tools and he is really quick and fast. He is a physical guy out there. Putting him at the corner spot is something we are excited to see him do."

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DWU will have a new twist to the spring season. The ninth practice will be at Harrisburg on April 1, with a coaches clinic also taking place. The coaches clinic will start at 9 a.m., with a scrimmage taking place at 10:15 a.m.

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