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Tiger notebook: J-Back spot brings versatility to DWU offense

Dakota Wesleyan University's J-Back position comes in all shapes and sizes. The position was brought to the offense when offensive coordinator Zach Parks joined the Tigers' coaching staff last season. The spot is a combination of wide receiver, t...

Dakota Wesleyan University's J-Back position comes in all shapes and sizes.

The position was brought to the offense when offensive coordinator Zach Parks joined the Tigers' coaching staff last season.

The spot is a combination of wide receiver, tight end and fullback rolled into one.

"We block and we run routes," DWU J-Back Payne Ahrens said about the spot. "We split out every once in awhile, too."

Parks said the hybrid position does a little bit of everything in DWU's spread offense. The position group is asked to split out wide, go in motion and be able to block.

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"They have to do a lot of dirty work like a fullback would do, but they also have to be able to run around and catch some routes," Parks said.

The position can be played by a variety of different players as well. Ahrens is listed at 6-foot-3, 225, while the team's other two J-Backs-Ryan Roderick (5-5, 185) and Zach Kubick (5-8, 215) offer a different skill set at the spot.

"Payne, obviously, he is a big target in the pass game, but he is also a big kid in the run game that can do a lot of things," DWU coach Ross Cimpl said. "Zach Zubick, is another guy, a little bit shorter, but still does a great job in the run game. In terms of options, he is probably a little bit more limited in the pass game, but again, somebody we can use and run different routes and do different things."

Parks said the offense can keep the defense guessing with the versatile position.

"It makes it tough on them to game plan for us," Parks said. "It creates some mismatches that way. It creates a lot of flexibility for us. So it is always fun."

Ahrens said he could play between 60 and 75 percent of the snaps in the J-Back position, but that is also dependent on the gameplan. He hauled in a 35-yard touchdown pass last Saturday from Dillon Turner in DWU's 39-20 win over Hastings College. Ahrens has caught eight passes for 95 yards and two touchdowns this season.

"It really opened my eyes," Ahrens added about the J-Back. "I learned more of the game instead of being just one dimensional. I go in motion now. It is different, but it is a lot of fun."

Bye week

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The Tigers (3-2, 1-1 Great Plains Athletic Conference) are off this week, before playing at Dordt on Oct. 8 in Sioux Center, Iowa.

DWU will use the first part of the week to place the focus on its team first.

"For us, on the defensive side of the ball, we haven't talked to our guys about Dordt at all," Cimpl said. "It is really getting back to the basics of what we need guys to do."

The Tigers will then start to look toward the Defenders later in the week.

"Maybe toward the end of the week we start shifting gears to Dordt, but right now, we have a lot of other things that we need to fix and focus on," Cimpl said. "We want to do those things first."

It is also a much-needed break for the Tigers, whose first game was Aug. 26 and has played two more games than conference opponent Morningside College.

"It will be good for us to get healthy and go back to the drawing board," Ahrens said. "It will be good for us to get ready for the strength of our schedule toward the end here."

Wide receiver trio back

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For the first time this season, DWU wide receivers Dustin Livingston, Hayden Adams and Kodi Larson all played in a game last Saturday.

Livingston (concussion) and Adams (foot) missed time in previous weeks, but they returned last week to give DWU a boost in the receiving game.

"It's week five and it was the first time all those guys have been on the field together," Cimpl said. "They are a dangerous group and we need to continue to have production from those guys and take some pressure off our run game as well."

Livingston caught eight catches for 92 yards and one touchdown against Hastings. Adams added three catches for 81 yards and Larson caught five passes for 59 yards. Larson also had four kickoff returns for 75 yards.

The key this bye week will be to remain healthy, said Cimpl.

"That's the hard part is you want to leave the bye week healthier than when you came in, but there is also things those guys that are banged up, that they need to work on, too," Cimpl said. "It is fine line of how far do we need to go with those guys."

One injury of note is starting defensive lineman and Colome native Cohl Ratermann, who suffered a lower leg injury Saturday at Hastings.

"We don't know the extent of that, but he is a guy we are hoping to get back as quickly as possible," Cimpl said.

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