Dragon Primer 2017
MSUM is coming off a 7 - 4 record where they were 5 - 1 at home. 5 - 1 is borderline great, 2 - 3 on the road is not unlike an anchor to that success though. The preseason predictions have the Dragons as seventh best in the Northern Sun but after a cursory look at some of the facts, I think that may be an underrating.
It starts with the most important position on the field. They have a senior quarterback who played in 10 of 11 games a season ago. Demetrius Carr finished the season with a stat line of 198-323 passing with 7 interceptions, a 61.3 completion percentage average. He tallied 2710 yards (271 per game) and with 31 touchdowns. Over four TD's to one int is a healthy ration.
Quintessential to sustained success are the weapons that Carr will able to again utilize. A season ago he had two receivers notch 10+ touchdowns. 17 went to Damon Gibson while another 10 went to Cory Ambrose. The former gets one more ride while the latter has moved on from his collegiate playing career. Beyond those two, only three other guys found paydirt with Hunter Braaten being the only one to do so on repeat.
The third point of the triangle offense for the Dragons may be Austin Stone. He out rushed his teammates by more then double and nearly doubled their number of touchdowns as well. For Steve Laqua, that's a great place to start!
Another consistent receiving threat would help open up the field while a complimentary runner wouldn't hurt the expansion of the playbook. Taking a rudimentary stab at it, I would have thought that Zach Sweep would fill the role of RB2, with the QB again mixing it up with a little zone read option but Sweep is now listed with the DB's so the coaching staff may just have an ace up their sleeve about who will be in the complimentary role. As for the WR2, the aforementioned Braaten is probably pencilled in at that spot. Neither of the returning TE's are much of a pass catching threat so that dimension is likely about as flat as a pancake. It's still a very good place from which to start for the offense. What about their counterparts though?
I'll start with the fire breathers aka the defensive line. They're returning one of the two top sack achievers in Jake Busse. They got at least a half sack from 15 different players, that's an impressive no matter which school your at but a big question for the defense will be how they replace the 8.5 that walked off stage with a diploma. Linebacker Abe Roehrich is second from last year as far as returning players are concerned for sacks. So that may leave the front a little light on production in 2017. If that's to be proven wrong, someone will have to step in and step up, for the defensive 11 to do what is necessary and even better, to do what they can to support their offensive teammates.
But maybe the linebackers are exactly the ones to fill in for any deficiencies along the front line. Amongst them they only had one senior which means that there was plenty of playing time to go around for the underclassmen. Roehrich will be the leader but again it seems that there will be question marks. But questions getting answered is what shows a coaching staff to be of merit or not. Laqua has done well over his six seasons so there's no reason to believe that he won't continue doing so but the defense so far seems to present as many challenges as the offense seems to present opportunities.
But what about the defensive backfield? Can't forget about those guys. The prima donna's of the defense may just be the saving grace for it. Very little production lost, while their most productive players have years left to play. The two key guys it would seem are Juniors Michael Strand & Aaron Doan who each snatched a trio of interceptions. Another year of seasoning and maybe they can combine for double digits in that category. It comes down to scheme and working as a team but having guys with the ability to create turnovers never hurts. It seems as thought MSUM may have at least a couple of guys who can do just that.
If things come together they seem like a team that could improve on their 7 - 4 from 2016 but only time will tell how well things come and stay together in this injury prone game. They got a bit of a scheduling break in that they only hooked one of the two playoff teams from the NSIC this season but they also got their school's kryptonite to start the year in Sioux Falls against Augustana. That's a very quick way to get a sense of where the team is at and how they will compete this season.
It seems as though they have assembled the talent to compete but the question as to whether they will or not can't be answered just yet. As with each and every sports program in the region, I hope most of all that the players comport themselves well and are able to walk away from each contest with little more then bruises to show for the physicality.
I wish you well this season Dragons, do your side of the river proud!