August 25, 2016 by Daniel Appel
(If you missed the first part of our season preview that covered offense, you can read it here)
The University of Northwestern Eagles football team cares not for your offense. In 2015, they allowed just one team to hit 20 points, a 31-20 win over Eureka where the Red Devils scored a meaningless touchdown as the clock ran out. Last year’s Eagles were a stifling bunch that ranked #1 in pass defense allowed in Division III football.
They did lose a few key starters in Grant Stroud, Luke Sommerlot, and Nathan Van Zee, but have filled those holes with young players that bear huge potentials. It wouldn’t be surprising to see this group out-perform their 2015 predecessors, a thought that sends chills through UMAC offensive coordinators.
The 2016 UNW Eagles defensive starters as predicted by the Remnant Sports Department:
DE: Chris Compton – Jr.
Compton is a guy you can’t help but root for in this spot. The junior has battled multiple injuries heading into this season, but seems to have finally put all the pieces together.
DT: Colton Paskewitz – So.
When your favorite food is beef, you really don’t have a choice but to play nose tackle. To make things better, one of his hobbies is weightlifting so you just know he’s dedicated to his craft. In all seriousness, Paskewitz is the perfect fit in the middle of this dominant front seven.
DE: Ben Johnson – So.
There were a few impactful freshman on defense for the Eagles last season, and Johnson stood out among the bunch. He played solidly all season but really showed up against Greenville where he had 9 tackles, 3 for loss, 2 sacks, and a forced fumble. Look for him to disrupt opposing lines in 2016, especially against the run.
OLB: Nick Swore – So.
This isn’t a typo. The former safety who had a breakout season last year is now at outside linebacker. Much like the path of alum Grant Stroud, Swore makes the switch this season to take over for Luke Sommerlot. It can’t be stressed enough how incredibly smart this move is for coordinator Matt Moore. He’ll be impossible to block outside, and with Burnham on the other side- finding time to pass will be a rough task.
MLB 1: Ben Greener – Sr.
Ben Greener is practically a legend at this point. A four year starter for the Eagles, Greener is the most sure tackler on the team, and an absolute madman on the field. He plays like a hybird safety and hits like the meanest defensive end. A reserved person off the field, he leads by example on it. Greener is the heart and soul of the best defense in the UMAC.
MLB 2: Aaron Regnier – So.
Reignier was another standout freshman for the Eagles, a part of a solid recruiting class. He didn’t really get into his role until the latter stages of the season, but performed outstandingly. The speed at which he played against SAGU was unreal. Look for him to get tons of playing time in the Eagles’ 3-4 defense.
OLB: Gideon Burnham – Jr.
A fierce competitor like the rest of the backers, Burnham is a force to be reckoned across from Swore. The two of them will put up huge numbers in sacks and tackles for loss. The beauty of Burnham is his versatility and athleticism. Once you decide to run away from the edges of Burnham and Swore, you’re forced to go inside against Greener and Regnier. Not a great option.
CB 1: Austin Stubbs – Sr.
I don’t want to say he’s the best player on the team because of how much talent there is on defense alone, but it’s close. The fact that he wasn’t 1st team all UMAC in 2015 is laughable, despite being the best corner in the conference oustide *maybe* Xavier Rhodes of Scholastica. He may see reps at safety as well considering his skill set.
CB 2: Ryan Van Maanen – So.
Van Maanen was excellent across from Stubbs last season and will be once again. Sturdy in coverage, he pairs that with the size to drop the occasional running back.
S: Andrew Smith – Jr.
Smith looks to step into a larger role in 2016 at safety. 20 tackles and 3 interceptions in 2015 show a willingness to be an all-around player and he won’t need time to adjust.
S: Daniel Stratton – Jr.
Stratton’s game is built on instincts and speed- he’s a player who’s going to get a few interceptions this season if he starts. Solid in run support as well. This spot could be Kyle Anenson, depending on the sub-package.
K: Ben Lyons – Jr.
The man alllllllll the way from the great state of Ohio will be the Eagles kicker in his third year. #99 brings a man bun and 2 years of college experience into this season. He was named UMAC 1st team kicker last season.
P: Andy Waller- Sr.
He’ll be in a tough spot to replace Daniel Petkau, who was the UMAC 1st team punter. Waller punted 13 times last year and averaged 32 yards a pop.
SEASON RECORD PREDICTION
vs. Augsburg: L 30-20 – The Eagles open with a close loss to a rebuilding Augsburg squad.
@ Crown: W 28- 7 – Crown lost Brandon McCormick and can’t muster much offense.
vs. Minnesota-Morris: W 30-0 – For the third year in a row UNW shuts out MM.
vs. Martin Luther College: W 41-7 – The Eagles dropped 55 last year at MLC.
@ Iowa Wesleyan: W 34- 13 – Wesleyan had a huge recruiting class but is far from the top.
vs. MacMurray College: W 28-17 – Coy Dorothy is a senior and this won’t be easy.
@ St. Scholastica: W 19-16 – Superior Showdown Part 2: Eagles finally do it.
@ Westminster: W 29-20 – Latif Adams is no joke and neither are the Blue Jays.
vs. Greenville: W 35-23 – Greenville is on the upswing but this is a must win.
@ Eureka: W 27-10 – a long way to travel might make this one closer, but Eagles take the UMAC with this win.
RECORD: 9-1 overall 9-0 UMAC