Beaver football team returns eight starters on O and D but will miss departed backfield
The 2004 BVU football team, with eight returning starters on both offense and defense, and two on special teams, will be force to be reckoned with this season in the Iowa Conference.
That's despite the loss of standout quarterback Eric Wiebers, who opted not to play football his senior year.
BVU is deep at the wide receiver position and returns most of its offensive lineman as starters, but must replace running backs Craig Rowedder and Barry VanVoorst as well as Wiebers.
Sixth-year BVU coach Steve Osterberger previewed the coming season by saying, "our football team has 22 seniors who have some game experience under their belts.
"They will be looked to to provide leadership within the program. The key will be how the rest of our team gels by the end of camp and to stay healthy."
BVU finished 6-4 overall last season and 4-4 and in fourth place in the Iowa Conference.
Wiebers completed 140 of 275 passes last season with 15 touchdowns, running 61 times for 74 yards and four rushing touchdowns.
The two running backs lost to graduation were Craig Rowedder and Barry VanVoorst. In 2003, Rowedder finished with 140 carries for 464 yards and seven touchdowns. He had eight receptions for 44 yards.
VanVoorst had 312 yards on 85 carries and three receptions for 16 yards.
But the BVU offense will be bolstered by a talented receiving corps in senior Justin Wiig, senior Michael Sullivan and Laurens sophomore Jesse Schmidt. Wiig missed the 2003 season due to injury, but is back this season after finishing with 34 receptions for 366 yards and one score in 2002.
Sullivan and Schmidt were Wiebers' favorite targets last season. Sullivan finished with 45 receptions for 843 yards for 84.3 receiving yards per game, fifth in the IIAC.
Schmidt was a second-team all conference pick in 2003. He finished with 38 receptions for 704 yards per game, adding 11 touchdowns, sixth in the conference.
Other key returnees on offense include junior fullback Dustin Crook, senior offensive tackle John Beck, senior offensive tackle Matt Percival, junior offensive guards Blake Dodd and Joe Bandow and senior center Jon Jacobson.
BVU also returns two key special teams players, including sophomore kicker Ryan Hutton and sophomore punter Chris Kemmerer.
Last season Hutton was a second-team all-conference pick after hitting 10 of 16 field goal attempts and 29 of 32 on PAT kicks. His 59 points was third in the conference. Kemmerer averaged 39.2 yards per punt in 2003, third in the conference and 18th in the nation.
On defense, the Beavers will be led by Irvin, a 2003 All-American who led the nation in solo tackles per game at 8.8. He finished with 145 total tackles, 7.5 tackles for a loss, 1.5 sacks and three forced fumbles.
Other defensive returnees include senior defensive end Tim Mathisen, junior defensive tackle Rick Ohlinger, senior linebacker Bryan Schwartz, senior linebacker Matt Mullen and senior defensive backs Scott Jamison, Matt Ambrose and Michael Lang.
Meanwhile, defending Iowa Intercollegiate Conference champion Wartburg College received five of six first-place votes and accumulated 45 points to claim the top spot in the 2004 IIAC football coaches poll.
Simpson College, the 2003 IIAC runner-up, received one first-place vote and finished in second in the coaches poll.
Simpson, which finished with 43 total points, was followed by Loras (38), Luther (32), Coe (30), Central (28), Buena Vista University (21), Cornell (17) and Dubuque (10).
Meanwhile, Wartburg and Simpson also received national recognition recently. Four publications produced preseason national polls - d3football.com, Don Hansen's Football Gazette, Street and Smith's and Lindy's.
Wartburg is ranked in the top ten of all four polls, sitting as high as fourth in the Lindy's poll. The Knights are sixth in the d3football.com poll, eighth in the Football Gazette Poll and tenth in Street and Smith's poll. Simpson was ranked 30th in the Football Gazette poll.
Six Iowa Conference players were named to Pre-season All-American Teams, including BVU linebacker Michael Irvin.
Irvin, a senior for the Beavers this season, was a first-team Preseason All-American selection by Street and Smith's magazine and Don Hansen's Football Gazette.
Simpson's junior wide receiver Dusty Kain was named a preseason All-American by four different publications and was among "Eight Players to Watch."
In addition, Simpson's senior defensive back Kyle Westphal was a first team All-American pick by Lindy's, d3football.com and the Football Gazette.
Central senior linebacker Mark Sanger and Coe senior offensive lineman Drew Dennis and sophomore kicker Michael Herzberger were also named to the Football Gazette's third All-American team.