The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Sports

August 15, 2013

With eye on national championship, Mavericks focus on process

Many key players back from team that reached semifinals

(Continued)

"We were pretty solid, all-around, but we need to continue to improve the passing," Wolf said. "We have a great line, and a lot of good athletes that can run the ball, but we have to be more consistent passing."

Minnesota State's strength will again be in the offensive and defensive lines. Four offensive line starters and the top backup return, and the top six defensive linemen, led by Chris Schaudt, are back.

"We'll always try to be known for our strength up front," Keen said. "We have a lot of guys with experience coming back."

Play-making linebacker Marcus Hall-Oliver is gone, but converted defensive back Tyler Henderson stepped into that role in the spring. There are three cornerbacks and three safeties returning that started games last season, though cornerback Robert Gunderson and safety Earl Brooks will be tough to replace.

"The coaches told us that we're ranked 71st on defense on third down," Kolstad said. "We were top-20 in everything else so that's an area we can improve."

Kicker Sam Brockshus, the all-time leading scorer in program history, has been receiving preseason All-America notice. He made 21 of 27 field goals and 59 of 61 PATs.

The shortest offseason in program history, plus the season getting moved one week back, has gotten the players and staff excited to get going. After a few more days of non-contact practices, the pads start popping and the season-opener will come up quickly.

"Everyone has been chomping at the bit to get started," Keen said. "Everyone's on board and really prepared to start the season."

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