Tech expecting to surprise
It may sound like a bit like hyperbole, but Alex Van Heel is thinking people aren’t expecting much from St. Cloud Tech this season.
“I think there are low expectations for us because of the huge senior class last year,” the senior cornerback said.
True, that really was a strong senior class that went 5-4 in 2013, but everybody with a “Tech” on the front of their uniforms is thinking 2014 should be OK, too.
“Our numbers are down a little bit,” said Jake Martig, a senior wide receiver who led the Tigers with 15 receptions in 2013.
“We’ll have to work with it a little and some guys are going to have to step up.”
There are 15 seniors and 14 juniors out and not many of them played a lot last year.
However, the coaching staff thinks there is a good nucleus, as well as a very talented sophomore class.
That starts at quarterback, where sophomore Chris Backes begins the season as the starter after starting in Tech’s playoff game last season.
He should have at least three talented targets, including Martig and Andrew Weber, who saw varsity time.
The player to watch is Jake Mussman.
And while you’re at it, check out his “little” brother, Jack Mussman.
The Mussmans are transfers from Grand Forks, N.D. Their father, Chris Mussman, is the St. Cloud State’s new co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.
Jake is 6-foot-5, 190 pounds and a wide receiver who is a college basketball prospect. He was one of the top players in North Dakota as a junior.
Jack is a sophomore left tackle listed at 6-4 and 335 with good athleticism and strength.
He started as a freshman last year.
Brennan Paulsen also is back after leading the Tigers with 622 yards rushing last season.
“It’s going really good,” Paulsen said of preseason practice. “All of our players are getting more fine-tuned.
“The season is looking real good.”
On offense, the key may be how the offensive line comes around. It has decent size, but is relatively untested.
“I’m ready to replace them (last year’s seniors),” senior offensive lineman Trey Slagstad said. “I’ve worked my butt off all year.”
The defense is even more untested. Fourteen of the top 16 tacklers from last season are gone.
The two returnees are defensive end Lucas Muller (11 solos, 35 assisted tackles, four tackles for loss) and Van Heel (12 solos, 13 assisted).
Everyone else will be new.
“We don’t have a lot of them, but our seniors have worked hard,” said head coach Gregg Martig, who is Jake’s dad. “We do like our skill guys.
“The group is very talented. We should be overall more skilled.
“At one point last year, we had 11 seniors starting on defense. Muller played a lot on defensive line and he should be really good.”
Martig’ is also expecting some big things from Van Heel and the rest of the Tigers, even if everybody else may not be.
“Our sophomore class has really good numbers (30 players),” Martig said.
“Some of them will have a chance to play this year.”