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Midland University

Warrior football poised to rebound in 2015 behind senior leadership

Contributed by admin on Aug 21, 2015 - 04:33 PM

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Sioux City, Iowa – Midland University head football coach Josh Gehring is ready turn the page on what he called a disappointing 2014 campaign and start fresh in the 2015 season. Gehring, along with the nine other GPAC coaches, gathered for the 16th annual football media day on Thursday afternoon.

"We were devastated with injuries last year," Gehring said during his time at the podium. "Despite that, and turnovers which became our Achilles Heel, we were in almost every game we played. Our biggest takeaway from last season is that we've closed the gap [in competition] within our conference. I'm excited to get back to work this year."

The Warriors suffered 15 season-ending injuries on the roster in 2014, possibly none bigger than Ethan Renner. The junior linebacker saw his season come to an end in the midst of Midland's 28-14 upset victory over then-No. 24 Peru State College on the road to open the year. The Warriors went on to shutout Dordt College, 35-0, the following week and improved to 2-0 on the young season.

However, that would stand as Midland's final win of the 2014 campaign as the Warriors dropped eight straight to close the season. Gehring commented on the noticeable difference on the field without Renner. "When he went down, we really felt that one."

"You never underestimate the talent of any of your players, but in the case of Ethan we may have underestimated just how big of an impact he made on our team," noted Gehring. "He is a young man that does all the right things on and off the field, and provides significant leadership."

Renner, who also serves as the Warriors' kicker and punter on top of his duties as outside linebacker, is healthy and looks to close out his career on a high note in 2015.

Renner is one of 26 total seniors expected to be on Midland's roster this season, which is an asset that has Gehring chomping at the bit to return to the field with his team. "This is the most excited I've been about a senior group in my tenure at Midland."

"There isn't another group of young men that I'd want to lead our team. These guys want to succeed and I'm excited to see the intensity they bring to camp."

Other seniors that Gehring mentioned include: Brock DunnLane HeinertTroy RodriguezLucas Schawang,Taylor Standerford and Alex Williams. Those players are expected to anchor the Warrior defense, which Gehring noted as the Warriors' strength, "I'm fired up about our defense. They are a relentless group and I love the work they put in last spring."

"Lane is a leader and an incredible athlete who we can move around because he can do so many things in the defensive back field," Gehring said. "Alex is a guy who has been waiting on his chance, and now he has the opportunity to really step up."

On the offensive side of the ball, the quarterback position remains a question mark for Midland with camp slated to begin next week. One option is senior Zach Couey who is returning from a knee injury after appearing under center in seven games last year for the Warriors. He threw for 814 yards with four touchdowns with a 55 percent completion rate in 2014. Junior Kyle Weiss is another option for the starting role along with some newcomers expected to compete for the job.

One thing that is certain though, is that Gehring expects big things from sophomore wide receiver Tristin Kamaka, regardless of who is throwing him the ball his way. Kamaka recorded 22 catches and three touchdowns in his rookie season, but will have big shoes to fill in 2015. Midland will be without the services of First Team All-GPAC recipientKail Walker this season, due to his decision to graduate early. Walker set single-season records last year for receiving yards (891) and yards in a game (207), while tying the single-season mark with three touchdowns in a game.

Gehring closed his remarks at Thursday's media day by mentioning three keys to success for the Warriors in 2015: special teams, turnovers and senior leadership.

At the conclusion of the press conference, Midland was selected to finish the season eighth in the GPAC in both the media and coaches' poll.

Gehring's Warriors report to camp next Thursday and will have just over two weeks to prepare for their season opener on Saturday, August 29 at Olivet Nazarene University. Midland will play three consecutive road games to begin the year prior to its home opener on September 19th against Dakota Wesleyan University at Heedum Field in Fremont, Nebraska. 

For complete GPAC preseason polls, click here.