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UMD picks Wiese to lead offense

Newly appointed Minnesota Duluth offensive coordinator Curt Wiese laughed when asked what would make him different from the men who previously held his position with the UMD football team.

Newly appointed Minnesota Duluth offensive coordinator Curt Wiese laughed when asked what would make him different from the men who previously held his position with the UMD football team.

"I don't plan on being the seventh offensive coordinator in eight years or whatever it's been," Wiese said. "I plan on staying for a while."

UMD named Wiese its offensive coordinator on Tuesday, making the 31-year-old from Stoughton, Wis., the team's fifth offensive coordinator in the past six years. Wiese (pronounced WEEZ-ee) spent the past two years as the head coachat Marietta College, an NCAA Division III school in Ohio, and plans on bringing a more balanced approach to running the offense. The past three seasons the Bulldogs have run a spread offense that almost exclusively passed.

"I'm looking at this as a step up and am looking forward to thechallenge," Wiese said. "I know UMD passed a lot the last few seasons, but I believe in balance. I like to mix in the run with a lot of play-action passes, and I believe in getting the ball into your top players' hands."

UMD's current offensive personnel are geared toward the pass, with 17 wide receivers listed on the roster last season, including one senior. So, it may take time for Wiese to implement the style he envisions, with a 50-50 ratio of run to pass.

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"Typically, that's what I aim for," Wiese said, "but that's aimed for the end of the season, not for the end of a game. I believe in doing what we need to do to win football games, and sometimes that means running the football more and other times it means passing more. You've got to take advantage of the defense, as well as who you have on offense."

Wiese guided the Pioneers to a 9-11 record in two seasons, including a 6-4 mark in 2006 when the team averaged about 400 yards of offense per game. Wiese is a former quarterback who led Wisconsin-Stevens Point to a share of the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference title in 1998. He served as Marietta's offensive coordinator from 2003-05 under Todd Glazer, now the head coach at Wisconsin-Eau Claire, and has coached with UMD defensive line coach Nick Goeser. He is a former finalist for Division III assistant coach of the year.

UMD head coach Bob Nielson has strong coaching ties in Wisconsin and consulted his friend Glazer in making a swift decision. Wiese replaces Phil Longo, who followed former UMD coach Bubba Schweigert to Southern Illinois in January.

"The timing of this was critical because not only are you replacing an assistant coach, you're replacing an offensive system," Nielson said. "We need time to integrate that system within our coaching staff so we can bring the players up to speed when spring practice begins in April."

Nielson hasn't been at the Bulldogs' helm since guiding the team from 1999-2003, but as athletics director he followed the team closely. Nielson would like to see the Bulldogs do a better job of scoring in the red zone and controlling the clock when they have a lead -- both of which are hallmarks of a good rushing game.

Last season junior Ted Schlafke became only the second quarterback to lead the Bulldogs in rushing, with 176 carries for 500 yards.

"Last year our running game really centered on using the quarterback and the quarterback only," Nielson said. "We've got a great quarterback coming back, and now we need to develop our running game to balance that out. That will be the focus here in the spring, and I think that is one of the positives to what a new system can bring us."

Nielson, who will maintain his role as UMD's athletics director, has called the offensive plays in each of his 15 seasons as head coach but plans on having Wiese handle that role.

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"The intent in this kind of a hire was to bring somebody in who has the ability to do that, to direct the offense and provide leadership in that area," Nielson said. "I'll still be involved in all aspects of the game, but this will be a different experience for me. I think it's the right time to step back.

"You hire people who you have confidence in, and I have all the confidence in Curt Wiese. I think this is great opportunity to move our program forward."

JON NOWACKI covers college sports for the News Tribune. He can be reached weeknights at (218) 723-5305 or by e-mail at jnowacki@duluthnews.com .

Jon Nowacki joined the News Tribune in August 1998 as a sports reporter. He grew up in Stephen, Minnesota, in the northwest corner of the state, where he was actively involved in school and sports and was a proud member of the Tigers’ 1992 state championship nine-man football team.

After graduating in 1993, Nowacki majored in print journalism at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, serving as editor of the college paper, “The Aquin,” and graduating with honors in December 1997. He worked with the Associated Press during the “tobacco trial” of 1998, leading to the industry’s historic $206 billion settlement, before moving to Duluth.

Nowacki started as a prep reporter for the News Tribune before moving onto the college ranks, with an emphasis on Minnesota Duluth football, including coverage of the Bulldogs’ NCAA Division II championships in 2008 and 2010.

Nowacki continues to focus on college sports while filling in as a backup on preps, especially at tournament time. He covers the Duluth Huskies baseball team and auto racing in the summer. When time allows, he also writes an offbeat and lighthearted food column entitled “The Taco Stand,” a reference to the “Taco Jon” nickname given to him by his older brother when he was a teenager that stuck with him through college. He has a teenage daughter, Emma.

Nowacki can be reached at jnowacki@duluthnews.com or (218) 380-7027. Follow him on Twitter @TacoJon1.
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