As Bulldogs prep for spring practice, the MO is to find a new QB

The Minnesota Duluth football team begins spring practice Monday, and with all the snow this winter, new coach Curt Wiese was asked if the first task will be to shovel.

Curt Wiese

The Minnesota Duluth football team begins spring practice Monday, and with all the snow this winter, new coach Curt Wiese was asked if the first task will be to shovel.

"No, we've a great grounds crew that takes care of that," Wiese said.

Wiese's job is to prepare his football team for the 2013 season, and the first step begins Monday.

Wiese, who served for five years as UMD's offensive coordinator before taking over for Bob Nielson, will be paying close attention to the quarterback position, where the Bulldogs graduated Chase Vogler, the all-time winningest QB in program history.

UMD returns seven starters on offense and nine on defense, so the Bulldogs may need to rely on their running game and defense to carry them early while whoever gets the starting nod at quarterback gains experience. Vogler called all of UMD's run plays last fall and about half the Bulldogs' passing plays.


"Chase took a big load onto his shoulders every Saturday for our football team, so we're going to try to take some of that responsibility off the quarterback," Wiese said. "A lot of what he did was done on leadership, and I've talked to our quarterbacks quite a bit this offseason about that. It's not always about the throws or the plays that you make with your feet, but the composure you show at the line of scrimmage. That's what we're looking for this spring: one or two guys who are composed and can make the proper adjustments at the line of scrimmage. It's going to be a wide-open battle."

Wiese knows the Bulldogs have been spoiled in regards to quarterbacks, where UMD has had three four-year starters over the past 15 years, with Vogler (2009-12), Ted Schlafke (2005-08) and Rick Fritz (1998-2002). That just doesn't happen very often, so the rest of the team has to be patient with whoever winds up under center.

Juniors-to-be Brent Jorgensen and Greg Hynes, as well as redshirt freshmen Drew Bauer, Gavin Glenn and Justin Laureys -- none of these players took so much as a snap in an actual game last season as UMD also graduated backup quarterback Jon Lynch.

"It's tough to replace somebody like Chase, and to be honest, I can't tell who is in the lead. It's going to be a good battle," right tackle Tom Olson said. "Some of the guys are throwers, and some are runners, so it's really going to be up to the coaches and how these guys do in spring ball. It's not going to be easy. You can't expect to have somebody of Chase's caliber. We just have to make do. As an O-line, we just have to make it as easy as possible on them by giving them time to make good decisions. Even if something goes wrong, we can still do our best to help them out."

Olson, a senior-to-be, will be going into his fourth season as a starter this fall. He is one of three returning starters, though the two the Bulldogs lost -- left guard Garth Heikkinen and left tackle Jake Bscherer -- are professional prospects.

The receiving corps has gone from inexperienced to one of UMD's strengths. Zach Zweifel, who will be a junior, returns after catching a team-high 39 passes for 585 yards and five touchdowns for a team that averaged a school record 46.5 points per game.

"As experienced as we are with the guys coming back, we need to find a quarterback who is going to lead," Wiese said. "I think our receiving corps can help show those younger guys the way."

The top two running backs, Austin Sikorski and Logan Lauters, also return, but bruising runner Brian Lucas has quit football after struggling with head injuries.


The defense, meanwhile, struggled with injuries and inexperience last year, but should benefit after another season under defensive coordinator John Steger.

UMD went 10-2 last year and had its season end with a 57-55 loss at Missouri Western State in the NCAA Division II playoffs, a game in which the Bulldogs were one first down from winning and potentially making a run at a third national championship.

Olson was asked if it was a first down.

"It depends on who you ask," Olson said with a laugh. "That was about as close as you can get without winning. One play here or there can make all the difference. Now we're going to start climbing that hill again, and you've got to start at the bottom."

That climb starts Monday.

"Time to start hitting somebody again," said the 6-foot-6, 285-pound Olson said.


  • Olson, senior linebackers Nate Zuk and Colby Ring, senior safety Travis Nordhus and junior wide receiver Aaron Roth are the Bulldogs' captains for 2013.
  • Wiese said Heikkinen and Bscherer have outside chances of getting selected late in next month's NFL draft and likely will get NFL tryouts.
  • UMD's 39th annual Maroon-White Spring Game on April 26 will help raise cancer awareness and funds for defensive lineman Jordan Bauman. Bauman has had two bouts with Hodgkin's lymphoma, but is back working out with his teammates. Bauman is expected to take a limited part in drills this spring and hopes to play this fall. "It's a phenomenal story," Wiese said. "He's been an inspiration for our team. Our guys have rallied around him, and part of that has been his attitude, which has been phenomenal throughout. The guy has fought cancer twice, and our guys haven't seen him with a frown on his face yet. It's something you can't highlight enough."

  • 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 or (218) 380-7027. Follow him on Twitter @TacoJon1.
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