Last season for the Lopers another step in the right direction. In the first season of the Josh Lynn Era, The University of Nebraska Kearney went 3-8 in Lynn’s first year and this most recent season they finished with a record of 5-6. There have been improvements all over the field and in spring ball, the Lopers look to take things to the next level and catapult that 5-6 record of last season into a winning record in the 2019 campaign. The Lopers will be in action on Saturday, April 20th at 1:30 P.M. for their Blue-Gold Spring Game and each of their position groups look strong this spring.
The offensive side of the ball for the Lopers has a clear cut identity and that is run the ball and run it some more. And they have had success doing it out of their option attack and the numbers were great for them last season. UNK scored 28 points per game while accumulating 4,374 yards of total offense and scoring 39 touchdowns. Of those 4,374 yards of total offense, 2,959 came on the ground while the other 1,415 were through the air. So, UNK more than doubled their passing yardage with the ground game.
The exciting thing for this Loper team is that they return a lot from last year’s team.
First, the offensive line has a chance to make a major impact, especially with a number of returning starters and players with experience. First, senior Josh Stoltenberg returns with the most experience for the Lopers. Stoltenberg has started over 30 games for the blue and gold and possess a lot of skill and leadership. He has played a lot of guard but can be shuffled around. at different spots. Fellow senior Jack McLeay has a wealth of experience as well and he could be at the center or guard position. Junior Corey Holelck is looking to bounce back from injury as he hurt his knee at about the midway point for the Lopers. He has been a staple at right guard as he has started their the past two seasons. Junior Lucas Troyer saw a lot of snaps last season with the injury to Hoelck so he will be lobbying for a starting job as well.
Other offensive linemen that could see the field include senior Kolin Kenton, senior Jacob Browne, and freshman Kooper Reece.
The Lopers return Alex McGinnis as the signal caller. The senior had a solid season in his first year under center as he recorded 1,364 yards passing, 6 touchdowns, and seven interceptions. McGinnis also was effective on the ground with 471 yards and six touchdowns. Surprisingly, McGinnis carried the ball 157 times, which was 7th in the MIAA Conference. But McGinnis’s body type is built to take a lot of contact as he stands at 6’3 220 pounds. Anticipate seeing him run the ball a lot again this season, but maybe not at that type of clip. For McGinnis, the next improvement is his completion percentage. Last season McGinnis was 100-200, right at 50%. Expect to see that improve with another year under center and with new offensive coordinator Drew Thatcher, a coach who has a ton of experience developing quarterbacks.
Cody Summers is a talented ball player himself and in his senior season, he will be a backup to McGinnis. Summers last season was 4-4 with 40 yards an a touchdown and on the ground, he had 27 carries for 129 yards and a score. Summers has shown an ability to play a variety of positions too so he may be utilized in different ways.
This upcoming season the Lopers have a lot of great running backs. Senior Darrius Webb had 998 yards last season and 10 scores and his speed was the difference for the Lopers and they will look to utilize him a lot again this season with his 6 yard per carry average. He will not play in the Spring Game due to rehabbing a knee injury. Luke Quinn qualified for another year of eligibility and he was steady last season with 295 yards and five touchdowns. Another senior, David Goodwin found the hot hand a lot last season as he accumulated 428 yards and four touchdowns. The key stat for him though was his 7.5 yard per carry average which makes it hard to slow down a back like him. Dayton Sealy enters his junior season after posting 395 yards and two touchdowns last year. This group looks to be strong this season.
This is a big question mark this spring for the Lopers. The player that the Lopers will call upon a lot will be 5’10 160 pound sophomore Montrez Jackson. Jackson had a solid freshman campaign with 18 catches for 397 yards and one touchdown. Jackson also added 25 carries for 122 yards and two scores. Sophomore D’Angelo Shepherd will look to improve his freshman season numbers and be a go-to target as well. He had three catches for 32 yards. A new addition to the wide receiver room is sophomore Carson Walters. Walters previously played quarterback but they will look to use him as a pass catcher this season.
The tight end position is even more of a question mark as they don’t have a single player in the position group who has caught a pass. The player that has separated himself so far is junior Kyler Van Housen. He will be a blocker primarily in the offense.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Lopers run a 3-4 and look to be an attacking force this season. Last year was pretty solid for the Lopers as they allowed about 22 points per game. Teams only rushed for 142 yards per game and threw for 186 yards. This group looks poised to be even better with just one area that really needs to be addressed.
This group does lose a pretty pivotal player in Tye Spies as he was the third leading tackler with 54 on the season and 4.5 sacks. But as one Spies leaves, another enters. Tye’s younger brother Tell will look to add an element to an already strong interior line as a redshirt freshman. He spent his first year as South Dakota University. The player to watch this season is senior Hinwa Allieu. Allieu totaled 43 tackles and 4.5 sacks last season. He has every single tool needed to be a force, he stands at 6’5 270 pounds, he’s quick and incredibly strong. In his senior campaign, he will look to put it all together and have a monster year. In the middle of the 3-4, UNK has a steady tackle with Jordan Ingraham. Ingraham is a senior and he ended his junior season with 24 tackles and two sacks. He has been a consistent performer for this group.
Other players that will look to make an impact on the defensive line include junior Blake Schroeder, junior Shane Henderson, and sophomore Nate Bartling.
This group looks really good again this spring with a lot of returning players. Sal Silvio returns off of a strong junior year where he led the team with 108 tackles. The senior is still battling some lingering injuries so he will be out Saturday. Fellow senior Rakid Hill totaled 47 tackles and he also will be important to the Lopers success this season as the linebackers are called upon to make a lot of plays.
Other players from the linebacker position group that could make an impact are senior Zach Sullivan, senior Alex Sovereign, junior Quinn Brummer, junior Ty Botsford, and junior Travis Holcomb.
This position group has a few guys that are solid, but there are some areas that need to be fine-tuned. At the safety spot, the Lopers may have the best tandem in the MIAA with senior Dallas Vaughn and junior Blake Bubak. Vaughn was the Lopers second-leading tackler with 55 and he also had one interception. Bubak will look to build off of a solid year of 39 tackles. The other defensive back that the Lopers will look upon to produce big time is Kevin Wilson. The senior played a lot of cornerback and had 21 tackles and a pick. Laroy James is a senior and will have to step up at cornerback. He had 28 tackles and will try and improve on that. After those four there are some players that will need to step up in a big way.
This spring has shown that the Lopers have a lot of solid players coming back this season and that they could have a lot of success coming this fall.