MARSHALL-Southwest Minnesota State completed its third day of training camp on Sunday and its new offensive line is starting to come along nicely.
Offensive line coach Brian Frana is seeing steady improvement out of his group of guys.
"We have a lot of young guys and a lot of guys who haven't played football at the division two level," Frana said. "We're learning. These guys are trying to catch up with the pace we play at and the speed of Division II defensive ends. Getting to playing fast is a big part of it."
Photo by David Merrill
SMSU’s Drake Zabloudil attempts to stay with his block during drills on day three of training camp Sunday.
Photo by David Merrill
SMSU’s Mike Wenk practices punts during a special teams drill at training camp Sunday.
Wenk serves as the team’s starting kicker and punter.
Frana mentioned that the speed of play, technique and the speed of the defense are all things that the offensive line is going to have to have a firm grasp on by the time the season starts.
Drake Zabloudil, a freshman from Cedar Rapids, Iowa is still gettting used to the change of pace in the trenches.
"Drills are going well," Zabloudil said. "They are a little faster than I'm used to, but I'm getting there. I'm from a straight down-stacked I offense, where we just huddle up and run the football."
The Mustangs style of play under coach Cory Sauter is more of a no-huddle, hurry-up style offense that recruits are going to have to get used to.
The Special teams units have been one of solidarity for the Mustangs over the past few seasons.
Mike Wenk, who is the team's kicker and punter returns for his senior season after making All-NSIC second team last season. He led the conference in 2013 with 42.8 yards-per-punt average and had 13 punts land inside the 20-yard line.
Wenk connected on eight of 11 field goals during the 2011 season before missing the 2012 season with an injury.
Staying healthy is a focus for Wenk this season.
"I'm looking to not get hit as much and trying to keep my leg strong and healthy," Wenk said. "As long as I stay healthy, I think I'll be alright."
While kickers and punters are known for being perfectionists in every aspect of their job, Wenk knows that too much tinkering can lead to bad results.
"It's hard to not be a perfectionist when you're a kicker and punter," Wenk said. "I try not to think about it so much. Once it gets in your head, you lose your concentration."
Special teams coordinator Anthony Kerr believes that Wenk has a chance to do even bigger things with his leg and has plenty of positive attributes.
"Mike's very special," Kerr said. "He's a punter tha has a chance to play after college with the average and the type of leg that he has- there's a good chance that he gets invited to some camps. He's a tough kid mentally, which you love in your kickers and punters."
On the other end of the ball, cornerback Andrew McReynolds will be back for his third consecutive season returning kicks and punts.
McReynolds averaged 19.7 yards per return last season and feels that training camp is allowing him to get in the groove.
"This year should be the year we get some breakout type stuff," McReynolds said. "Obviously, when you're an underclassmen, its nerve-wracking being back there. All eyes are on you. Being an upperclassmen, I'm officially getting to that comfort zone."
Special teams coordinator Anthony Kerr has been spending time making sure the freshman class gets comfortable with the special teams routine.
He has seen some things he likes, but knows there are going to be bumps along the way.
"We've been working on the return schemes," Kerr said. " We feel like, with the return schemes, we can create a few big plays per game and it can give us the advantage in that particular game."
Kerr spent time going through the numbering system so his players knew which guy they were going to be assigned to block and tested them on the various blocking techniques to use to get the job done.
Kerr feels like the adjustments are coming along well.
"As fast-paced as our practices are, you don't really have a chance to be shell-shocked," Kerr said. "We tell them that, even if you don't know what you're doing, just go somewhere fast and we'll get you straightened out and in the right direction. They're doing well. This is a good class for us."