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WSU Notebook: Offseason was the Paul Winters show July 25, 2007

Posted by City Hoops in GLIAC, News, Wayne State.
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While Bell, Graham and Co. gear up for new season, Winters and staff have major success

By Kyle Stefan

For fear of becoming complacent, Paul Winters doesn’t like to pause and take stock of his accomplishments.

He’s too focused on what comes next.

Because he is self assuming and won’t take much of the credit, Winters probably won’t overemphasize the importance of this off-season for the Wayne State football program.

But there was more visible progress for WSU off the field – mirroring its on-field ascension – thanks to the vision and plan of its fourth-year head coach.There was the signing of a 25-member recruiting class widely considered to be among the league’s top three. More talented high school prospects are seriously considering the Warriors thanks to consistent all-out recruiting efforts from the coaching staff.

The weight room was overhauled and the results from Paul Harker’s strength and conditioning regimen are becoming even more visible.

The coaching staff was retooled and Winters thinks it will be improved.

WSU’s individual football camp nearly doubled its number of participants, and Adams Field hosted the annual 7-on-7 team camp and the Think Detroit/PAL combine.

There was fundraising and reconnecting with alumni through events like the Golf Outing and the Warrior Club.

“In a lot of ways, it probably was,” Winters said when asked if he thought this off-season was his most productive.

“But you know what? I don’t really look at the big picture like that. I have to look at what’s next.

“I’d be very concerned with anyone that stopped and was satisfied with what we accomplished, because, honestly, what we did last year wasn’t good enough.”

After a second year of measurable on-field improvement, the GLIAC Coach of the Year followed up with an even more productive off-season.

At the rate he’s going – where 6-5 is now unacceptable at a school coming off 11 straight losing seasons – the program’s next step is now highly anticipated.

Countdown to kickoff

Get ready, pigskin fans. The one-month countdown to the beginning of America’s greatest pageantry, college football, started yesterday.

The GLIAC jump starts leagues around the country with a pair of games Saturday, Aug. 25, as Mercyhurst travels to Kentucky State and Michigan Tech visits Winona State (Minn.).

Wayne State’s coaching braintrust can get its first look at a pair of opponents as St. Joe’s (Ind.) and Grand Valley State share the Thursday night lights on Aug. 30, in a game televised by Comcast Local.

WSU’s home opener – noon, Sept. 1, against Michigan Tech – headlines the first full weekend of league games.

New threads

Wayne State will don sleek new home uniforms this season manufactured by Nike. The primarily green jerseys are form-fitting with yellow trim and piping down the sides and feature white lettering with black outlining. The road uniforms will remain the same.

Old rules

In what comes as a relief to many – WSU head coach Paul Winters thought these rule changes were “terrible” – the NCAA has decided to rescind two major timing rules, changed last season without input from coaches, and revert to what they were in 2005.

Last season, the game clock started when the ball was kicked on kickoffs instead of when it was first touched and also as soon as the ball was made ready for play on a change of possession instead of on the first snap.

New coaches

Steve Neal, who holds Western Michigan’s career receiving yards record, has been named wide receivers coach, replacing E.J. Henderson. He previously served as quarterbacks and wide receivers coach at Savannah State. He has only been on the job two weeks but is excited about the talent in the WSU receiving corps.

Linebackers coach Landon Fox takes over Henderson’s responsibility as special teams coordinator.

Other changes on Winters’ staff this year include the hiring of Terry Heffernan to replace Max Glowacki as offensive line coach, which happened before spring football, and the addition of Werner Blakely as an assistant defensive line coach.

Gearing up

Winters emphasized the importance of camp, anticipating plenty of competition in various position battles with numerous spots to be won.

Heading into August, the consensus is that the Warriors will be young on the defensive line, inexperienced at wide receiver and untested in the secondary. Offsetting that will be plenty of depth and seasoning on the offensive line, three experienced linebackers and running backs that the coaches consider the best in the country.

Not to be overlooked, as WSU often uses two tight ends, is the importance of seniors John Rehberg and Kenny Schmidt, both three-year letterwinners. Also, WSU will continue to use its best athletes on special teams and have an advantage there over most teams.

QB battle

Winters said that if the season started before camp, Trent Pohl would get the nod as the incumbent because Zach George was held out of spring ball due to a knee injury. That said, Winters expects George to come back stronger and push Pohl for the job. And don’t discount Josh Rouhan, who should factor in the competition after redshirting last year.

Stellar effort

Michigan Preps recruiting analyst Josh Helmholdt recently lauded the WSU coaching staff, saying that Warrior coaches are at nearly every game, event, combine and evaluation opportunity for high school prospects that they need to be.
He added that not all GLIAC schools take the same approach to recruiting and that Wayne State’s activity has created a buzz among high school coaches and players that the Warriors are finally serious about winning big.

First look

Winters announced a pair of open scrimmages where fans can have a preseason look at the Warriors. The team will play inter-squad games on Saturday, Aug. 18, also Media Day, and Thursday, Aug. 23 to conclude camp.

High honors

Street and Smith magazine named Joique Bell and David Chudzinski to its preseason D-II All-America Offense team.
The publication also tabbed Wayne State No. 21 in its preseason D-II top-25 poll.

An excerpt of its analysis: “The Warriors have one of the nation’s rising stars in Joique Bell, who set a Division II rushing record with 2,065 yards and a school-record 23 touchdowns. Daryl Graham, a former All-GLIAC running back at Michigan Tech, gives the Warriors perhaps the best backfield tandem in the division.”

Among other GLIAC schools, Grand Valley State checked in at No. 1 and Northwood was No. 14. The Lakers placed a trio of players – offensive lineman Brandon Barnes, linebacker Anthony Adams and cornerback Brandon Carr – on the magazine’s All-America team, the most selections of any one school.

Tee time

Wayne State successfully hosted its 2007 Tartar/Warrior Golf Outing on Monday at Fox Hills Golf Club, hosting around 90 alumni, boosters and former players in support of the football program.

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