ROCKFORD, Ill. - The Rockford University football team enters the 2017 season with high expectations after securing another stellar recruiting class along with bringing back a solid group of returners. The Regents are set to begin the season with one of the largest rosters in the program's history, providing depth and competition on both sides of the ball.
"We have had a great pre-season," Head Coach Jim Schroeder stated. "Our returning players came back in great shape and our incoming recruits arrived eager to make an impact. This is arguably the most talented roster we have had in my time here. The key to our success will be our ability to come together and develop throughout the season in all three phases."
The Regents should be even more effective offensively this season as Rockford returns nearly its entire starting lineup. First Team All-NACC performers Chance Manning (Durand, Ill.) and Alex Giannoni (Camden, Tenn.) are back along with NACC Honorable Mention recipient Brandon Bothem (Roscoe, Ill.). Giannoni and Bothem look to once again anchor down the RU offensive line and create running lanes for Manning, who returns after becoming just third RU running back to rush for over 1,000 yards in a single season. The Regents also appear to be loaded at wide receiver as Mar Sean Vercher (Chicago, Ill.), Joe Breeden (Burlington, Ill.) and Kalan Miller (Cordova, Tenn.) all return after successful seasons last year. Vercher earned Second Team All-NACC honors last year after he hauled in 51 passes for 613 yards and set the RU single-season record with 10 touchdowns receptions. Breeden and Miller also proved to be very viable options with a combined 71 receptions for 1,049 yards and 10 touchdown receptions.
A few fresh faces to keep your eye on offensively include quarterbacks Brandon Hausladen (Athol, Idaho), Eric Mackey (Marengo, Ill.) and Delayno Mack (Loves Park, Ill.) and offensive lineman David McLevain (Henderson, Ky.).
"We return a number of talented players on offense," Coach Schroeder remarked. "There were times last year where we really clicked on the offensive side of the ball, and if we can become more consistent, we have the potential to see some very positive results this year."
Defensively the Regents appear to be on track to be a much improved and more consistent unit this year. The defensive line is led by Second Team All-NACC honoree Jacob Cremeens (Roscoe, Ill.) and NACC Honorable Mention performer Jared Johnson (Miami, Fla.). Cremeens finished last season with 72 tackles including a team-high 11.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks, while Johnson recorded 51 tackles, 6 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks and 1 interception. Returning sophomore safety Dylan Peterson (Reynolds, Ill.) and freshman defensive back Ja'uan Joiner (Phenix City, Ala.) should help solidify a much improved secondary, while freshmen linebackers Chase Ferree (Crown Point, Ind.) and Austin Carlson (Hanover Park, Ill.) will help strengthen the linebacking corps.
"We struggled at times on defense last season because we had a lot of young players who were thrown into the fire early," Coach Schroeder commented. "We are excited about the growth and improvement our returners have made during the off-season as well as the talent level of the players we have been able to add to our roster through recruiting. I am confident the lessons our returners learned a year ago combined with the increased competition during camp will produce a more consistent, disciplined defense this season."
The RU football team begins its 2017 season on the road on Saturday, September 2 against MacMurray College. Kickoff is set for 2:00 PM.