With a lineup consisting of a lot of newcomers and plenty of returning athletes, the SVSU football team has a good mix of talent heading into this season.
The Cardinals are hoping to improve off their 5-6 record a year ago.
Coach Jim Collins expressed the focus of the team’s preseason camp on the overall chemistry of the team.
“At the preseason camp, the older players do a great job of mentoring the younger players,” Collins said. “We’ve always grouped our seniors with our freshmen. They get to know them, teach them the Saginaw Valley way, eat lunch with them and know their names. The senior class has really helped develop the younger players, make them feel welcomed and help them with the transition.”
Nick Whiteside, a freshman defensive back from Allendale, impressed Collins in the Michigan North/South All-Star game.
“We got the chance to watch him in that game, as it was hosted at SVSU, and he did a great job in that game,” Collins said. “Playing in that game against great competition was really a benefit for him because he’s looked really good so far at camp.”
Jake Dorn, a freshman defensive end, also showcased well in the same All-Star game.
“Defensively, we’ve got two true freshmen that have a chance to get on the field and help us,” Collins said.
Of the many veterans leading these young players, Ryan Conklin remains the starting quarterback and commanding leader of the offense for his junior season.
“(Conklin) had a great camp this year. He’s stronger, faster, and more athletic than he’s ever been because he’s really worked on that part of his game,” Collins said. “And then mentally, he is in complete command of what we’re trying to do on offense.”
Conklin credits both himself and the strength staff for these improvements.
“Obviously, it takes a lot of commitment coming from my end such as waking up, working hard and taking care of my body,” Conklin said. “However, I wouldn’t be anywhere without Coach (Chris) Winter and the rest of his strength staff. The program they run and the standard they hold us to on a daily basis is second to none.”
Another veteran to watch for is senior Michael Alexander at middle linebacker.
“Mike has had an absolutely great year,” Collins said. “He’s had a great offseason. He’s one of the hardest workers I’ve ever been around, a great leader and an outstanding football player. ”
Alexander looks forward to a successful season.
“As long as we have good communication on the field, be healthy, and play how we are capable, it’ll be hard to score on our defense,” he said. “Also, with us having the goal of getting our offense the ball back, we expect great things from our offense this season as well. I expect us to be better than last year and be leaders of our conference.”
The Cardinals will kick off the beginning of the 2018 season at home Thursday, Aug. 30, at 7 p.m. against Alderson Broaddus for the Red Feather Classic game.