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Dakota Wesleyan University

Dakota Wesleyan has jumped out to a hot start the past few season. In 2010 and 2012 the Tigers opened the year 3-0 before suffering a setback and in 2011 it was a 5-0 start for DWU. Ross Cimpl was there for those seasons, but last year was his first as head coach. Now the former Sioux Falls Cougar has to find a way to avoid the stretch of losing three of four or worse that has crippled the Tigers’ season. The Tigers have returning experience to try and get back to 2008 form when the team was 7-3 and finished ranked in the NAIA Top 25.

Dakota Wesleyan will look for the offense to set the tone for the season and it starts with quarterback Jon Bane, who was third in the league last year with 239.7 yards per game through the air. He threw 18 touchdowns during his junior campaign and only eight interceptions and completed over 50% of his passes. Josh Endres was a senior last year and his absence will be felt after carrying the ball in 2012 for 130 yards per game and nine touchdowns. However, Bane will gain a weapon and happily welcome back Anthony Muilenburg, a fifth-year senior, who missed last season after deciding to redshirt. The All-American wide receiver missed the first couple of games of the year and decided to take the 2012 season off to improve health for one final season at DWU. He caught 15 touchdowns in 2011 and has twice been selected to the All-GPAC First Team. His presence will challenge opposing defenses.

The Tiger defense took a step back last season after a stellar 2011 campaign. They went from giving up 160 yards per game through the air to 241 yards per game last season. The Tiger defense will look for leadership from its linebacking corps, including; Anthony Cervantes (Jr.), Jeff Maassen (Jr.) and Brady Bonte (Soph.). The DWU front line needs to get more pressure in the backfield and help alleviate some of the pressure on the secondary. The Tiger defense last season was ranked in the bottom half of the conference in nearly every category. 

Thoughts: The defense is the x-factor for the Tigers of the North. If they can improve from a year ago the team is in position for a decent year. If the defense struggles the offense will be forced to win some shootouts, which it is capable of doing.