Spartans Picked as IIAC Favorite

Aug 17, 2012 | Iowa Conference
CEDAR RAPIDS, IOWA . . . Defending league champion University of Dubuque, which captured its first league title since 1980 last year is the favorite to capture the 2012 Iowa Conference football title. The Spartans received six of seven possible first-place votes (coaches are not allowed to rank their own team) for a total of 52 points. Wartburg College did not receive a first-place vote but was named either second or third on all seven ballots and is second in the Preseason Poll with 48 points.
Simpson College sits third with 41 points, followed by Central College (40 points) and Coe College (39). The Storm and Dutch split the two remaining first-place votes. The complete 2012 IIAC football coaches’ poll follows:
School (1st place votes)
2011 Record
Dubuque (6)
9-2, 7-1 IIAC
8-2, 6-2 IIAC
Simpson (1)
5-5, 5-3 IIAC
Central (1)
7-3, 6-2 IIAC
6-4, 6-2 IIAC
Buena Vista
2-8, 2-6 IIAC
3-7, 3-5 IIAC
1-9, 0-8 IIAC
Preseason National Polls:  Defending Conference Champion Dubuque, Wartburg, Coe and Central are all receiving votes in the preseason poll, while Dubuque was picked 23rd in the Beyond Sports Network (BSN) preseason poll.
Preseason All-Americans:  A number of Iowa Conference football players have been named to preseason All-America teams. Coe defensive end Frank Weymiller was a first team pick by and Lindy’s, Coe safety Demetreus Johnson earned second team honors from and Lindy’s and Dubuque center Richard Skaife was named to the second team by
Weymiller, Johnson, Skaife, Simpson linebacker Mark Cronin, Wartburg linebacker Jason Shupp and Dubuque quarterback Wyatt Hanus were named to the first team by USA Football News, while Buena Vista punt returner Mason Nielsen and Central linebacker Keith Rush were named to the second team. Simpson wide receiver Taylor Rogers, Luther linebacker Trent Kerrigan and Wartburg defensive back Garrett McGrane picked up third-team honors.
In addition, Kerrigan, Coe running back Brendan Leiran and Simpson quarterback Taylor Nelson were listed as players to watch by Beyond Sports Network (BSN).
BSN also released its 2012 preseason all-America list. Hanus and Johnson were named to the first team, Weymiller, Nielsen (as a kick returner) and Dubuque tight end Miles Hookstead to the second team, Skaife was picked for the third team, and Shupp, McGrane and Rush received honorable mention.
Season Openers: The season begins for all eight Iowa Conference schools Saturday, September 1. Buena Vista hosts Wis.-Platteville, Coe hosts Monmouth (Ill.), Loras hosts Elmhurst, Luther hosts St. Olaf and Central is at Wis.-Oshkosh in 1 p.m. kickoffs. Simpson follows with a 4 p.m. kickoff at Wis.-River Falls. Dubuque and Wartburg close out the day with games against Augustana (Ill.) (6 p.m.) and MacMurray (7 p.m.) under the lights. The 2012 Iowa Conference season begins September 29 with four games – Wartburg at Simpson, Dubuque at Central, Buena Vista at Coe and Luther at Loras.

University of Dubuque Spartans

Head Coach: Stan Zweifel (Fourth year at Dubuque, 50-39-2 overall [9 years]) 2011 Record: 9-2 overall, 7-1 IIAC (champion) Starters Returning/Lost: 7/4 offense, 8/3 defense, 2/0 special teams Letterwinners Returning/Lost: 50/12

Iowa Conference Titles (Last):7 (2011) NCAA Playoff Appearances (Last/Result): 3 (2011; lost to North Central [Ill.], 59-13, in first round)

Dubuque returns 17 starters and 50 letter winners from last year’s 9-2 squad that won the program’s first Iowa Conference title since 1980 with a 7-1 mark. The Spartans’ offense returns seven of 11 starters but will need to replace league’s leading rusher (Justin Spaulding) and two of the league’s top three receivers (Gagliardi Trophy winner Michael Zweifel and Demacus Fleming) from 2011. Quarterback Wyatt Hanus is back after throwing for a league-record 35 touchdowns in league play. The senior signal caller, a first team all-league pick last season, led the IIAC in passing and total offense, completing 73.0 percent of his passes for 3490 yards and 44 touchdowns overall. He also added a touchdown on the ground. He ranked second in Division III in passing efficiency (189.36) and fifth in total offense (319 ypg). A big target for Hanus early on will be senior tight end Miles Hookstead, a second team all-IIAC pick. Hookstead made 33 grabs for 349 yards and six touchdowns last season.

The offensive line will be anchored by senior center Richard Skaife, a first team all-league pick last year, and junior guard Austin Hatzinger. The Spartans ranked in the top 10 in Division III in passing efficiency (third, 190.25), total offense (fourth, 489.91 ypg), passing offense (fifth, 323.82 ypg), and scoring offense (41.55 ppg).

Eight starters return from a Spartans defense that ranked first in the league against the pass (191.0 ypg), sixth against the run (170.3 ypg) and third overall (361.3 ypg). Leading the group in the trenches will be senior defensive lineman Stephen Vassalotti and senior defensive end Marice Hill. Hill ranked fourth on the team with 56 tackles, 7.0 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks. He also intercepted a pass against Central that he returned 44 yards for a touchdown and forced a fumble. Vassalotti, a 2011 first team all-league pick, was fifth on the team in tackles with 53 and posted team-highs with 13.5 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks. He ranked second in the league in sacks and fourth in tackles for loss.

Senior middle linebacker Trevor Runkle, a two-time second team all-league pick, posted a team-high 90 stops, ranking 12th in the league. He also had 4.0 tackles for loss, two fumble recoveries, four pass break-ups and two interceptions, one of which he returned for a touchdown against Anderson (Ind.). Senior free safety Malcolm Stewart played in 10 games, amassing 51 tackles (1.5 for loss), intercepted one pass, broke up two others, forced two fumble and blocked a kick.

Junior punter/placekicker Steve Jones punted 20 times in 2011, averaging 34.0 yards per kick. He also placed three kicks inside the 20-yard line and had two of 50-plus yards. Picking up PAT/field goal duties full-time in the fourth game of the season, he finished the season converting 39 of 43 PATs and 2 of 4 field goal attempts. He also averaged 58.9 yards on kickoffs. Fellow sophomore Tyson Carter, ordinarily an offensive lineman, will handle long-snapping duties.

Dubuque head coach Stan Zweifel says, "This year's race will be decided by at least four teams. How that is decided is how consistent the team can be all year.”