Editor's note: This story will also appear in next week's 2013 Football Preview Section. The Eagles play a Zero Week game and open the season on Friday at Luverne.
By Jim Bastian
Journal Sports Writer
NEW ULM - When a team finishes a season 1-8, looking for some positives for the following season may be hard to pinpoint.
But that is not the case for the 2013 edition of the New Ulm Eagles' football team.
"We have all of our starting linemen back so our line should be pretty good," said senior running back Jackson Yackley, who rushed for 384 yards last season. "We also have a lot of younger players who will be filling spots and are battling for positions."
Back doing the grunt work on the line are Peder Johnson, Cole Wilfahrt, Jarin Spence, Andy Stewart and Wyatt Oelberg.
And while there is experience coming back on the line, there is inexperience in the backfield. The departure of graduated Chris Mulder at quarterback (925 yards passing and seven touchdowns) leaves a hole that will be either filled by Blake Piotter or sophomore Nate Glaubitz. But both are inexperienced at the signal-caller spot.
Piotter played late in four games last season and attempted just four passes.
Also a big spot to fill will be that of running back Isaiah Johnson, who ran for 438 yards and seven touchdowns. He also latched onto 23 passes for 404 yards and five scores. Yackley or Luke Irmiter will need to fill that vacancy.
Second-year head coach Tony Ortmann feels that going into year two, one of the biggest positives is the strength of the offensive line.
"We basically return our whole group with the exception of graduated Mike Dickinson," Ortmann said. "We look to get behind our offensive line and develop our running game this season."
He added that Yackley "looks good right now - he worked hard in the offseason. He did a couple of our camps and went to SMSU and we were able to run the football."
While the offensive line will be a positive, the defense may also make opponents worry with the front seven back.
"Our inside linebackers [Spence, Stewart and Bryan Dewanz] are back," Ortmann said. "We did struggle a little bit last year right away to stop the run. With those players back we will be better at that. We want to stop the run and force the teams to pass. We are excited to see what they will do defensively."
Yackley thinks that the Eagles can stay at least .500 in the South Central Conference this season and points to the St. Peter game.
"That should be a good game for us,"?Yackley said.
Ortmann said the SCC will be tough again this season.
"Blue Earth Area won the Class 2A title last year and Waseca and Fairmont were solid teams," Ortmann said. "It will be a tough road but we will play it game by game."