HOUGHTON - The black and blue GLIAC of old is gone.
The spread offense wave hit the conference hard, and Great Lakes teams now pass as much as anywhere in the country.
Eleven of the 15 schools averaged at least 30-plus passes per game last season. Three went over the 40-throws-per-game mark. Walsh quarterbacks combined to chuck it 512 times.
Michigan Tech’s Jeremy Mims, right, signals to teammate Cedric Jones before a play in an October 2013 home game against Ferris State at Sherman Field. (DMG photo by David Archambeau)
To win you need to be able to contest the ball moved through the air. Five defensive backs often becomes the norm, not the third-down exception.
It is through these circumstances that the Michigan Tech football team led the 15-team GLIAC in pass defense last season. The Huskies limited opponents to 177 yards per game through the air, a stingy number in most eras.
And Tech returns five of the six regulars in the secondary from last season.
"Our secondary returns pretty much intact," Tech coach Tom Kearly said. "All three corners that have started for us are back. We've got Jeremy Mims in the middle at safety and Brett Gervais at weak side alley is coming off a great season. We like what we have at secondary."
On the outside, the Huskies contend with all-GLIAC corner DeShawn Nelson while junior Cedric Jones and senior Roth Mendoza split time. Mims mans the middle, and Gervais plays the wrecking ball playmaker, charged to hit and cover all over the field.
Only strong-side alley player Ben Potter is missing this spring as he weighs whether or not to return for a sixth season.
"That group led the league in pass defense," Kearly said. "That pretty much says it all. Gervais had a very good season. Mims does a real good job in the middle and we think DeShawn Nelson is as good as there is in this league. He will be a three year starter for us, and has real good leadership qualities on the backend."
The group may gain even more versatility as well, as sophomore Nick Brajak moves from backup 'weak side alley' - the more traditional safety-like position of the two alley linebackers - to starting at 'strong side alley' in Potter's absence.
Brajak's mobility and plus-height (6-foot-1) may allow Kearly to mix and match more with Gervais, leading to more disruption.
"Nick has had a real good spring," Kearly said. "Weak side (alley) and strong side have a lot of the same responsibilities, so he has fit right in."
Senior Josh Siler (Crystal Falls) and sophomore Tanner Keyzers have filled in as the primary backups for the alley positions, but Kearly stressed the depth chart is still being worked out among the entire secondary.
Junior Derek Ferris is slotted behind Mims.
"There are a lot of young people for depth purposes that are going to get some looks," Kearly said. "These battles will go well into the fall, when we have some more recruits coming in to provide numbers and competition."