There’s something to be said about winning close games, which the Sturgis football team has managed to do the last two weeks. After special teams helped the Trojans defeat Gull Lake on the road to improve to 2-1, head coach Jimmy Lamb said only a few key areas are preventing his team from having an edge instead of simply living on it.
Marshall comes to town 0-3 but features a quarterback in Danny Welke who can hurt any defense, which is no surprise considering the talent at that position the Redhawks have produced over the years. Last year, Welke (6-foot-4) threw for 1,758 yads and 16 touchdowns en route to All-Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference honors. Welke and Sturgis QB Chance Stewart have worked out together under the guidance of former Marshall star and Notre Dame signal caller Evan Sharpley.
Stewart is verbally committed to Western Michigan University, which reportedly also has interest in Welke.
The Trojans are nearly back to 100 percent as a team with the return of junior receiver Jack Scheske (concussion in Week 1) and senior wideout L.A. Vasquez (shoulder). Junior tight end/linebacker Jacab Haas is expected to be cleared for full participation after suffering a concussion in the season opener, but he’ll sit out Friday’s contest as a precautionary measure. He was involved in some light drills this week.
In order to challenge his players mentally, Lamb installed some new packages and plays this week. A power running play, a new option look and different protection schemes were introduced.
“We’ve opened some holes with this one play this week,” Lamb said. “It looks good. We can’t be four weeks in and only have one running play. We’ve put the ‘I’ in. Nothing changes up front for the linemen. We’ve got motions in now; we’re going to flip and bounce kids. We’re going to see what the defense does, and if they give us some favorable linemen, we’re going to attack it.
“We’re going to start to make some defenses think about what they’re going to do. Too many teams are just [blitzing], and they’re not bringing a lot; they’re just bringing six. But we’re getting pressure, so we want to fight pressure with some of our own schemes.”
Depth Chart Ascent
Lamb and his staff have been impressed with junior Brevin Jandreau this week. With little game experience, Jandreau has excelled at left offensive tackle, which is why Lamb has made a few changes to the offensive line (more on that below).
“Coach [Chris] Pulver, our O-line coach, said, ‘Hey, watch him.’ So I was keying in on him this week and he looked good,” Lamb said. He was injured for a little bit and has come back and really performed well. He’s picking it up and looking good right now.”
In an effort to stem the penetration and pressure from opposing defenses, Lamb moved starting offensive tackles Taylor Mayo and Morgan Sahli to the guard positions, thus switching guards to the outside. Luke Summey, Danny Arroyo, Matt Davis and Jandreau are all expected to get time at the tackle spots.
“One of the protection schemes we have requires the tackles to do more thinking,” he said. “They’re just busting and stepping to the wrong guy. If I bring them inside with the center, pretty much it’s just combination blocking in there with those three. The tackles, who were guards, I’ll just put them on the outside. They’re smaller and quicker. Brevin could be one of them because he’s stepping in. I’m going to pull Morgan and let that 300-pounder come around the end with a nice tight pull. We’ll see. With all the pressure we’re getting off the edge, our tackles are a little bit slow. I want to help them. The best way to do that is get some quicker guys on the outside and let [the former tackles] handle some beef [inside at guard].”
By The Numbers
Sturgis has found ways to win despite being outgained 1,461-535 this season. On top of making some great defensive stops and forcing turnovers (like last week’s forced fumble on a punt return against Gull Lake that sealed the win), the Trojans have capitalized (5 of 6) on their trips to the red zone. But Lamb certainly knows the offense has to step up as the season progresses.
“I believe [each red zone score have] been rushing touchdowns,” he said. “I think that’s definitely going to open up the passing game. We’re playing decent right now; we’re not great offensively. I know that. I’m pretty sure people watching the game are like, ‘Wow, there’s a lot of work to do there.’ But once we figure this thing out, we’re going to be really dangerous.”
Being better and more engaged blockers, Lamb feels, is one area where his team has to show improvement.
“Our guys will block and then let go,” he said. “They’ll turn around and watch the ball. I’m trying to get them to understand that they don’t actually get to watch the game while they’re playing it. If they just stay on their blocks, and I’m not asking them to move anybody, we’ll be dangerous. I think J.D [Bowdish] and Matt [Phillips] can make people miss and get some big yards.
“I’m looking for us to put a complete game together. Our defense has done that the last two games with major stops, our special teams has played at a high level, and now we need to be elite performers [on offense]. If we can do that, I’m really excited to see what happens.”