To say that the St. Ambrose University football team will have a different look this fall is doing a severe injustice to the word change.
About the only thing not changing for the Bees are the guys on the offensive line, the uniforms and the expectations for success in the revamped Mid-States Football Association Midwest League.
Along with a number of new faces in the program expected to make an impact, some of the familiar faces are in different positions. The Bees even have changed the look of their helmets – dropping the old "St.A'' on the side with a block SAU on one side and room for game stars on the other.
"The guys approached me about new uniforms, but that wasn't going to happen,'' said SAU coach Mike Magistrelli. "We tried to come up with something to change the look and that wasn't as expensive.''
That was one of the easier changes to make for the Bees, who are coming off a 5-5 regular season and its first losing MSFA Midwest League campaign (3-4) in the 2000s.
The rest of the changes were made to team personnel and came with much more consternation.
"We made a number of position switches in the offseason,'' said Magistrelli. "We have sat back and looked at it afterward and feel that we made some great decisions as far as position switches. They all seemed to pan out for us well.''
It should come as no surprise that one of the switches came at QB, where it seems as if the Bees are annually playing a game of roulette. This latest switch has senior Barney O'Donnell, who totaled 870 yards rushing and receiving last season as well as throwing for 1,420 yards, moving back to receiver. Sophomore Eric Williamson (Springfield Sacred Heart Griffin) will take over at QB.
Magistrelli called the decision to move O'Donnell – one of the team's top receiving threats two years ago – back outside a difficult one. But it shows the faith the staff has in Williamson, who, according to coaches and teammates, has done a terrific job in spring and fall workouts.
More new faces will line up behind Williamson in the team's new-look pistol formation with four new backs battling for time at the tailback slot. Transfer Anton Wilkins (Jr.) and Cole Kelly (So.), switching over from defensive back, are topping the troops in the backfield. Also factoring are freshmen Colten Glazebrook and Greg Wilson. Carter Oltman (Jr.) is the only returning running back on the roster and he carried just eight times for 84 yards last season.
"We feel like we have four talented running backs; as talented as we've had since I've been here,'' said Magistrelli, whose club became very one dimensional last year with the passing game. "We went from a position that wasn't a strength of our team to being pretty good there now.''
Making both the running and passing games even better is the offensive line where eight players with starting experience – gained because of injuries the last two years – are battling for the five starting positions.
"We have a lot of depth there, which has allowed us to run the ball more effectively than we have since I have been the head coach,'' said Magistrelli, now in his fifth season. "That's made throwing the ball easier, too.''
Three newcomers anchor the defensive line. Those transfers are Sean Santiago (Jr., NAIA power Sioux Falls), Cory Price (So., Truman State) and Kyle Borchardt (So.).
Returners Adrian Leal (Sr.) and Alleman product Andrew Briones, also a senior., anchor the inside linebackers.
Four new players will handle outside linebacking duties, including Bettendorf's Pete Kalber, who moves from defensive end.
Another strength of the defense will be the secondary that is anchored by returners James Hannah-White and Alleman's John Michaletti. Also in the mix at DB is converted receiver Jordan Bell.
"Expectations are high,'' said Magistrelli. "We have a lot of new faces, but we've gotten those guys to fit in to our system and identified roles for everybody.''
Bees at a glance
- 2010 results: St. Ambrose finished finished last season 5-5 overall, 3-4 MSFA Midwest League.
- Coaching staff: Mike Magistrelli (27-16 record starting his fifth season as head coach, all at SAU). He will be assisted by: Jeff Girsch (defensive coordinator), Matt Drinkall (offensive line), Joe Conklin (defensive backs, special teams), Shane Dowty (wide receivers), Vince Fillipp (defensive line), Nathan Fisher (defensive line), Rick Fountain (linebackers), Jeremy Mercer (running backs), Russ Monk (offensive line), Ed Morrissey (outside linebackers), Mark Schlichting (cornerbacks), Greig Spuhler (fullbacks), Nick Trout (tight ends), Zach Bellendier (student assistant), Tyler Boyle (student assistant), Ricky Jackson (student assistant), Joe Morrissey (student assistant).
- Starters Returning/Lost: 12/10.
- Returning offensive starters (8): OL Nick Avery (6-2, 300, Soph., Channahon, Ill.); OL Joe Bailey (6-2, 280, Sr., Indianola, Iowa); OL Alex Berg (6-2, 275, Jr., Batavia, Ill.); OL Bret Capjak (6-3, 250, Jr., Chicago); WR Beau Foiles (6-0, 160, Sr., Peoria, Ill.); OL Nick Hauge (5-11, 295, Sr., Rockford); OL Dionte Lampley (6-2, 280, Soph., St. Louis, Mo.); OL Carl Meister (6-3, 390, Jr., Downers Grove, Ill.);
WR Barney O'Donnell (6-0, 180, Cedar Rapids, Iowa); WR Ian Shelton (6-0, 185, Sr., Streamwood, Ill.); OL Mike Wulff (6-2, 275, Soph., Oswego, Ill.).
- Returning defensive starters (4): OLB Andrew Briones (6-0, 225, Sr., Alleman HS); DB James Hannah-White (5-8, 180, Sr., Lafayette, Ind.); LB Adrian Leal (5-11, 210, Sr., Hanover Park, Ill.); DB John Michaletti (5-8, 180, Sr., Alleman HS).
- Specialists (3): KR Hannah-White; K Patrick Schmadeke (5-8, 185, Jr.); P David Farley (5-11, 200, Soph.)
2011 schedule: Sept. 3: *Trinity International, 1 p.m. Sept. 10: Saint Francis (Ind.), 1 p.m. Sept. 17: at Malone, 1 p.m. Oct. 1: at *Grand View, 1 p.m. Oct. 8: McKendree, 1 p.m. Oct . 15: at *Iowa Wesleyan, 6 p.m. Oct. 22: at *Olivet Nazarene, 1:30 p.m. Oct. 29: *Waldorf, 2 p.m. Nov.: 5: *William Penn, 1 p.m. Nov. 12: at *St. Francis (Ill.), noon.