After a somewhat disappointing 2016 season for the Minnesota State football team where they finished 8-3 and unranked, the 2017 season has arrived.
The Mavericks head into the new season ranked 16th overall, according to the D2Football.com poll. MSU will have an array of new faces on the squad and seeing playing time when they take the field against the Marauders, but there will also be familiar ones returning. Senior tight-end Erik Fuller was named to the Preseason All-American Second Team after tallying 319 yards receiving on 33 catches and 10 touchdowns in 2016. Fuller is coming off a season in which he captured All-NSIC First Team honors as well. Along with Fuller on offense, senior Ty Dennis and sophomores Shane Zylstra and Justin Arnold will be returning with experience at the wide receiver position. Sophomore quarterback Ryan Schlichte, a Mankato West alum, threw for 293 yards and four touchdowns during his freshman year.
On defense, the Mavericks have seniors in safety Corey Brent, cornerback Larry Moore defensive lineman Evan Perrizo returning to an otherwise inexperienced group. They also have junior defensive lineman Zach Dodge returning to the line, as both him and Perrizo recorded 8.5 sacks each last season. Moore led the defense with three interceptions in 2016, and Brent was the Mavericks’ leading tackler with 54.
Before last season, MSU had not lost three games in a season since 2011. The winning tradition under head coach Todd Hoffner has been relevant since he arrived to Mankato, as the Mavericks have gone 66-19 in seven seasons under Hoffner.
Kicking off the season, Minnesota State will face off against Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference foe, the University of Mary. The Mavericks may have drawn a lucky first couple of matchups to begin the season, as they will face the Marauders and Minnesota Crookston. Their combined records against both of those schools is 8-0, with four victories coming against each team. The last meeting against the University of Mary was September 19, 2015 at home. MSU won that matchup decisively, 48-0. In that matchup, Dennis caught four passes for 109 yards and a touchdown.
Minnesota State will open their season with a vast majority of their roster containing underclassmen, but that should not deter them from an unsuccessful season with the great coaching staff they have. The Mavericks have also added another piece to the puzzle on the coaching staff, hiring Collin Prosser this summer. Prosser comes from the University of South Dakota, where for two seasons he coached the defensive line and special teams. Hoffner will have Prosser coach the offensive line for the Mavericks.
The Mavericks will play their first game of the season tonight in Bismarck, North Dakota against the University of Mary at 6:00 p.m. In their last 10 season-opener games, the Mavericks are 8-2.