WINONA, Minn. - The Winona State football team opened spring practice Friday under sunny skies in Winona, welcoming 13 starters from last year's team back onto the field for the first of the team's 15 spring practices.
The Warriors will hold 15 practices over the next five weeks, culminating in the team's annual spring game at 4 pm on April 26. WSU went through practice in helmets only on Friday, working on offensive and defensive schemes and reinforcing fundamentals.
There is depth and experience on both sides of the football for the Warriors, who posted a 6-5 overall record last season, the 17th consecutive winning campaign under head coach Tom Sawyer.
The Warriors are loaded with talent at the skill positions on the offensive side of the ball, led by quarterback Jack Nelson, the NSIC's Offensive Newcomer of the Year in 2013. Nelson threw for 2,715 yards and 25 touchdowns as a freshman after stepping into the starting lineup in the second game of the year.
Nelson's top five targets from last year all return, with Logan grad Tony Mueller (32 rec., 566 yards, 4 TD), Alan May (32 rec., 541 yards, 6 TD), Josh Mikes (26 rec., 584 yards, 6 TD), Cameron Johnson (26 rec., 376 yards, 5 TD) and Alex Jensen (25 rec., 343 yards, 4 TD) forming one of the nation's top pass-catching groups.
Ben Reinartz and Vance Ross will help anchor the offensive line, with both players starting all 11 games a season ago.
Three of Winona State's four starting linebackers from last season return, led by Morgan Weaver who had 75 tackles during his junior campaign. Colin Corcoran led the team with nine sacks while adding 67 stops while Ryan Gerts made 63 tackles.
Patrick Lazzara led the Warrior defense with 86 tackles last year and will anchor a secondary that also features the return of starting cornerbacks Larry Mbayu and Anthony Cantanese.
Tyler Kubler is a proven pass rusher at defensive end who had eight tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks as a junior last year.
Eleven members of the WSU football team earned all-conference honors last season, with Ross, Mikes, Corcoran, Gerts, Weaver, Kubler, Jensen and May all returning for the 2014 season.
Winona State will open its 2014 season with a road game at Northern State on Sept. 4 before opening its home schedule on Sept. 13 against the University of Mary.
--Courtesy Winona State Athletics