MARQUETTE, Mich. – Northern Michigan head football coach Kyle Nystrom is eager to enter the 2017 season keeping his team focused on short term goals.
"Our first goal is to get training camp solidified and to have a good camp," Nystrom said. "We want to see what we have and then move forward developing a good football team. From there we will move on to focusing on Angelo State, and the rest will come later."
Nystrom took over as the 22nd coach in NMU football history in December 2016, inheriting a team that went 3-8 during the 2016 season. Nystrom and his staff plan to create stability by recruiting quality athletes and developing the returning student-athletes. In the 2016 season the Wildcats opened with a 38-35 overtime win over Lake Erie before falling to Angelo State in double overtime and Grand Valley State. The Wildcats then improved their record to 3-3 with week 4 and 5 wins over Northwood and Walsh. Weeks 6 through 11 found NMU on the losing side of the ball as they fell to Saginaw Valley State, Ferris State, Ohio Dominican, Hillsdale, Michigan Tech, and Tiffin.
With new staff the Wildcats will also look to some new faces to lead the team in 2017. The roster will have more than 40 additions and the staff is looking for some of those student-athletes to be impact players right away. Nystrom and his staff want to control the line of scrimmage on both the offensive and defensive front. Managing the clock and keeping the defense off the field will be goals for 2017. "We want to decrease the number of series for the offense and be productive at the end of the drive," Nystrom.
The goal on offense is to create balance and the quarterback is pivotal. Losing quarterback Shaye Brown to graduation leaves the wildcats looking for a replacement to emerge in training camp. As support for the new quarterback, three of the four top receivers return from the 2016 team, Jaranta Lewis, Julian Crum, and Walter Jackson. Lewis had 39 receptions for 400 yards averaging 3.64 yards per game. Crum followed with 55 receptions for 389 yards, 35.4 per game. 2016 newcomer Walter Jackson rounded out the top four with 36 receptions for 275 yards, an average of 25 yards per game. Jake Mayon also returns after leading the 2016 Wildcats with 96.7 yards rushing per game, averaging 5.8 yards per carry and tallying 13 touchdowns.
"We are in good shape on our offensive line and with our receivers," added Nystrom. "At this point finding a starting quarterback is pivotal."
Nystrom's goal for the defense is to play an accountable, quality defense and use that as a strength for the team. With Nystrom's defense expertise, the Wildcats are bound to have a drastically different look in the secondary," Nystrom said. "It's critical to establish the secondary and for the line to control the gap. With a three safety package and three safeties returning we will look to them for leadership on the field."
Wildcats at a Glance
2017 coaches poll pick: 9 - full details
2016 overall record: 3-8
2016 GLIAC record: 3-7 (7th North, 11th overall)
Top offensive returner: RB Jake Mayon
Top defensive returner: LB Darryl Williams