Eagles working toward shoring things up as season approaches

NEW ULM — New Ulm head football coach Corey Kneeshaw felt that Saturday morning’s scrimmage at Redwood Valley High School involving Redwood Valley, BOLD and Windom Area was one where his team got some stuff accomplished.

“Our offensive line and running backs did well and our quarterback got a good job of getting the ball out on time,” said Kneeshaw as his team switched to a new offense this season. “And the biggest thing was that no one got injured — that was the ultimately the best thing to come out of that because of the gloomy day and wet conditions.”

New Ulm Cathedral canceled its inter-scrimmage because of the weather.

“There were some bumps and bruises with the new offense and we are still a work in progress,” Kneeshaw said. “We are trying to get a consistent snap from the center position and that is something that we are working through. But I was pleased with the reads that our quarterback [Hunter Ranweiler] made. He threw some good balls so we just need to make sure we get our receivers in the right spot.”

While Ranweiler will start, his backup, Tyler Walls, has been moved to the center position because of injuries on the offensive line.

“[Walls] will probably be our starting center this Thursday at Waseca,” Kneeshaw said.

Kneeshaw was pleased with the play of the Eagles’ wide receivers in seniors Connor Foley and Alex Portner.

“Carson Giefer [a junior] had some good catches and showed some good speed after not only catching the ball but then turning up the field,” Kneeshaw said.

Jacob Beranek, who takes over the running back spot from graduated Jordan Hillesheim, had a solid day. Beranek played receiver last year.

“We are not going to hand the ball off 40 times a game because we do not have the size in the running backs to do that,” Kneeshaw said. “We are going to do some zone-read stuff and using Hunter’s legs more than we did last year at quarterback. He showed a lot of athleticism in the scrimmage.

“Hunter threw some good balls in the scrimmage but one thing we are going to have to do is because he is not tall [6-foot]. Our offensive line is going to have to make sure we keep the defensive linemen’s hands and arms out of the passing lanes.”

DEPTH A CONCERN: One thing that Kneeshaw is concerned about this year is the team’s depth.

“We have a good, experienced offensive line with starters back from last year and at the receivers position as well,” he said. “But the depth is a concern thoughout our whole team. We have 55 players out grades 9-12 but in talking with other football coaches, their numbers are down everywhere — it is not just us. Windom, Redwood Valley and BOLD are all down. There are a lot of teams in this area where numbers are down. If someone on our offensive line or a linebacker goes down, we are going to be in trouble.”

Kneeshaw feels that there is an overall safety concern for players.

“What you see happening in the NFL with the concussion thing I think that parents are fearful of their kids,” he said. “We take every safety measure with our kids — we teach them the proper fundamentals on how to tackle and keep their heads up and out of everything.”

EAGLES SWITCH DEFENSE: This season, the Eagles are going to a 4-3 defense, which is a change from the 4-2-5 last year.

“We are taking that extra person out of the box, which last year was a 4-4 look,” Kneeshaw said. “Now we have seven players in the box. We moved Joe Fortwengler back to linebacker this season and he did a good job filling holes.

“And we did not seem to have any misalignments — we were lined up perfectly for all of our defensive calls. So now it is just a matter of getting the players to execute from that position. Our defensive ends [Portner, Reece Melby, Sam Denney and Walls] did a good job all day of containing the edge and did not let any of the teams seal block them.”

Kneeshaw was happy with the running game and the offensive line.

“We had some teams that threw blitzes at us but they did an excellent job picking them up,” Kneeshaw said. “We did not give up a single sack in the scrimmage.”