TERRE HAUTE —
Trying to shake off three season-ending injuries that occurred during the first week of preseason training camp, Rose-Hulman’s 2013 football team continues to prepare for its first game Sept. 7 at Kalamazoo College in Michigan.
“We’re looking good,” Rose third-year coach Jeff Sokol told the Tribune-Star over the weekend. “We’ve had a tough camp, but we’ve got good depth that allows us to be a little bit more physical in our practices.”
The Engineers’ coach mentioned that 47 letter winners and 18 returning starters are back for this season.
“We just had an intrasquad scrimmage Saturday morning and the defense looked really nice,” Sokol assessed. “I was very disappointed with the offense, however. There were about three turnovers that got returned deep into the offense’s territory.”
One big reason for the defense line’s impressive showing is 6-foot-2, 245-pound senior Dean Griffing, a third-year starter and mechanical-engineering major from Plano, Ill.
“It went really well,” Griffing said of Saturday’s scrimmage. “We had a lot of guys who really stepped up on the defensive end. A lot of guys on offense made big catches too. It was probably the most competitive we’ve gotten in the whole camp.”
Griffing is all about being competitive. This summer, he was named a first-team preseason All-American on the USA Football Network Division III squad and captured honorable-mention All-American honors from Beyond Sports Network.
Those accolades were based on last season in which Griffing ranked second in the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference (HCAC) in tackles-for-loss with 16 and sacks with 10.
Sokol expects those numbers to be maintained or increased in 2013.
“Dean, throughout camp, has been pretty unblockable in one-on-one situations,” Sokol pointed out. “He’s going to constantly command double teams. He’s really quick for a defensive lineman. He’s got a great first step on his pass-rush move. He’s excellent against the run. He’s just a great playmaker for us.”
Griffing credits much of his success to being surrounded by good teammates.
“It’s definitely the best since I’ve been here,” he said of the defense as a whole. “We’ve got a lot of guys playing well and we’re deep. So we’ve got a lot of experience and a lot of playmakers.”
Looking ahead, Griffing offered his goals for the season — for himself and for the team.
“I want to finish off the season as an All-American,” he admitted, adding that that would be more prestigious than the preseason honors he’s received. “I want to pump up the team a bit, produce a big play when it’s needed and be that senior leader that we need me to be.
“As for the team, winning conference is our No. 1 goal every year. … We think we can do it because our defense is really fast this year. We’ve got a lot of guys who are really ready to go.”
Although Sokol is pleased to see Griffing and his defensive teammates perform well in practice, he’s hoping for consistent production from the offense as well. Two of Rose-Hulman’s key returnees are sophomore wide receivers Jacob Dye and Aaron Abott.
“We’ve still got some work to do [on offense], no doubt about it,” Sokol acknowledged. “We’ve got some things to figure out.
“Going into the scrimmage, we were looking for answers, but we probably came out with more questions than answers.”
In 2012, the Engineers finished 5-5 overall and 5-3 in the HCAC.
Rose-Hulman football schedule
Sept. 7 — at Kalamazoo, 1 p.m.
Sept. 14 — Centre (Rose-Hulman Night), 7 p.m.
Sept. 21 — Defiance* (homecoming), 2 p.m.
Sept. 28 — at Manchester*, 1:30 p.m.
Oct. 5 — Hanover* (Hall of Fame Game), 1:30 p.m.
Oct. 12 — at Bluffton*, 1:30 p.m.
Oct. 19 — bye
Oct. 26 — Franklin*, 1:30 p.m.
Nov. 2 — Mount St. Joseph* (Fall Family Weekend), 1:30 p.m.
Nov. 9 — at Anderson*, 1:30 p.m.
Nov. 16 — at Earlham*, 1:30 p.m.
* — denotes Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference game