Football Week 1 Preview: Monmouth

The Hope College football team heads into this season confident yet hungry.

Fresh off a thrilling and record-setting debut season with head coach Peter Stuursma in 2016, the Flying Dutchmen are determined to build on their success and achieve more this fall.

Hope, the preseason Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association favorite, kicks off the 2017 season on Saturday, September 2 with a nonleague game at Monmouth, Illinois.

Stuursma, who guided a two-win team to a seven-win team last season, has a roster of 107 players. There are many returners and several newcomers, including offensive coordinator Andrew Hawken and quarterbacks coach Jim Caserta.

Hawken, a former three-year starting fullback and graduate assistant coach at Michigan State, joined the Hope coaching staff less than a month before fall practice started on August 10.

"I give Andrew a lot of credit. Truly, it was three weeks he had to prepare for the start of the season, and in that time, develop the entire offensive scheme that he had to teach to our entire staff, and the players when they arrive," Stuursma said. "He's brought some incredible opportunities to our offense.

"We try to maintain as many things as we could. We still want to run the ball. The biggest change is the variability of throwing the ball. Coach Hawken is very good at setting up the defense where he wants them to be. He puts us in position to attack defenses and coverages."

The Flying Dutchmen rushed for 2,738 yards last season — one of the biggest totals in the team's 107-year history.

Senior running back Brandan Campbell of Otsego, Michigan (Otsego), returns after a debut season in which he accounted for 1,361 yards on the ground. It was the fourth-highest single-season total for a Hope running back.

Preseason All-American Justin Fairfield anchors the offensive line at right guard. The senior from North Muskegon, Michigan (North Muskegon) was recognized by three preseason publications.

Junior Austin Heeres of Grandville, Michigan (Calvin Christian), and sophomore Mason Opple of Hudsonville, Michigan (Hudsonville) both are expected to contribute at quarterback.

Offensive coach Tony Semple, a former NFL standout, gives linemen the skills they need, Fairfield said. He is joined by assistant Michael Stephan, an All-MIAA and all-region center last season.

"We are brothers on the field and off the field," Fairfield said. "We see each other as equals and hold each other accountable. I trust the guy next to me and the guy behind me."

Defensively, the Flying Dutchmen return seven starters from a defensive coordinator Mike Ricketts-led group that allowed no more than seven points over four of the final five games last season.

Senior defensive back Jacob Pardonnet of Brighton, Michigan (Brighton) is Hope's top returning tackler. He averaged 6.0 per game last season.

Senior defensive end Zach Telfor of Charlotte, Michigan (Charlotte) is back after leading the Flying Dutchmen with 8.5 sacks last season. He also was fifth at 4.8 tackles per game.

"Coach Ricketts has tremendous knowledge of our defense. Our players buy into our system," Stuursma said. "Up front is key to our defense. We have a good group of six that can really go. They all have unique attributes with how they can rush and play the run."

Senior Darren Ford of Howell, Michigan (Howell) leads the Flying Dutchmen special teams coordinated by assistant coach Michael Lapciuk.

Ford kicked the three longest field goals in Hope history last season, including two school-record 46-yarders in a win at Albion.

Ford also handles punting duties and dropped 17 of his 40 attempts inside the 20-yard line last season.

Hope.edu | PO Box 9000, Holland, Michigan 49422