DES MOINES, Iowa - The Drake Bulldogs have begun preparations for their 119th season of football as the players returned on Sunday (Aug. 5) for "Reunion Day". Their itinerary included physicals, meetings, a trip to the equipment room and having headshot photos taken, awaited a group of 38 freshmen join 70 upperclassmen to form this year's 108-man camp roster.
On Wednesday (Aug. 8) head coach Chris Creighton addressed the media in the Paul F. Morrison Room in the Knapp Center on media day touching a variety of topics about this year's squad.
PRACTICE SCHEDULE: The Bulldogs will hold 22 practices during fall camp, including scrimmages. Daily practices, subject to change, are scheduled as follows: Mon., 8/6, 3:12-5:44 p.m.; Tues., 8/7, 3:12-5:40 p.m.; Wed., 8/8, 3:12-5:45 p.m.; Thurs., 8/9, 3:12-5:45 p.m.; Fri., 8/10, 3:12-5:45 p.m.; Sat., 8/11, 3:12-5:45 p.m. and 3:22-5:43 p.m.; Mon., 8/13, 8:27-10:48 a.m. and 3:22-5:45 p.m., Tues., 8/14, 3:12-5:45 p.m., Wed., 8/15, 8:27-10:48 a.m. and 3:22-5:45 p.m.; Thurs., 8/16, 3:12-5:45 p.m., Friday, 8/17, 8:27-10:48 a.m. and 7-9:20 p.m.; Sat., 8/18, scrimmage at 2:08 p.m., Mon., 8/20, 3:12-5:45 p.m.; Tues., 8/21 8:27-10:48 a.m. and 7-9:20 p.m.; Wed., 8/22, 3:40-4:45 p.m., Thurs., 8/22, 3:12-5:45 p.m. The game-week practice schedule leading up to the season-opening game versus Grand View, Aug. 30, will be issued the week of the game.
OFFENSE: The Drake offense welcomes seven starters back from the 2011 team that went 9-2 en route to winning the Pioneer Football League, including PFL Offensive Player of the Year in senior Mike Piatkowski (Wheaton, Ill.) at quarterback.
Piatkowski enters the season needing just 942 passing yards to become the No. 1 passer in school history. With 6,927, he trails only Ira Vandever (7,868; 1999-2002), after a 2011 season in which he passed for 2,934 yards, second most in school history.
Piatkowski will be throwing to a young but talented core of receivers led by returning starting senior wide receiver Joey Orlando (Park Ridge, Ill.), who caught 32 passes for 382 yards and six touchdowns last season. Complimenting the Bulldogs' attack will be senior tight end Kevin Marshall (Glen Ellyn, Ill.) who pulled in 33 passes for 280 yards and three touchdowns in 2011 en route to earning honorable mention All-PFL accolades.
Senior running back Trey Morse (Elmo, Texas) headlines the backfield after rushing for 353 yards on 107 carries, including three touchdown runs.
DEFENSE: Preseason All-PFL performer Tyler Moorehead (Mason City, Iowa), a senior strongside linebacker, anchors a defensive unit that returns six of 11 starters.
A two-time first-team All-PFL honoree, he led the team a year ago with 78 tackles (55 solo), while also registering 10.5 sacks.
Senior defensive end Brandon Coleman (Cary, Ill.), a second-team All-PFL selection in 2011, is back after posting a team-best 12 sacks, while adding 51 tackles.
Sophomore Travis Merritt (Johnston, Iowa) earned PFL Freshman Defensive Player of the Year accolades a season ago after recording 66 tackles.
Each of the top three tacklers, and four of the top five, return in 2012 from a defensive unit that ranked No. 2 in the FCS (No. 1 PFL) in rushing yards allowed (77.2) and No. 7 (No. 1 PFL) in points allowed (17.8). The four are: Moorehead (78 tackles), Merritt (66), Ratelle (63) and Coleman (51).
In addition, a defense that led the PFL and ranked No. 13 in the FCS in tackles for loss returns the top three players in that category, in Moorehead (21.), Coleman (16.5) and Gianaras (9.5), and the personnel who recorded 61.0 of the team's 85.0 TFLs.
The Bulldogs were one of the nation's top defenses in quarterback sacks (5th FCS, 3rd PFL), and return the top three players in that category, including Coleman (12.0; 10th FCS), Moorehead (10.0) and Gianaras (5.0). Overall, players who accounted for 30.5 of Drake's 39 sacks in 2011 are back in 2012.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Special teams will be an area that the Bulldogs are looking for strong contributions from a young but talented core of players. Drake's lone returner is sophomore kicker Spencer Lee (Johnston, Iowa), who 50.2 yards per kickoff on 30 attempts.KICKOFF 2012: The Bulldogs have their sights set on the season-opener, Thursday, Aug. 30, 2012, as cross-town foe Grand View invades Drake Stadium for a 7:00 p.m. kickoff.