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IWU football ready for spring game

BY SCOTT HUNT - shunt@chronicle-tribune.com

 The cyclical college football season is reaching another breaking point and Indiana Wesleyan concludes spring activities Saturday with its spring scrimmage game.

Play begins at 4 p.m. in Wildcat Stadium and admission is free to spectators.

With a highly successful first season under its belt, IWU ventures into the teeth of arguably the toughest NAIA football league in the country this fall when it enters competition for the Mid-States Football Association Mideast division championship and the automatic berth into the NAIA playoffs that comes along with it.

The Wildcats set the bar high for themselves with a 7-3 record in their inaugural season and the goal for the spring has been to keep raising the bar even higher.

“It’s pretty different than the fall because you’re not getting ready for anybody.” IWU coach Jordan Langs said from his office Thursday afternoon. “You’re going against each other so much which with our new defensive coordinator (J.J. Clark) and Eric Terrazas), our offensive coordinator. Those guys do such high level stuff, it’s good for them to see each other. It’s good for our offense to match up with our defense.

“Our guys are getting a lot better and they’re bigger, faster, stronger from the winter,” he continued. “It’s really good but you always get to end the spring kind of excited for the fall because you’re ready to get ready for somebody else. Once you get to a certain point where you go against each other so much it can kind of drive you a little bit crazy. It’s been a good spring.”

Clark was hired in December to run the IWU defense, something Langs did last season, to help the head coach focus his attention on other areas of the team. Indiana Wesleyan also hired Brett Ekkens to coach the offensive line, something he’s done the past three seasons at NCAA Division I program Akron.

Langs is excited about the coaching additions to his staff and the progress he’s seen from his players already after working with Clark and Ekkens for a relatively short amount of time.

“Our offensive line and defensive backfield, both of those, being physical, becoming bigger, faster, stronger helps and is a big deal,” Langs said. “But you can’t play offensive line or defensive back without a lot of skill, and a lot of acquired skill that you can’t actually acquire until you’re doing it.

“Some of those bumps and bruises we took in both of those position groups last year were sort of necessary,” Langs added. “When you see them on Saturday at the spring game you’re going to see a big improvement on both sides. Both of those groups have new coaches that are phenomenal and that’s really helped. But also they also had to go and take a lot of those lumps from a year ago because you need experience to acquire those skills needed at both those positions. ... A lot of things have to come together and I’m excited about the progress both of those groups have made.”

Indiana Wesleyan’s third-ever recruiting class is signed and will be delivered when preseason camp begins in early August. Langs and his staff are already making strides to land players for the high school graduating class of 2020 and will have close to 100 recruits plus their families on campus Saturday. IWU has entertained recruits for each Saturday practice conducted since March 12 when spring practice officially started.

The process of recruiting IWU football players hasn’t gotten any less time consuming, but its become more streamlined.

“Now that we are into our fourth class, we’ve settled into what we see as our systematic approach to recruiting so guys are now experienced,” Langs said. “For two of my coaches this is their fourth recruiting class at Indiana Wesleyan so they’re pretty dog gone good at it at this point. The other guys I brought in around them are guys that understand how to sell the product. From a recruiting perspective, once the machine gets going it just kind of keeps going.”

Indiana Wesleyan faces a daunting schedule in 2019, including road trips to FBS Butler, cross county to Taylor and to perennial national title contender Saint Francis in Fort Wayne. Another perennial power, Marian will come to IWU along with Siena Heights, both teams that spent time in the NAIA’s top-15 last season.

Growth and improvement is essential and Langs is looking forward to showing the Wildcats’ growth on Saturday and then again in the 2019 season.

“We understand what’s coming in front of us in 2019 with a great schedule but our kids will be prepared and they’ll be significantly better than they were a year ago,” Langs said. 

“I think the faithful fans that were there last year that will be out here on Saturday will see a significantly improved product,” he added.

“We’re real excited about what we did last year but I think you’ll see a distinctively better football team than what you saw on Nov. 17 and that’s exactly the point we need to be at. ... and when we show up on September 7th (at Butler) we need to be significantly better than we are right now. Our kids are working towards that.”