Fear the Veer

VanderLaan leads already explosive attack into 2014 GLIAC season

Mike Corn, Photographer
With one non-league game under their belt, Ferris State’s football offense sets the bar for the rest of season following historic beat-down.

Very seldom do those who are competing in a football game and those who are spectating share the same thoughts about what is happening on the field. An exception can be made for every single person who watched Ferris steam roll McKendree during their Thursday night showcase. That shared thought was that the Bulldogs will be an unrelenting force on the offensive side of the football.

This season, comparable to the 2013 campaign, will see Ferris State strut out their borderline unstoppable “veer” offensive setup, an offense that led the GLIAC on the ground a season ago. Sitting firmly on the shoulders of junior quarterback, Jason Vander Laan, the Bulldogs offense contains a wealth of experience and talent as they look to tear up turf in 2014.

“It really helped that we returned so many guys this year that we became even more of a solid unit just because of experience,” Vander Laan said. “With the front five that we have and then Jamaal (Jackson), Jahaan (Brown), and Kit (Clark) it seems like all I have to do is hand off the ball. We have a very solid offense this year one through 11.”

The Bulldogs are absolutely stacked in the running game, starting with Vander Laan himself. The versatile signal caller broke the collegiate single season quarterback rushing record in only his sophomore campaign last season. Past Vander Laan, though, returned the aforementioned trio of running backs that will shore up Ferris’ option style rushing attack that has been leaned on so often in the past two years.

“The RB’s this year are a very special group of players. We have the ability to really step up and lead on the field more this year,” sophomore running back Kitwana Clark said. “The depth is honestly endless. But it comes down to each and every player being accountable for their role on this team and staying focused and committed to the grind.”

Clark was one of nine players that carried the ball on the ground for Ferris against McKendree, helping rack up a school record 489 yards against the Bearcats. Going forward into the ensuing ten league games, the offense will undoubtedly be solid running the ball, but a lot of focus was put towards the Bulldogs air attack in hopes of a more balanced overall offense.

Last season, Ferris State’s passing game was up and down, but played it’s part to keep opposing defenses honest to lead the way to run the ball. This season, the Dawgs plan on having the passing game play a bigger part in the teams overall scheme, which was apparent in their first game as they were able to tack on four scores through the air.

“Overall, we are happy with how we threw the ball (against McKendree) a little more which really opens up the running game,” Vander Laan said. “All of the credit goes to the o-line because I had all the time in the world to throw and that makes my job a lot easier.”

Along with the wide receivers and slot receivers, Ferris’ offensive line saw some slight changes, but brought back a solid group of core players. Constantly referred to as the “heart” of an offense, the o-line did lose key players in Carlin Landringham and Sam Parker to graduation, as well as Danzell Maze who was left off the roster. Despite these losses, the group pulled together during the offseason to create a clock-like cogged group of dominating lineman.

“Biggest key was knowing you can count on the guy next to you to get the job done,” senior lineman, Justin Glover, said. “We want to be the best o-line in the country and for us to show dominance up front shows we were prepared well.”

With conference play kicking off this weekend, the Bulldogs are heading into GLIAC games with a rolling head of steam due to the offensive dominance that was showed last week. Only time will tell if Ferris can keep it going as the team seeks to conquer their conference and make a splash in the postseason.