A Little Change Can Do Some Good

Warhawks have new head coach, new offensive coordinator

Aug. 29, 2007

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By Pat Coleman

Special To CSTV.com from D3football.com



Pat runs D3hoops.com and D3football.com and offers regular analysis on CSTV.com. E-mail here!

It's been an offseason of change at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, the Division III football runner-up for the past two seasons.


Each college football team has to worry about turnover of players every four years, if not sooner at the scholarship levels. But the Warhawks, who have run the table in the deepest conference in Division III for two seasons in a row, lost more than a senior class over the summer.


Longtime head coach Bob Berezowitz announced before the 2006 season started that he would retire following the campaign, and followed through on his plans after 22 years at the helm. While a vocal group of fans advocated the promotion of offensive coordinator Stan Zweifel to the top spot, he was bypassed when alumnus Lance Leipold was given the spot. Zweifel left, unwilling to stay on as offensive coordinator, and that role was filled by Jim Zebrowski. Zebrowski left a Division III head coaching job at Lakeland College to take the position.




Lakeland made the playoffs twice under Zebrowski, who was one of seven Mount Union graduates who held Division III head coaching positions in 2006. But in many ways, his new position is a step up. Division III has 22 conferences with automatic bids, and Lakeland's league, the Illini-Badger Football Conference, has never won a playoff game and is near the bottom in every power rating. Picture going from head coach at Troy or Arkansas State to a coordinator job at USC.


In this case, it was no contest.


"I think as a head coach you do more things besides coaching a lot of times, especially at this level," Zebrowski said. "I enjoyed it, but at this time I'm excited about getting back to offensive football and coaching quarterbacks. Sometimes you feel like you can't do as much as you want because you're doing other things.


"I want to do it again soon but I owed it to myself to get back to being an offensive coordinator and coaching quarterbacks. And with a program as successful as Whitewater it was a great opportunity."


Leipold had this to say about his new hire: "Jim's an excellent coach. I feel very fortunate to have him here. To be a private school in Wisconsin, it's tough to recruit. There's a lot of schools footballwise. His success there is well documented."


Zebrowski went 28-13 in four seasons at Lakeland, inheriting a team that had been .500 the previous four seasons and taking them to the playoffs once while winning two Illini-Badger Football Conference titles.


The Warhawk offense won't have Derek Stanley, a speedy wide receiver and return man who was chosen by the St. Louis Rams in the seventh round of the NFL draft this past April. All-American tight end Pete Schmitt was in the Washington Redskins training camp this summer, while All-American left tackle Max Sakellaris was a senior last fall, as were 2005 All-American quarterback Justin Jacobs and fullback Travis Reuland.


They will still have All-American running back Justin Beaver in the backfield, however. The senior running back should be back at full strength as well. After breaking his collarbone in October, Beaver returned in the second round of the playoffs but rushed just 24, 18 and 23 times in the final three games after carrying 36 times for 227 yards in his return.


Whitewater will also have the services of Danny Jones, a quarterback who transferred from Cal Lutheran this offseason and has one remaining year of eligibility.


High-profile transfers within Division III are rare, especially when the player is a senior. But Jones was successful at Cal Lutheran, leading the team to an 8-1 record in 2005 and a 6-3 mark last season, when he was named first-team All-Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.


"He's run more of a spread offense," said Zebrowski. "They threw the ball around and he has the ability to run -- I think survival is some of it. They used more four-wide receiver sets. He's very comfortable with the offense and the receivers."


Jones was 131-for-225 passing for 2,339 yards, while also rushing for 387 yards for the Kingsmen.


"He does have a lot of college starts under his belt and that does count for something. To have someone with starts under his belt after losing Justin, we're glad he came."


The Warhawks also lose their top receiver from last year in Stanley, but three of the five receivers who got significant playing time are back. Neil Mrkvicka leads that group, having caught 59 passes last season for 787 yards and six touchdowns.


"We've got to find some receiving playmakers," said Leipold. "Matt Gifford is a big, tall receiver who runs well. Jordan Wells is in the mix of things. Tight end Nick Slupski had a great summer.


"After that we need to find some other people there to find some competition and some depth."


Aaron Rusch, a freshman, was an all-state pick in Wisconsin and may help fill that role.


Up front, things won't change. UW-Whitewater's zone blocking scheme has paved the way for nearly 8,000 rushing yards over the past three seasons, and the schemes up will be similar. Four of the five starting linemen return as well. And that's where Leipold and Zebrowski profess they are on the same page.


"I think we both want to be able to run the ball and play-action off it," said Zebrowski of Leipold.  "That's where we've gelled the most in that regard. I think sometimes we'll be in a situation where we have to throw it. He came from more of an option background and I came from more of a power zone scheme."


Whatever the offense ends up looking like, it won't have too much time before it needs to be firing on all cylinders. The Warhawks play at Division II St. Cloud State in Week 3 and at Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference rival UW-La Crosse, a 2006 playoff team, in Week 5.