Atop the tailbacks: Mack Jr. is looking at a new role next fall
Karsten Mack Jr. can hardly hold in his happiness. Not because his edler mentor is out of eligibility or because his contemporary is headed west, but because his second season as a Blue Hawk is starting to look a lot like high school. At Trinity ...
Karsten Mack Jr. can hardly hold in his happiness.
Not because his edler mentor is out of eligibility or because his contemporary is headed west, but because his second season as a Blue Hawk is starting to look a lot like high school.
At Trinity High School in Trinity, Texas, there weren't so many plays. There was a lot of deferring to Mack Jr.
"I was the only running back in my school," he said, laughing.
As a soon-to-be sophomore at Dickinson State, it won't be so drastic; the offense here is far more advanced and the difference in depth is discernable.
But numerous times last year during his true freshman season, the two-deep didn't even have his name.
Tray Boone, Jed Fike, then Mack Jr.
That changed last season around week four in Valley City, thanks in part to a nagging injury for Boone.
Mack Jr. had 13 carries in his first three games, but he had 13 against the Vikings. He averaged double-digit carries for the rest of the regular season, and proved to be the dynamic back head coach Pete Stanton saw when he watched his senior season highlight tape.
Mack Jr. went on to total a 4.9 yards per rush average, six touchdowns and 474 yards.
Barring something unforeseen, his name will be bolded for the two-deep this coming August in the home opener against Rocky Mountain College.
With Fike in Butte, Mont.,, the reins were given to Mack Jr. a little bit sooner than initially expected, said Stanton. That's not a bad thing, though.
"There's no doubt, he's going to have to carry on that load," Stanton said. "It's been a big spring for him in terms of No. 1, getting comfortable with what we're doing, in terms of the playbook, and No. 2, getting comfortable with catching the ball out of the backfield. He's going to have to be able to do those little things. We're very happy with where he's at."
Last year, as a first-year transplant from Texas, Mack Jr. considered Fike, a Montana native who had redshirted with DSU the year before, and Boone, a senior, to be his mentors.
With those two gone, perhaps it'll be a role reversal-him as the mentor and redshirt freshman running backs Nick Miller and Derek Tabor as the mentees.
"We got some younger backs-Nick and Derek-they were here last season, they're learning the offense pretty fast. I'm excited to share a backfield with them," he said. "Having Jed and Tray here, they were mentors. It's a step up for me now. I'm taking their roles as how they taught me, now I've got to teach Nick and Derek."
There was a feeling Fike would leave last fall, Mack Jr. said. They still speak regularly, mostly about how each other's teams are doing-no special intel, though, he noted.
But he's known a lead role for DSU this upcoming year was likely, so the extra attention is nothing new to him.
"I'm not scared to put it on my shoulders," Mack Jr. said. "Last year I just wanted more opportunity and more playing time. I'll probably be getting more carries than last season, which I'm excited about."
New point of view
Seth Moerkerke's job is a little bit easier this spring, at least from a playbook perspective.
The backup quarterback turned wide receiver (and punter) approached the coaching staff about a position change for two reasons:
• The graduation of outside receivers Austin Brown and Jamion Lindsey.
• He wanted to play.
"I'm looking for any way I can to get out there. I'm for sure trying to get there somehow," said the soon-to-be junior, who would have been one of a handful of quarterbacks next season. "I was more than willing to try out for receiver and see what kind of hands I had."
Moerkerke had never played the position before; only a little bit of tight end in high school.
The initial challenge, he said, has been to repress his inner quarterbacking instincts.
As a signal caller, he needs to know every single nuance of every single route.
As an outside threat, he needs only to worry about himself.
"My quarterback tendency just wants me to know everything else, which is probably a good thing," he said, laughing. "It's definitely different. The first couple of days I couldn't remember the routes because I was trying to think through the whole play, but I think it's been pretty good, at least from what I feel."
Spring game details
Dickinson State wraps up its spring season today, with their annual spring game scrimmage at 5 p.m. at the Biesiot Activities Center.
Stanton expects there to be about 65 plays run, with the two teams to be mostly comprised of redshirt freshmen and seldom-used players from last year.
It is, Stanton said, a final opportunity for the time being to showcase their talents.
"Who's going to perform? That's a big part of it," he said. "Many of our guys that are fighting for spots, the new guys and the guys from last year, it's really their last chance before August to really show what they can do for the team."
With the departure of Ryan Payne, last season's offensive line coach, the Blue Hawks are going forward with that position unfilled. In to plug the hole, however, is former longtime O-line coach Pete Leno, who retired in the early 2010s...In the NAIA spring football poll released Monday, the Blue Hawks came in at No. 14. They were 9-3 last season and lost to Montana Tech in the first round of the playoffs.