BY JD PELEGRINO
Team morale is high for the Drake Bulldogs rushing into the 2017 football season. Last season, the Bulldogs finished 7-4 overall (6-2 in the Pioneer Football League). Dayton and San Diego were the team’s only two conference losses.
Eric Saubert, standing at an imposing six-foot-five-inches, dominated the PFL at tight end during his time at Drake after being recruited from Chicago. After an outstanding senior year, he earned the honor of being drafted by the Falcons with the 174th pick in the fifth round of the 2017 draft. Last season was an extraordinary season for the Bulldogs. They won two more games than in the 2015 season (5-6)
The Bulldogs will be missing their number one offensive weapon from last year, but do not plan on letting up off the gas. Alex Bray, the lone sophomore quarterback on the team this year, had redshirted his freshman season, therefore making him ineligible for gameplay. This season, Alex is the team’s QB3 (third string quarterback) in the depth chart.
Bray had plenty to say about the team and confidence levels of his teammates at practice so far this offseason. When asked about the team’s record this year, “I think we have the potential to win the PFL,” Bray said. Bray later elaborated on the team’s strengths citing the Bulldog’s young, but talented, receiving core as something to watch out for as well as the defensive line led by fifth year player Mack Marrin.
Marrin has been disrupting quarterbacks for the last three seasons. Despite battling through an injury all of last season, Marrin still managed to be selected to the All-PFL honorable mention team. Two seasons ago, a healthy Marrin was the team leader in sacks with 8.5. Members of the team expressed their excitement for Marrin’s final year on the team, looking forward to him being at full health.
John “JJ” Clark is in a similar boat as Bray having redshirted last season as a freshman. Clark comes from Clarinda, Iowa and is a linebacker for the Bulldogs entering his first year of eligibility.
“I can’t wait to play San Diego and Dayton for sure. They both beat us and went ahead of us last year,” Clark said when asked who he was most excited to play this season. San Diego and Dayton handed the Bulldogs two of their four losses last year, but Drake players have high expectations for this upcoming season.
Both Bray and Clark commented on who they were most excited to see play this year on the team, and produced the same answer. The quarterback and linebacker both mentioned Mitch McFarlane as a focal point of the offense this year at wide receiver. “Number 22, Mitch McFarlane,” other members of the team chimed in.
McFarlane is a first-year out of Winnebago Lutheran in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. The receiver comes in at six-foot-three-inches, 178 pounds. McFarlane also redshirted last year. Some of number 22’s accolades through high school include: named a two-time first-team all-conference selection, earned academic all-state honors as a senior, and was a four-time all-conference selection in basketball.
The Drake University Bulldogs football team is looking to have a fantastic 2017 season, improving from last season and perhaps winning the PFL. With a strong defensive line and an offense led by the returning quarterback in Grant Kraemer, the Bulldogs appear to be confident in the work they have put in this offseason and headed into the regular season.