January 23, 2014 by Henry McKenna in Preview with 4 comments
Colorado played their best game of the season against Oregon at Nationals last year but lost on universe point. For a program like Colorado, that’s not good enough. And the loss hung as a harbinger for their early exit against UNC Wilmington in prequarters.
There’s no shame in losing to Oregon, a team that finished tied for third in the country, but it was exemplary of their season: Colorado was not quite ready for Nationals.
The team had trouble finding consistency. It lost games to teams like Arizona and Tufts. It even lost the region to a Texas team that played a near flawless offensive game but lost to almost the exact same teams over the course of the season. The game seemed to be won early, as fellow NexGen alumnus Will Driscoll exhausted Jimmy Mickle by running circles around Texas’ vertical stack, only to have someone else score. Texas was more efficient.
Taking an Unconventional Approach to Rostering
Colorado cannot afford another delayed season, and the urgency has Colorado’s sixth year coach Jim Schoettler trying something new, if only to get back to the basics.
“We cut that [roster] down to make everyone more accountable and participating on the field and off, so we have a smaller team and it’s an experienced team,” Schoettler said.
Their mix of experience, familiarity and chemistry is lethal to opponents in the early season. Player attendance at practice and film session is perfect, and they are learning schemes they usually go over much later in the season.
“We’re not going to start at square one, we’re going to start at square ten,” captain Pawel Janas said. “We’re going to start [at the level] where we ended up at nationals last year.”
Schoettler plans to roster 22 or 23 players this season. In the past, Mamabird took around 30 players on the first team. They have no rookies. Every player has a wealth of knowledge of the system.
Former fifth years Jackson Kloor, James Mitchell and Gabe Stump and seniors Stu Barnes and Zach Nager graduated. However, the five players that stayed for a fifth year – Mickle, Hidde Snieder, Tim Morrissy, Phil Sun, and Todd Wolma – are going to be central to the team’s system.
The work that Mamabird did last year on the bottom half of their roster is paying off and, despite their short roster, they might be the deepest team in the country. And no player should feel like they don’t deserve points.
“I trust everybody on the field and that is not always the case,” Schoettler said. “We’re not calling subs right now and it’s working out fine.”
Mum is the word on superstar Jimmy Mickle. Even in speaking with the coach and captain, their minds were not on individual player. While a small roster should place more emphasis on each player, this adjustment works the opposite way, because they are distributing power into the hands of every player on the team.
“Everyone is playing every kind of role. It was free flowing,” Janas said about the team at Missouri Loves Company.
They won the tournament and suffered only one loss to Texas A&M during pool play. In elimination round, Mamabird beat Cartleton College 13-6 in quarters, avenged their loss to Texas A&M in semis (though the score was not reported, Schoettler said it was by 5 or 6), and roughed up Illinois 13-6 in the finals.
“We’re definitely ahead of the game right now,” Schoettler said.
The scores affirm his confidence.
The only foreseeable disadvantage is injuries. If chemistry is so tight, then losing three to five players to injuries would devastate Mamabird’s short squad. They have their B team to draw from, but with all this emphasis on building on last season, it may be near impossible to bring one of them up to speed.
On-Field Strategy: Get Mickle Off the Disc
Mickle, one of the best players in the nation, will get fewer touches this season. Schoettler wants to use Mickle as a downfield option more often and exploit the deep half of the field. With experienced throwers abound on the roster, the coach’s hopes that Mickle will play a more dynamic role, in the same vein as he plays on his club team Johnny Bravo. Ultiworld noted in the fall that Mickle — playing that downfield threat role for Bravo — was one of the hottest players in the club division, and maybe the best performer at Club Nationals.
Colorado does not need Mickle to put the team on his back as he did at times last year. When he was tired because he was asked to do so much, he made mistakes and threw turnovers.
Last season, Mickle worked in isolation downfield. He aligned in the open space of the vertical stack, where he can best use his athleticism. The position was built for his hybrid role in the offense. If he takes the under, he almost becomes a third handler, one that can make almost any throw on the field. If he takes the deep cut, he can use his athleticism. He favored cutting under until his defender grew accustomed to it, in which case he would take off deep. Expect that to happen more often this year. If it works as Schoettler plans, Mickle will be the hardest mark in the country.
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With Mickle stretching the field and requiring the best defender, the other six players can exploit their matchups. Captains Janas, Wolma, and Sun, fifth years Snieder, Morrissy, and younger players like Stanley Peterson—who Janas assured me would win the 2015 Callahan—will produce and take the load off Mickle. The distribution of power distributes responsibility.
“If we win it’s going to be because of those guys playing at that level,” Schoettler said. “I mean having that level of competition and experience on the team is going to put us over the top. On the other side is, some of the responsibility will fall on me as it always does, if we don’t win, a large portion of the responsibility will also fall on those guys. That’s a lot of pressure for them.”
It’s sounding and looking more like Colorado is thinking championship or bust.
New Years Fest (January 25-26)
Presidents Day (February 15-17)
Stanford Invite (March 1-2)
College Centex (March 15-16)
Jim Schoettler (Head)
Brent Zionic (Assistant Head)