Ferris State football team has sights sets on another postseason run

Ferris State senior wide receiver Malik Taylor returns following an All-GLIAC junior season. (Photo courtesy of Ferris State Athletics)

BIG RAPIDS — The Ferris State football program has reached the NCAA Division II National Quarterfinals two years in a row and looks to advance beyond that this season.

The Bulldogs will begin their seventh season under head coach Tony Annese and are expected to contend for its fifth-straight playoff appearance.

FSU returns eight starters on offense and is expected to be led up front by two preseason All-Americans in guard Nic Sawyer and tackle Devon Johnson. Both Johnson and Sawyer were named to the Football Gazette All-America squad a year ago and have been multi-year starters up front for one of the nation’s top offensive units.

“That’s probably the strength of our team,” said Annese of his offensive line. “They’re probably the best group of young men we’ve had since I’ve been here. The center will be something to sort out, but we have a solid offensive line nucleus with 10, 12 guys who have a chance to play.”

Along with four returning starters on the offensive line, the Bulldogs also welcome back their top four receivers, including an All-GLIAC duo in senior wideouts Malik Taylor and Keyondre Craig. A trio of signal callers — Travis Russell, Bret Mooney, and Jayru Campbell — will battle for the starting quarterback position in fall camp.

“Malik and Keyondre have made a ton of plays for us,” Annese said. “That gives our quarterbacks some security knowing that those guys can go up and make plays. Quarterback is a work in progress. We have three guys we feel comfortable with.

“We played a lot of games with Travis last year, but the other guys are right there with him. That battle will go right up to August 30.”

On defense, the Ferris must replace its top nine tacklers and three former players who are currently in NFL training camp, but talented players are waiting in the wings for their chance to shine.

“We lost a bunch of talent over there,” Annese said. “But we’ve developed this program to where we have guys in the waiting who are excellent players. We were great this Spring and feel good about our defense heading into the fall.”

The Bulldogs open the season at home under the lights at Top Taggart Field on Thursday, Aug. 30, with a non-conference matchup versus East Stroudsburg (Pa.) starting at 7:30 p.m. (ET).

Following the season opener, the Bulldogs will host Findlay in week two in a potential non-conference battle of ranked squads before opening league action on Sept. 15 at Northwood. Overall, FSU will play five home games at Top Taggart Field and will also host GLIAC foe Michigan Tech on Oct. 6 in the “Battle At The Ballpark” to be played at Fifth Third Ballpark in Comstock Park.

Ferris’ road games include matchups at Northern Michigan (Sept. 22), Grand Valley State (Oct. 13) and Saginaw Valley State (Oct. 20). FSU closes the regular-season with a non-conference road trip to William Jewell (Mo.) on Nov. 10.

“We have a lot to live up to,” Annese said. “The coaching staff’s energy has been fantastic and the players are driven. It makes me feel young and ready to roll.”

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