HOUGHTON, Mich. (WJMN) – The Michigan Tech football team has entered the next phase of their offseason program.

Last Friday, the Huskies kicked off their 2023 training camp and have been using the first few days of practice to grind their way back into football shape.

“Being in football shape is different,” said Dan Mettlach. “So, we’re trying to take care of that with the way that we’re practicing and the tempo of our practices. We’re taking care of the conditioning during practice so we don’t have to spend twenty minutes at the end and we’re not taking away from individual or group drills.”

“A football game is a long game and a lot of games are won and lost in the fourth quarter,” said Samuel Kinne, a 6th year defensive end for the Huskies. “We’re trying to get our legs underneath us and hopefully take it all the way to the end.”

Along with the conditioning, the Huskies have been focused on getting everyone one the same page and pushing in the right direction.

“We are looking for the consistency of our execution, in no matter what phase we’re talking about, special teams, offense, or defense,” said Mettlach. “We got to click more than one or two plays in a row. We got to be able to put a whole series together and we’re learning that here in early camp.”

“We got to stick together,” said Kinne. “If we want to do what we want to do, we have to do it together as a team. Stacking days is so important. So, it’s basically having a successful day, one after another after another. The only way to get better is to get 1% better. We have to not only just practice but we have to practice being perfect.”

The Huskies enter year one under the guidance of head coach, Dan Mettlach.

Mettlach is a familiar voice for the team. He most recently spent time as associate head coach and offensive coordinator under former head coach, Steve Olson, before being elevated into the head coaching role.

“It’s different,” said Mettlach. “Anytime there is a change in leadership, it doesn’t matter who it is, they’re going to do things their way and try to be as authentic as they can.”

The Huskies said goodbye to four year starter Will Ark and will welcome in a new signal caller this season.

“No question, the biggest question mark that we have is replacing a four-year starter at quarterback,” said Mettlach. “We’ve got some talent there. Guys that can make plays with their feet and have good arms. But, you can’t replace the four years of reps that Willy would have had over the last four years here. So, on top of that we are very, very inexperience at the offensive line so that makes everybody nervous no matter where your talking. In the next two and a half weeks, we got to not only the fundamentals of that group right where they need to be, but the comradery of who those front five are going to be before we kick off on September 9th.”

One player has stood out and won the the QB1 role entering the first week of the regular season.

“Alex Fries is going to be our starter,” said Mettlach. “He’s going into his fourth year so he’s been around. He’s bought his time and has been an understudy of Will (Ark) for the last couple of years. Dynamic guys with his feet, big arm, but he’s got to learn how to manage a football game. We’re still going through some growing pains with that part of it. The game starts moving faster, whether it be we’re changing tempos or whatever it may be. He’s got to be able to execute every single time. Darius Willis on offense, Preston Graf is coming back as a third year starter on the offensive line, our entire backfield is back and the rest of the wider receiver room is back.”

While the offense gets up to speed, the Huskies will be relying on their defense to lead the way. Mettlach says the Huskies defensive unit is the heart and soul of the team and will be tone setters on gameday.

“The experience on the defensive side of the ball is where we’re going to lean on especially early in the year,” said Mettlach. “A lot of guys are back, we have nine starters, plus a lot of guys that have played a lot of minutes. So, that is where our leadership is at. You got Michael Bates in the backend, Marc Sipple led the country in tackles last year. Now you got Sam Kinne, Austin Schlicht and Connor Hindenach are back on the front. You go to the ally’s and you got Josh Cribben and Hunter Buechel to the field. So, the experience on the defensive side of the ball is where we’re going to lean on especially early in the year.”

The Huskies kick off their season in front of their home fans on September 9th against Hillsdale.

“I’m so excited,” said Kinne. “I get the jitters just even getting up here for camp. When the National Anthem starts playing and you finally get to take that first crack at someone who’s not your buddy, it’s a great feeling.”

“Very good football team,” said Mettlach. “Every year it’s a battle with them. Smart, disciplined, very well coached. It’s going to be an exciting game, We’re going to have to take care of the football and make sure we got great discipline on both sides of the football because they are not going to make mistakes so we’re going to have to beat them if we’re going to win the game. but it’ll be exciting.”