MARQUETTE, Mich. (WJMN) – The GLIAC conference held their football Media Day Monday morning – a sign that the season is fast approaching.

The Northern Michigan Wildcats have been picked to finish 5th in the Preseason Coaches Poll after finishing last season near the bottom of the conference standings. Despite those expectations, the team has a lot to be optimistic about as their program continues to evolve.

The NMU Wildcats finished last season near the bottom of the GLIAC standings at 4-7 but found themselves in a lot of close games that proved they can play with just about anyone. They ended their year on a high note with a win over Northwood.

“It gave us momentum going into the offseason for training and just your mental psyche of what you’re going to do during the winter for training and what you can do in spring ball,” said Kyle Nystrom, head coach for the Wildcats. “You just feel a lot better about what you’re doing and where you’re at and the things you have to build off of.”

Riding that wave of momentum, the Wildcats bring back talent all over the field which hasn’t always been the case during Nystrom’s tenure as head coach.

“All the quarterbacks are back,” said Nystrom. “All the running backs are back. Two linemen we have to replace. We got all our wide-outs back and a couple of defensive linemen. I got a freshman linebacker that is a real good player coming back. All our corners are back and I have to replace one safety. The kickers and snappers are back. It’s the first time in six years I can say that we’re a veteran team.”

One returner is senior runningback, Deandre Caldwell. He’s proven to be a playmaker when healthy and on the field, but he’s battled injuries throughout his career as a Wildcat.

“Last year at McKendree, Deandre was 3 rushes for 103 yards and then he had an injury that ended his season,” said Nystrom. “So, we’re getting him back for his sixth year and we love having him back.”

“When that play gets called in your mind that switch hits,” said Caldwell. “It’s go time you know? You got to get ready for it but for me personally and the thing that switched for me is that switch goes off before the game. Whether I’m running the ball or on special teams. If your time runs out wherever you play is important. I treat those the same, special teams or running back where I play. That switch hits, you know, I get called out on the field I’m ready no matter what.”

Senior John McMullen will help anchor the Wildcat’s defensive line. He was named to the All-GLIAC second team last season after appearing in 10 games, finishing with 45 tackles and 6 and a half sacks. Pretty impressive seeing he’s looked at as undersized at his position.

“I think some people look at being undersized as a disadvantage,” said McMullen. “For me personally, I take it as an advantage mainly because I feel like at the beginning of the game the way they might look at you is like you’re an underdog. Then after you dominate you start to get in their head a little bit and that’s the best thing about playing on the D-line. I think defense is the best side of the ball to be on just because it’s a more intense side of the game.”

The Wildcats will head into camp in the next few weeks to prepare for their season with the hopes of having everyone healthy heading into week one.

“We’re going to attack the camp and do everything we can do possible,” said Nystrom. “We want to make sure we get through that thing as healthy as possible so we can get to Saturdays and have all the bullets in our guns to get ready to play.”

The Wildcats open up their season on September 1st at home against McKendree.