The 2012 Wartburg football team will feature a mixture of returning players as well as new faces.
The most notable loss for the Knights is at quarterback as they will have to replace Dan Stiefel.
Stiefel completed 56.5 percent of his passes for 2,734 yards and 27 touchdowns in 2011.
It will be up to junior Taylor Jacobsmeier to take over under center this season for the Knights.
“We feel good in the progress that Jacobsmeier has made. He’s very athletic. He may have a little bit different set of strengths than our last couple of quarterbacks have had. Hopefully we’ll be able to do a good job of utilizing his strengths,” head coach Rick Willis said.
Joining Jacobsmeier in the backfield will be a pair of running backs that both saw the field last season in Connor Dahlstrom and Reese Thompson.
Dahlstrom rushed for 654 yards and seven touchdowns and was named second-team all-conference while Thompson contributed 436 yards and four touchdowns.
Wartburg will take another big hit at the wide receiver position with the loss of Levi Helbling who made 41 catches for 685 yards and was named second-team all-conference.
Willis said there is plenty of returning experience to fill the void though including senior Curt Hruska who pulled in 44 catches for 663 yards last season.
The Knights also lose two valuable offensive linemen in first-team all-IIAC Kevin Huss and second-team all-IIAC Kyle Huss.
Despite the key losses up front, Willis said that four linemen who saw significant playing time in 2011 return as well as Jon Orr who was sidelined for most of the season with an injury.
“Offensively we want to be balanced between the run and the pass, be a physical style offense and be difficult to defend,” Willis said.
On the defensive side of the ball, Wartburg returns a veteran group Willis said, including four 2011 all-conference competitors.
The defensive line loses first-team all-conference Matt Tschetter but returns second-team all-conference senior Ross Naylor.
The linebacking corps returns all three starters including first-team all-IIAC Jason Shupp, Mark Lueschow, who was honorable mention all-IIAC in 2011 and Ryan Billings.
The secondary loses first-team all-IIAC Josh VanDenHul but Willis said they return three cornerbacks and two safeties including first-team all-conference safety Garrett McGrane who has made nine interceptions in the past two seasons.
“If we can keep people healthy on our defense we have a chance to have a really solid defense that can be aggressive and attacking and make a lot of plays,” Willis said. The Knights open the season at home on Sept. 1 when they take on MacMurray. Wartburg will play three non-conference games this season instead of two due to Cornell leaving the IIAC. The IIAC opener will be Sept. 29 at Simpson with Homecoming scheduled for Oct. 20 against Dubuque. Senior day will take place Nov. 10 when the Knights host Loras.