UW-Whitewater football photo: Running back Drew Patterson

UW-Whitewater junior running back Drew Patterson scored 19 touchdowns last season, ranking 10th in NCAA Division III.

CRAIG SCHREINER -- UW-WHITEWATER

UW-Whitewater

Coach: Kevin Bullis (third season; 24-3).

Last year: 12-1 overall; 7-0 WIAC.

2016 NCAA III playoffs: Lost quarterfinal to John Carroll (Ohio), 31-14.

D3Football.com preseason ranking: No. 3.

Letterwinners returning/lost: Offense — 37/16. Defense — 30/21. Kicking — 1/2.

Starters returning/lost: Offense — 10/1. Defense — 3/8. Kicking — 1/1.

Returning All-WIAC players: Tony Gumina, sr., TE (2015, second team; 2016, honorable mention); Marcus Hudson, sr., WR (2015, first team; 2016, first); Drew Patterson, jr., RB (2016, first); Matt Seitz, sr., LB (2015, second; 2016, first); Nate Trewyn, jr., OL (2016, first); Cole Wilber, jr., QB (2016, HM).

Other key returnees: Offense — Canton Larson, jr., WR; Ben McFall, sr., TE; Jordan Mueller, sr., OL; Mitchell Schauer, sr., OL. Defense — Bailey Breunig, jr., DB; Famus Hasty, jr., DB; Bryce Leszczynski, jr., LB; Beau Martin, jr., LB. Kicking — Michael Schwichtenberg, sr., P/K.

Notes: The Warhawks have won 10 of the last 12 WIAC titles, going 161-11 over that run, and 35 overall. They are is favored to repeat as WIAC champion this fall. Whitewater returns 10 starters on offense, led by quarterback Cole Wilber (junior, Dana Point, Calif.), who threw 135 consecutive passes without an interception last year; wide receiver Marcus Hudson (senior, Delavan-Darien), who caught 52 passes for 843 yards; and running back Drew Patterson (junior, Sussex Hamilton), who ranked 10th in Division III with 19 touchdowns and led the WIAC with 114 points. Also, offensive lineman Nate Trewyn (junior, Milton) was named to the D3Football.com preseason All-America second team. Linebacker Matt Seitz (senior, Hartland Arrowhead) ranked No. 2 on the team with 64 tackles last year.

UW-Platteville

Coach: Mike Emendorfer (19th season; 90-92).

Last year: 8-3, 5-2.

2016 NCAA III playoffs: Lost first-round game to St. John’s (Minnesota), 32-31.

D3Football.com ranking: No. 15.

Letterwinners returning/lost: Offense — 3/5. Defense — 10/1. Kicking — 3/0.

Starters returning/lost: Offense — 3/8. Defense — 10/1. Kicking — 3/0.

Returning All-WIAC players: Chandler Crary, sr., LB (2016, second); Ryan Gaul, sr., C (2016, HM); Nick Kilianek, sr., DL (2016, HM); Marty McGrail, sr., LB (2016, second); Sean Studer, jr., RB (2016, second).

Other key returnees: Offense — Jack Eddy, sr., QB; Tim Jansen, jr., WR; Mark Johnson, jr., WR; Wyatt Thompson, jr., RB. Defense — Clay Becker, jr., LB; Luke Johnson, so., DB; Josh Mackie, jr., DB; Ben Mogilevsky, jr., LB.

Notes: Emendorfer’s Pioneers have won seven games in each of the last six seasons, and made the program’s second NCAA III playoff appearance last fall. Running back Sean Studer (junior, Manhattan, Ill.) gained 664 yards rushing in 2016. Running back Wyatt Thompson (junior, Mount Horeb) ran for 642 yards last year. Only one other offensive starter returns, and the Pioneers will have a freshman starting at quarterback — either Colin Schuetz (Aviston, Ill.) or Cade Earl (Maxwell, N.M.). The defense is much more experienced, with 14 regular players back including linebacker Ben Mogilevsky (junior, Madison La Follette), who had 74 tackles.

UW-Eau Claire

Coach: Dan Larson (second season; 2-8).

Last year: 2-8, 1-6.

Letterwinners returning/lost: Offense — 20/4. Defense — 20/4. Kicking — 2/1.

Starters returning/lost: Offense — 8/3. Defense — 8/3. Kicking — 2/1.

Returning All-WIAC players: J.T. DenHartog, jr., QB (2016, HM).

Other key returnees: Offense — Gerald Childs, jr., RB; Antwan Moore, so., RB; Ben Peterson, jr., OL. Defense — Ryan Ames, sr., DB; Kaeleb Stangler, sr., LB; Justin Viss, sr., DL. Kicking — Jeremy Corder, so., P; Austin Kolden, jr., K.

Notes: The linchpin of the Blugolds’ offense will be quarterback J.T. DenHartog (junior, Hopkins, Minn.), who completed 121 of 224 passes for 1,491 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2016 and led the team with 266 yards rushing and four TDs.

UW-La Crosse

Coach: Mike Schmidt (second season; 5-5).

Last year: 5-5, 2-5.

D3Football.com preseason ranking: Honorable mention (No. 45).

Letterwinners returning/lost: Offense — 31/19. Defense — 28/18. Kicking — 0/2.

Starters returning/lost: Offense — 3/8. Defense — 5/6. Kicking — 0/2.

Returning All-WIAC players: Nick Holcomb, sr., WR (2016, HM); Noah Risch, sr., LB (2015, second; 2016, HM); Mike Santucci, jr., WR (2015, HM); Ryan Weber, sr., DB (2015, first; 2016, second); Tarek Yaeggi, sr., QB (2016, second).

Other key returnees: Offense — Troy Bailey, sr., RB; Ryan Kruser, sr., WR; Austin Mancosky, sr., RB; Trent Milliken, jr., TE. Defense — Michael Garvey, sr., LB; Jacob Gerzsik, jr., LB; Peter Kissling, jr., DB; Jacob Wudtke, sr., DL. Kicking — Connor Wears, so., LS.

Notes: Eagles quarterback Tarek Yaeggi (senior, Watertown) led the WIAC in passing yardage (302.7 per game) and total offense (321.8 per game), setting single-season school records for completions (218), passing yards (2,724) and total offense yards (2,896). Wide receiver Ryan Kruser (senior, Waunakee) caught 59 passes for 470 yards, and running back Troy Bailey (Portage/Poynette) rushed for 206 yards. Defensive back Peter Kissling (junior, Oregon) had 52 tackles and six passes defended, and linebacker Michael Garvey (senior, Sun Prairie) had 28 tackles (four for loss).

UW-Oshkosh

Coach: Pat Cerroni (11th season; 77-34).

Last year: 13-2; 6-1.

2016 NCAA III playoffs: Earned the national runner-up honor, falling 19-7 to Mary Hardin-Baylor (Texas) in the Stagg Bowl on Dec. 16, 2016, in Salem, Va.

D3Football.com ranking: No. 4.

Letterwinners returning/lost: Offense — 24/11. Defense — 12/16. Kicking — 3/0.

Starters returning/lost: Offense — 9/2. Defense — 1/10. Kicking — 2/0.

Returning All-WIAC players: Turner Geisthardt, jr., P (2015, second; 2016, second); Dylan Hecker, sr., RB (2014, HM; 2015, first; 2016, first); Brett Kasper, sr., QB (2015, first/Co-Offensive Player of the Year, 2016, HM); Sam Mentkowski, sr., WR (2015, HM); Cody Moon, jr., TE (2016, second); AJ Plewa, jr., DB (2016, second); Tyler Powers, jr., OL (2016, HM); Greg Rand, sr., K (2015, second); Ty Summers, sr., C (2015, HM); Dom Todarello, jr., WR (2015, second; 2016, HM and first); Eli Wettstein, jr., K (2016, second).

Other key returnees: Offense — Mitch Gerhartz, so., RB; Chad Redmer, sr., WR; Austin Summers, jr., OL; Alex Wendorf, jr., OL. Defense — Derrick Jennings, jr., LB; Jon Kallas, sr., LB; Jamier Szymanski, sr., LB; Cole Yoder, jr., DB. Kicking — Riley Kallas, so., KR.

Notes: The Titans return a large group of 39 letter winners from a group that made the program’s first appearance in the NCAA III championship game last year. Quarterback Brett Kasper (senior, Two Rivers) shared the WIAC Offensive Player of the Year honor last year, completing 202 of 334 passes for 2,589 yards and 19 touchdowns. Running back Dylan Hecker (senior, Winneconne) already holds the school record with 45 rushing touchdowns, including 17 (and 1,142 yards rushing) last year. The only starter back on defense is cornerback A.J. Plewa (junior, South Milwaukee).

UW-River Falls

Coach: Matt Walker (seventh season at UW-RF; 14-46).

Last year: 4-6, 3-4.

Letterwinners returning/lost: Offense — 14/2. Defense — 6/6. Kicking — 2/1.

Starters returning/lost: Offense — 9/2. Defense — 5/6. Kicking — 2/1.

Returning All-WIAC players: Isaac Bowe, sr., OL (2015, HM); Geno DeMike, sr., LB (2015, HM); Michael Diggins, sr., RB (2015, HM; 2016, HM); Nick Jacobsen, sr., DL (2014, HM; 2015, second; 2016, first); Trenton Monson, jr., WR (2016, HM); Kyle Narges, sr., DB (2015, first; 2016, second).

Other key returnees: Offense — Tyler Halverson, sr., WR; Travon Hearns, sr., QB; Sawyer Moon, sr., QB; Levi Ross, so., OL. Defense — Darrian Brown, jr., DB; Mitch Dienger, jr., DB; Joey Leonard, jr., LB; Jay Robinson, sr., LB. Kicking — Nick Flesland, sr., LS; Brandon McCarthy, jr., Returner; Owen Schommer, jr., P.

Notes: The Falcons’ long rebuilding program is starting to show some results, as the program has reached four victories in back-to-back years for the first time since 2000-2001. Running back Michael Diggins (senior, Andover, Minn.) led the team with 536 yards rushing and 11 TDs last fall.

UW-Stevens Point

Coach: Tom Journell (sixth season at UW-SP; 25-25).

Last year: 6-4, 3-4.

Letterwinners returning/lost: Offense — 40/10. Defense — 41/8. Kicking — 1/2.

Starters returning/lost: Offense — 6/5. Defense — 7/4. Kicking — 1/1.

Returning All-WIAC players: Christian Almonte, sr., WR (2015, first); Juleyan Givens, jr., DB (2016, HM); A.J. Harris, sr., DB (2016, HM).

Other key returnees: Offense — Brodrick Bailey, sr., OL; Steve Herra, jr., WR; Ryan Swigart, sr., QB; Jerry Williams, sr., WR. Defense — Tanner Beaman, sr., DL; Blake Lehman, sr., DB; Tyler Raschke, sr., LB; Ryan Strick, sr., LB. Kicking — Alex Malueg, sr., P.

Notes: Journell’s Pointers started last year 4-0 before losing four of their last six. Four returning players saw action at quarterback last season. Wide receiver Jerry Williams (senior, Milwaukee/Watertown) has earned 12 NCAA III All-American honors in track. There is depth in the defensive backfield and at linebacker.

UW-Stout

Coach: Clayt Birmingham (eighth season; 26-44).

Last year: 3-7, 1-6.

Letterwinners returning/lost: Offense — 17/10. Defense — 19/7. Kicking — 3/0.

Starters returning/lost: Offense — 4/7. Defense — 7/4. Kicking — 3/0.

Returning All-WIAC players: Tony Blair, sr., DB (2016, HM); Drew Pearson, jr., K (2016, first); Clark Riedel, sr., P (2015, HM; 2016, first).

Other key returnees: Offense — Jay Alston, jr., QB; Akema Collins, sr., WR; Cody Marquardt, sr., OL; Kevion McDonald, jr., WR. Defense — Isaiah Hardy, sr., DL; Iyen Ogbomoh, sr., LB; Troy Rudesill, sr., DL; Enzo Rosani, sr., DB. Kicking — Taylor Pahl, sr., K.

Notes: Blue Devils kicker Drew Pearson (junior, Wausau West) was named to the D3Football.com All-America first team after sharing the WIAC Special Teams Player of the Year honor last fall and earning first-team All-American honors. Ten seniors return on offense, including a solid line. Stout had its Sept. 23 game against Trinity Bible College canceled when Trinity decided not to field a team due to lack of numbers.

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Wisconsin State Journal prep sports editor Art Kabelowsky has traversed the state to cover sports while working for daily papers in Fort Atkinson, Racine, La Crosse, Milwaukee and Baraboo.