It has been the recent reality of playing football at the University of Puget Sound.
Team grade-point average the past five seasons: 3.7.
Average amount of NCAA Division III wins: 1.8.
If he was not well aware of the challenges of this job when he was initially hired from Redlands University (Calif.) in 2010, third-year coach Jeff Thomas is now. The Loggers went 0-6 in Northwest Conference play last season – the third time that has happened in the past four seasons – but with 15 out of 22 starters returning, the outlook appears much brighter.
They open the season Saturday at The University of the South in Sewanee, Tenn.
The roster numbers are much healthier now than they were at the beginning of Thomas’ tenure. His ultimate goal is to have a program of 90 high-level contributors who meet the academic grade as well.
Where do you find that type of player? Where Northwest Conference rivals Linfield, Whitworth and Pacific Lutheran are not looking.
“If we only recruited in Washington and Oregon, it would be tough,” Thomas said. “That is the reason we are so into Southern California, the Midwest and are recruiting on the East Coast now. We have to do those things to separate ourselves and find every player that fits into the profile we are looking for.”
Eighty percent of the UPS roster consists of recruits outside the Pacific Northwest.
Oddly enough, it was an in-state product who recently introduced the UPS coaching staff to another out-of-state recruiting option.
Chris Beaulaurier, a linebacker from Ferris High School in Spokane, was searching for a high-academic institution to play football. In the summer of 2011, he attended the New England Elite Football camp in Boston where seven of the eight Ivy League schools had recruiters, as well as hundreds of other reputable universities.
Ultimately, Beaulaurier chose UPS over the likes of Columbia University, Amherst College, Carleton College and Macalester College.
Once Beaulaurier committed to the Loggers, Thomas inquired how the teenager had even heard of those other schools. That is when the topic of the New England Elite camp came up.
“I thought, ‘Son of a gun – why aren’t we at this camp?’” Thomas said.
This summer, through invitation only, Thomas and offensive coordinator Jeff Halstead flew back to Boston to attend the combine.
Out of 800 seniors there, UPS identified 120 potential recruits. Thomas expects as many as 20 of them to apply to the Tacoma university — with the expectation of getting five of them into the program for 2013.
“I thought it would be a place where there could really be some talent found where no other schools from around here were going,” Beaulaurier said. “I thought it could give (UPS) a leg up.”
Thomas said he thinks finding these new recruiting opportunities are crucial in UPS’ turnaround.
“It isn’t our coaching techniques that need to change,” Thomas said. “It is that we need to be more creative and find more ways to bring in players to make our roster the same size as the rest of the conference.
“I think that is a challenge only if our school didn’t see the need for us to do it. But our school has done a terrific job in helping us out by giving us the resources we need to do this and that. Quite frankly, other schools in the conference wouldn’t be able to do.
“Nobody else in the conference is recruiting nationally. I like my chances one against zero. But if I try to recruit the same kid PLU is trying to recruit, I’m going to lose because PLU doesn’t demand as high of GPA’s.”
PUGET SOUND LOGGERS
Coach: Jeff Thomas, third season (2-16 record)
Last season: 0-9, 0-6 in NWC (seventh place).
Preseason coaches’ poll for 2012: Seventh place.
Offense: Coordinator (set) – Jeff Halstead (spread). Returning starters (11) – WR Galen Arakawa, 5-5, 160, sr.; LG John Breskovich, 6-2, 275, sr.; WR Thiesen Chang, 6-2, 210, jr.; LT Rick Day, 6-3, 310, sr.; QB Braden Foley, 6-4, 200, so.; RT Evan Gannicott, 6-2, 245, so.; WR Adam Kniffin, 6-3, 215, jr.; C Matt Moore, 6-3, 280, so.; RB Kupono Park, 5-10, 210, so.; WR Ryan Rogers, 6-0, 185, sr.; RG Remington Stobo, 6-2, 300, so.
Defense: Coordinator (set) – Brant McAdams (3-3-5 stack). Returning starters (5) – SS Nasser Kyobe, 6-3, 210, sr.; ILB Max Mirande, 5-10, 200, so.; ILB Jeremy Perkovich, 5-11, 220, so.; DE Mike Raub, 6-0, 260, jr.; CB Connor Savage, 6-1, 185, so.
Skinny: It is year No. 3 in the Thomas era – and a pivotal one in the sense that progress is expected. Winning the conference title might be a reach, but Thomas expects to at least double his career win total – and if things break right, a winning season. One year older, and much bigger, Foley looks like a different quarterback. Because of his limited exposure to the offense because of taking over midway through last season, he never was able to go through all of his progressions, which meant the final two options in the Loggers’ four-receiver sets were mainly decoys. That issue has been rectified with lots of offseason film study and repetitions, and he is so comfortable now in the offense, Thomas has given him the freedom to audible. Whatever this offense does, its No. 1 priority heading into 2012 is taking care of the football. The Loggers committed 31 turnovers last season – 22 of them interceptions. ... On the flip side, even though this defense showed glimpses of elite play, coaches would like to see more turnovers forced than the 14 from last season. Kyobe is a freight-train hitter in the secondary, which should be the unit’s strength, but watch out if noseguard Reilyn Garton (knee) stays healthy in the middle of defensive line. He is a natural space-eater.
Schedule: Saturday at University of the South (Tenn.), 11 a.m.; Sept. 8 at Chapman (Calif.), 7 p.m.; Sept. 22 vs. Whittier (Calif.), 1 p.m.; Sept. 29 vs. Lewis & Clark (Ore.), 1 p.m.; Oct. 6 vs. Pacific (Ore.), 1 p.m.; Oct. 20 at Whitworth, 1 p.m.; Oct. 27 vs. Pacific Lutheran, 1 p.m.; Nov. 3 vs. Linfield (Ore.), 1 p.m.; Nov. 10 at Willamette (Ore.), 4 email@example.com