Eagle football prepares for the 2023 summer offseason

Head Coach Doug Geiser gears up for first offseason with the team behind him



Wide receiever Jake McLoughlin prepares for a contest against IUP in the 2022-23 season.

Cade Cracas, Sports & Digital Editor

In December of 2022, Ashland University’s football program was heavily changed after former Head Coach Lee Owens formerly announced his retirement.

With changes needing to be made, the university appointed Doug Geiser to the head coach position. Geiser spent the previous 16 years as an associate head coach, offensive line coach, run game coordinator and pro liaison, but now has been given the task of keeping the program’s prior excellence in place.

“The structure of the program that Coach Owens built has not been changed,” he said. “There have been some subtle movements and shifts, but the transition has been pretty smooth.

Heading into the summer offseason, the team is riding high off of an impressive spring showing. The team held a multitude of practices, while also competing against one another in a scrimmage.

The scrimmage gave the team the opportunity to showcase what they worked on, while also acknowledging what they needed to address in the summer.

“As a team, we obviously want to be around each other to build camaraderie and trust while becoming bigger, faster, and stronger. But one thing that the team is looking to accomplish is to find some new leaders within the team,” said senior wide receiver Jake McLoughlin. “If we can have a few leaders offensively and defensively step forward and take that role as someone we can count on, then we know we will be successful this upcoming season.”

One big factor that the team has attempted to address when leaving the 2022 fall season is finding new leaders to step up. Fortunately, the team does not have to look very far.

“The locker room is as close as ever and everyone just really seems locked in for Week 1 already as Jake [McLoughlin] has stepped up big time in terms of being that guy people look to”, said senior running back Eli Potts.

McLoughlin looks to fill the void left behind by former Eagles Austin Brenner, Logan Bolin, Michael Ayers, Nick Cone and Justin Moore, just to name a few. Those five were key catalysts that helped lead the team to a Great Midwest Athletic Conference (GMAC) championship in the 2022 season, while also finding success in the previous seasons.

Heading into his senior season, newly-recognized leader McLoughlin has racked up a solid 45 receptions for 700 receiving yards and four touchdowns while averaging over 10 yards per reception through his collegiate career. He has also been named to the GMAC and Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference’s All-Academic teams showcasing on and off-the-field marks.

Geiser has been impressed with the team’s dynamic, even with losing so many locker room guys.

“It’s been a neat dynamic watching new leaders emerge,” he said. “We challenged the rising seniors and the returning letterman in our post-season meeting to fill that void; sort of the “next man up” mantra. And, they have responded by growing into their new roles throughout the spring semester. As a coach, it’s been rewarding to see this new group of leaders mature and ascend.”

While it has been important to see players step up in the locker room, the team also seems confident when it comes to on-the-field play.

The Eagles were able to finish the 2022-23 season with an overall record of 10-2, losing to just Hillsdale College and Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP). They also were ranked as one of the top defenses in the country behind newly NFL-drafted linebacker Ayers.

“Mike [Ayers] is one of the best football players I’ve ever suited up with,” said senior linebacker Jackson Myers. “I think a lot of people are going to doubt us due to losing players like Mike and the rest of the senior class that were very, very good football players.

Replicating that type of success is difficult, but the former teammate of Ayers believes that the Eagles can build off of last year’s impressive play.

“The guys we have stepping into the roles of the ones who have left are going to be more than fine,” said Myers. “For the guys that are returning, that just means we need to become better each and every day so we can become the best defense in 2023.”

The defense was able to finish last season 28th in rushing yards allowed per game, 23rd in third-down percentage, 16th in passing yards allowed per game, 7th in fourth-down percentage and 9th in overall defensive efficiency in all of Division II.

On the other side of the ball, the offense was efficient as well, with the running attack being the bright spot for the team. They finished 24th in the nation while averaging 4.8 yards per carry for a total of 2448 yards and 25 touchdowns. Fortunately for the running back room, the team looks to return all of its previous starters.

“The running back room is as deep as ever and we all feel great and definitely ready to hit the ground running come summer training,” said Potts.

As the Eagles gear up for summer training, the focus is on the rematch against IUP coming on Thursday, August 31 for the season opener.

“Come out and see one of the top D-II teams in the country that focuses on the standard of excellence, that is traditionally what Ashland has been,” said Geiser. “We want people to come see the standard of excellence, both inside the classroom and on the field.”