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Grand Forks Central offense looks to distribute the workload this season

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Grand Forks Central coach Bill Lorenz addresses his football team at a practice recently. Photo/Nick Nelson, Grand Forks Herald2 / 2

Only once in Bill Lorenz' 11 seasons as Grand Forks Central head coach has a quarterback thrown for more than the 936 yards Zack Murphy accumulated last season. And Lorenz has never had a quarterback come close to the 1,109 rushing yards Murphy compiled.

That's 2,045 yards of offense the Central football team has to replace after Murphy graduated last spring.

"Athletes like Zack don't come along on a regular basis,'' Lorenz said. "His running opened up our passing game.

"It won't be one person replacing his yards, I know that. We don't have a player like that.''

So the Knights will turn to more of an offense-by-committee.

It will be a backfield with Austin Braun, Cade Barta, Tyler Herbeck and Will Eagleson all getting the ball rather than having one player dominating the carries.

"We'll get plenty of backs in there,'' Braun said. "We'll get plenty of receivers the ball. The ball will be spread around very well.

"I like the spread-the-wealth thing. That makes us more of a team.''

The passing will be in the hands of Jaxton Lorenz. The senior and coach's son isn't a Murphy clone.

"I'm not the running type,'' Jaxton Lorenz said. "I'm going to throw the ball a little more, giving the ball to Austin (and other backs) a little more.''

Said Bill Lorenz: "Jaxton isn't the running threat Zack was, but in our scrimmage he did a good job of finding the right receivers and getting the ball to them on time. I think he'll be a little more accurate passer (than Murphy).''

Bill Lorenz said the Knights will be more of a grind-it-out team than having the big-play potential Murphy brought to the offense.

There isn't a lot of experience at the skill positions. Braun is the leading returning rusher; he carried 37 times for 181 yards last season. Lorenz was 8-of-16 passing for 82 yards. The leading returning receiver is tight end Jack Anderson, who caught four passes.

But there is depth.

"Hopefully that benefits us because defenses can't key on one kid,'' Bill Lorenz said. "With Zack, everybody -- the opposing coaches, the defenses, everybody in the stands -- knew Zack was getting the call. Hopefully we'll be more diverse.''

Because of that inexperience, the Knights will lean heavily on a veteran offensive line. Senior guard Griffin Rosell returns for his third season as a starter. Tackles Thomas Schneibel and Cam Bridgeford and center Torey Battles also are returning regulars.

"With the experience we have on the offensive line, hopefully we'll be able to establish the running game,'' Bill Lorenz said. "I feel it's a good line, although we still have to get better.''

Grand Forks Central at a glance

Coach: Bill Lorenz.

2017: 3-6, didn't qualify for playoffs.

Graduated starters: Zack Murphy, Jace Carey, Dom Otto, Carson Williams, Zane Miller, Sam Cherilus.

Returning starters: Sr. OL/DL Griffin Rosell, sr. OL Thomas Schneibel, jr. OL Torey Battles, sr. T Cam Bridgeford, sr. TE Jack Anderson, sr. DL Ben Stevens, jr. DL Maxx Danks, sr. LB Austin Braun, sr. LB Will Eagleson, sr. CB Everett Peterson.

Potential new impact players:  Sr. Jaxton Lorenz, sr. LB/RB Cade Barta, sr. OL Jay Haines, jr. Caden Dahl, soph. Tyler Herbeck.

Returning rushing leader: Braun 37-181.

Returning passing leader: Lorenz 8-16-2, 82 yards.

Returning receiving leader: Anderson 4-37.

Returning tackle leaders (solo-assisted): Eagleson 60-10,  Braun 31-5, Peterson 18-5.

About the offense, coach Lorenz says: "With our experience on the offensive line, we're hoping we can establish the running game. Braun and Barta are strong runners between the tackles. Hopefully our running game will open up the passing game. We don't have any real burners to get to the edge. We'll use the short passing game to get there.''

About the defense, coach Lorenz says: "We'll be aggressive on defense, blitzing a lot and trying to make things happen. Our linebackers -- Braun, Barta, Herbeck and Eagleson -- are four pretty good players. The defensive line will have to do its job and draw some double teams to allow the backers room to make plays.''