It’s a safe bet to say the Chadron State defensive line will be among the most eager position groups to play on Saturday in the annual spring game.
CSC will boast one of the most experienced fronts in the RMAC this fall with senior starters Truett Box, Mitch Collicott and Tyler Kiess returning from his redshirt season a year ago. Toss in Tanner Wintholz and Kyle Temple to the rotation along with one of the RMAC’s best pass rushers in Collin Eisenman – who roves between standing rush end and linebacker – and there is a lot of optimism for how difficult the CSC defensive line could make Saturday afternoons for opponents.
Counting tomorrow, three spring games ago Box wan uncaged and made numerous plays in the backfield, sticking out as one of the most impressive players I saw in the 2015 contest. He has become one of the Eagles’ most important players since that sunny Saturday and now as a senior, he’s not letting a spring camp moment go by without appreciation.
“Livin’ in the moment. Definitely not taking anything for granted. It goes by fast, that’s the biggest thing. It goes by reallllly fast,” says Box.
Breaking the huddle and setting up across from Kiess on the defensive front isn’t something that Box was counting on his senior year being a year younger, but because of a season-ending injury in the first game of 2016, Kiess gets another full year to play and will tandem with Box to drive offensive schemes into the grave this fall.
“It’s huge because all us D-lineman have been playing together for four years now so we really click well with each other in line games and everything so it’s huge having everyone back,” says Box.
He obviously feels the Eagle defense should have a strong year, and he’s set a high standard for himself.
“Team-wise I think we should be the best defense in the RMAC right now…Individually this year my goal is to be an All-American but we gotta do it as a team first and accolades will come.”
Tanner Wintholz will be a key part to the rotation at nose and says he’s having a great spring learning new elements on the line.
“The way we changed the defense, it’s just getting new keys and learning those and really honing in on them. I feel like I’m having one of the best springs I’ve ever had so I’m pretty excited about that,” says Wintholz. “We’re doing a lot more stunt-based stuff, and for the D-line it’s different, instead of just reading the man in front of you read guys across the line and get used to lookin’ at different things instead of just keying your man.”
Wintholz is a senior and a local guy who graduated from Sidney High School just a couple hours south of Chadron. He’s got some familiarity from the family back on the 2017 team. Younger brother Tucker was rostered as a true freshman back in 2014, and this fall, Tanner will be joined by another brother, Tyler, who spent the first semester of his freshman season in the basketball program at Nebraska Wesleyan and has transferred to CSC and is participating in spring drills.
Tanner says, “You know, I don’t really get to see him (Tyler) much because he plays tight end and I play nose, but it’s definitely fun to watch him go up against the other guys and kinda throw it back and forth, and talk a little trash, and get after each other.”
Local fans who remember the Wintholz brothers from high school should have a fun Saturday watching the duo back in the same color uniforms in the spring game at Elliott Field.