In Wednesday’s two-minute drill — one of the most competitive sessions of Loyola’s practices — senior defensive back Ryan Lin-Peistrup looked to be in top form, according to secondary coach Tim Feldheim.
He covered routes well and broke up a pass, which Feldheim said should have been an interception.
But his rustiness can be forgiven. Lin-Peistrup missed all of the preseason with a torn ligament in his left thumb, an injury he suffered in July while playing baseball. This was his first full week of practice since he had the cast removed.
“We were happy with what we’ve seen of him,” Feldheim said. “He’s a skilled athlete. We are happy he’s back.”
Loyola is going to need every resource at its disposal Saturday when it hosts Maine South (1-0). The Hawks, under offensive coordinator Charlie Bliss, are known to spread the field and throw the ball a lot. It’s not unusual to see the Hawks line up as many as five receivers.
Last week, according to Chicago Tribune, Maine South senior quarterback Nick Leongas finished 15-for-24 for 196 yards and three touchdowns in a 44-13 win against Class 6A defending state champion Montini. Making Leongas, a first-year starter, even more dangerous is that he ran for 85 yards and another TD.
Despite the missed time on the field, the 5-foot-11, 175-pound Lin-Peistrup is expected to start Saturday, and the secondary welcomes his return. Feldheim said the unit — which also consists of senior Ian Swenson, senior Jack Walker, senior Mark Nicholson, junior Charlie Largay, sophomore Jake Gonzalez (pictured above) — remains a work in progress.
“We are juggling players, trying to get people in the right spot,” Feldheim said. “We want our four best players on the field. We have to continue to prove ourselves every week.”
In Week 1, Marquette senior quarterback Freddy Poorman went 10-for-22 for 106 yards in Loyola’s 36-7 win Friday in Milwaukee. His first two passes were completions of 25 and 22 yards through the middle of Loyola’s defense.
Although the Ramblers didn’t give up much yardage after that, Feldheim said the secondary had its issues in the season opener.
“I’d give us a C-minus,” he said. “We had a lot of alignment errors due to inexperience. We need to not freak out and be cool under fire.”
There is little doubt the talent is in place for the secondary to be a strength this season. The 6-2, 195-pound Swenson, the lone returning starter to the secondary, has verbally committed to Connecticut. Lin-Peistrup, a special teams player and backup cornerback a year ago, is a standout shortstop and has committed to Illinois-Chicago.
“We think we can be good back there, but we were not on the same page against Marquette,” said Lin-Peistrup, who dressed but didn’t play in the game. “I think we will only get better.”
Nick Bridich, Loyola’s baseball head coach, said Lin-Peistrup is a natural athlete who excels in most endeavors. According to Bridich, the skills that make Lin-Peistrup a Division I shortstop translate onto the football field.
“He has good feet and good hips,” Bridich said. “He has a good first step and good instincts. He doesn’t have wasted movements. There is a fluidity to what he does, an effortlessness. He also plays aggressively, which I believe the football coaches like, too.”
Said Feldheim: “He plays with confidence. As a coach, that is what gives you trust in a player. He’s a smart kid, and he can communicate. He’s a leader out there for us. We didn’t think we would get him back this soon.”
Photo credit: Geoff Scott