Getting to Know Eric Stuedemann and Shane Dierking
Given that their names have both been mentioned by players throughout the season, it felt time to have offensive coordinator Eric Stuedemann and defensive coordinator Shane Dierking on The Red Zone to get to know them and hear their thoughts on the recent successes of Cardinals football. Both graduated from North Central and played football, but initially pursued coaching elsewhere before returning to the program.
“Getting the offer to come back in 2018 was really exciting,” said Dierking. “My heart was always at North Central. I grew as a coach at Benedictine, and grew as a person as well so I was grateful to bring that experience with me. But, could definitely not turn down the opportunity to come back to North Central.”
“North Central holds a special place for me, I met my wife there,” Stuedemann said. “It’s always a neat opportunity to come back to a place where there’s blood in the bricks and a staff that you played with. Our players and coaches have experienced a lot of the same things, so it definitely helps with the coach-to-coach and coach-to-player relationships.”
After a few years of working alongside head coach Brad Spencer, he’s now their boss. But their relationships go way back before being coworkers, which has only made the shift this year smoother.
“Actually, Coach Spencer recruited me out of high school so I had a relationship with him going into my playing career,” said Dierking, who played in 51 games for North Central over four seasons and owns the program’s all-time interceptions record (16). “We work hand-in-hand ever day together, and I think we worked well together which you’ve seen over the last few years. And really nothing’s changed from that standpoint. He’s a man of integrity and comes to work every day and sets the standard for our staff and players. It makes it really easy to work hard.”
“I was actually recruited by Coach Spencer as well,” echoed Stuedemann, who played four seasons at tight end for the Cardinals. “Since 2019 we’ve been working together, and haven’t missed a beat since he’s transitioned into that head role. We see the game through a similar lens so it was an easy transition.”
In taking the top job, Spencer vacated the roles of offensive coordinator (taken by Stuedemann) and assistant head coach (taken by Dierking, in addition to being the team’s defensive coordinator).
“It was extremely humbling,” Dierking said of the elevated role. “We spend so much time together working, but what I always really valued about Brad is he was always open to my opinion. Whenever something comes up and he needs a second opinion he comes to me and we talk through things. Like Coach Stuedemann said, we see things through a similar lens and whatever we do is from the perspective of what’s best for the players, best for the program.”
Stuedemann is also the program’s recruiting coordinator, helping build a team that draws heavily on local talent. More than talent, however, he and the staff are searching for qualities off the field.
“We would love to put a fence around Illinois and keep everyone at home,” Stuedemann said, adding that 87% of the current roster is from within the state. “We take great pride in that, because we’ve been fortunate enough to be on a national stage and it maybe means a little bit more when you’re fighting for your home state. Maybe more importantly, we look at the person before the player. With recruiting, that’s really the lifeblood of the program. You win championships with great players and that starts with recruiting, and you find out through the process what kind of person they are and if they’ll fit in with what we’re looking for.”
Successes of This Season
Dierking’s defense is one of the best in the country, and like anyone who has watched the Cardinals this season he too has been impressed by the way in which such a variety of different players have stepped up to achieve that level of play.
“Early in the year there were a lot of shoes to fill,” Dierking said of the defense. “We had six fifth-year seniors that were great young men and great football players, so we really needed to develop our defensive roster throughout spring ball and throughout fall camp, and they really meshed together. When somebody needs to step up and make a play, it’s always somebody different. They play hard, fast, physical, nasty football and it doesn’t matter who’s on the field.”
Meanwhile on offense, Stuedemann is spoiled with talent at the skill positions with the likes of Luke Lehnen at quarterback, Ethan Greenfield and Terrence Hill in the backfield, and DeAngelo Hardy at receiver.
“It’s fun to have those types of weapons,” Stuedemann said of the offensive personnel. “Seeing those guys everyday, that’s an even greater joy. As good of football players that they are, they’re even better people. The skillsets they have are really special for this level, so we don’t take that lightly.”
Dierking’s particular defensive coaching focus is the linebackers, who had to replace two graduating starters from last year. He’s incredibly proud of the way those shoes have been filled by the likes of sophomores BJ Adamchik and Angelo Cusumano.
“I’m very proud of BJ, Angelo, Danny Nuccio, Adam Green,” said Dierking of the less-experience linebackers. “Those guys had zero starts coming into the season, and that was the big question mark on our defense. They took it upon themselves to become leaders. Angelo makes all the calls within the run-game, BJ continues to just get better and better and better. Those guys get better every week, and that’s all we can ask as a coach… And Sammy, he’s been with me since I got back. He can cover your best receiver, he’s extremely physical, we love bringing him off the edge. He sets the tone as a physical presence on our defense, he loves contact, and he’s completely bought-in.”
Stuedemann, meanwhile, is the offensive line coach. The unit has seen young players play huge parts, with the likes of Jeske Maples and Sam Pryor starting last year as freshmen and Alex Knaperek doing the same this season.
“Any time you get a young guy who has to step in, it takes an older and more experience group to show him the ropes,” Stuedemann said of the recent success of young offensive linemen. “It’s been nice to see some older guys transition into leadership roles, and then having Sharmore [Clarke] back is always a positive. When you have a special player like that able to coach and demonstrate, that’s a blessing.”
The seniors that will be honored Saturday against Augustana in the final game of the regular season have meant a lot to both coaches, particularly Dierking who has in many ways grown as a coach alongside these departing players.
“This was the fifth-year senior class that I came in within in 2018,” said Dierking of his relationship to the seniors. “Especially this defensive line, I just love being around those guys. They’re great young men, they work hard, they’re committed to excellence. Their legacy? We’ll see in the next few weeks.”