With only one-third of the practices remaining, the Chadron State College football team is beginning to zero in on its season opener on Saturday, Sept. 3, when Fort Lewis will visit Elliott Field.
The coaches say the Eagles have shown plenty of promise, but need to eliminate mistakes and become more consistent. The talent is available, they believe. Now the pieces need to fall into place.
Depth should be a plus on both sides of the ball. The 130-man roster features 44 lettermen, including 19 who have started at least a few times in their careers and several others who have rotated onto the field regularly.
Head coach Jay Long said several exceptional freshmen have been spotted, but currently all are slated to redshirt this fall.
One of the question marks entering fall practice was who will be the starting quarterback. The coaches said Monday sophomore TD Stein will get the call. He also started the first four games last season before sustaining a season-ending injury. Matt Vinson, now a junior, called the signals the rest of the way.
“Both have been playing well,” Long said. “They are more confident and look like they have played the game before. If the offensive line handles its business we should be able to run the ball really well and that will make our passing game better.”
Four of last year’s starters in the offensive front are back along with two more seniors who are working under Long’s guidance for the fifth year.
Offensive coordinator Chris Stein, the starting quarterback’s father, said TD “fits our offense well, has been really consistent and is throwing the ball better than ever.”
The coach quickly added, “Both (quarterbacks) will play, probably every game. You’ll see Matt. He’s a very good quarterback.”
Stein said, as usual, the Eagles will have a “run-first” offense.
“We haven’t changed anything. Collectively, our running backs are as good as we’ve ever had. Life is good when you can run the ball and we plan to do that.”
The team has a long list of receiver candidates, most of them young players who were rushed into action last fall when senior all-stars Kyle Vinich and Danny O’Boyle were injured. The coaches said during fall camp senior Kyle Hooper has been the stickout.
“He does everything right,” receivers coach Bruce Carpenter said. “He’s always where he needs to be and that includes blocking.”
On the other side of the ball, defensive coordinator Jeff Larson said the line “has been almost dominant.” All eight players who filled the positions, mostly on a rotating basis, are back, not counting all-RMAC first-team choice Collin Eisenman, who is a combination end and outside linebacker.
“If our line plays well, it makes things easier for the linebackers,” Larson said. He added that while the linebacking corps is young they are capable and depth appears to be a plus.
The secondary leaders again include twins Ryan and Brian Wood, both safetys. Larson added that junior Trevon Mosley has been standing out at cornerback. A pair of senior transfers—Steve Allenand Devante Thomas, are being counted on to see lots of action at cornerback, but both were slowed by what appear to be minor hamstring problems last week.
“We need to get the back end of our defense healthy,” Larson noted. “We’ll be good there physically, but need to eliminate the mental mistakes.”
In one of the few position changes so far, sophomore Chandlier Sudbeck of Kadoka, S.D., has moved from running back to cornerback, giving him “a chance to get on the field sooner,” in Long’s words.