For the Truman State football team, summer is not a time for rest and relaxation on the beach. Summer is when the team begins to run, lift and get ready for football to give them the best chance they have to win. For the team, August means more than the start of a new semester. It means the start of a new season and an opportunity to win a Great Lakes Valley Conference title.
During the past two years the Bulldogs have shown that Truman’s reputation does not hinge only on the success in the classroom. The football team proved throughout their season that they were unlike any Truman football team in recent years. Last year, the team had statistically the best defense since 1994, as well as a strong kicker with senior Jacob Lamp who helped the team become 3rd in the country for kickoff returns and 2nd in overall punt average.
Success in a new conference
The team has been chosen in the GLVC Preseason Poll as the number two team in the conference. With a strong group of returning players and fresh talent coming in, this season should to be an exciting one for the Bulldogs.
Sophomore defensive back Austin Zoda says he thinks this year’s team is different because of their confidence and competitive edge.
“With this being our second year in the GLVC, we have a better feel for our opponents and know what to expect from them,” Zoda says. “Coming up just a little short of the conference title last year has given us a bitter taste in our mouths and we want to be in the same position this year except finish it out this time around.”
The combination of team leadership, growing talent and enthusiasm from upper and underclassmen is what makes the Bulldogs stand out and might be what leads them to a successful season. Zoda says he and the other Bulldogs hope for another opportunity to make the postseason and win a GLVC title.
Junior offensive lineman Brad Hardin says this year’s focus will be about improvement and reestablishing the team’s philosophy.
“We plan on working hard, raising the intensity in practices as well as our workouts, and changing our approach to each opportunity we have to succeed and finishing strong,” Hardin says. “We have established that in our workouts and will continue to carry out that mindset throughout the season.”
It’s not just the players who are excited to take the field this fall, but the coaching staff as well. Head coach Gregg Nesbitt says he is eager to start his 35th year coaching, which he thinks has the potential to be a turning point for the Bulldogs. While he says many of his methods will remain the same toward practices and games, he thinks it is important not to make assumptions about the way the team will play.
“I learned a long time ago that you don’t assume anything, each year is unique and each team is unique,” Nesbitt says. “We will start from scratch on language and re-learning how to practice and not assume anyone is in shape.”
New faces on the team
After the graduation of former quarterback Conrad Schottel, perhaps one of the key changes this year will be new faces in the quarterback position. Sophomore quarter back Devonte Black is ready to contribute to the team’s offense.
“There are a lot of things I want to see us accomplish as a team but most importantly I hope that this season I will be able to make the offense more versatile,” Black says. “We have a lot of good guys already on defense so I want to see our offense take some pressure off of them, put some more points up and really play to our full potential.”
Black is one of three prospective quarterbacks this year. Junior Zach Tobin and freshman Randy Schroeder are stepping up to the position. Nesbitt says he thinks these players could lead the team to victory and looks forward to seeing them play to their full potential.
In addition to a strong coaching staff, the team will have offense and defense leadership from their elected captains. Senior captains Nic Abbate, Connor Nagel and Matthew Bell, with junior captain Nick Reichert, will lead on defense. On offense, the senior captains are Jared Haferbier, Garrett White, Chico Orlando as well as junior Ethan Decker. Hardin described the captains as being the heartbeat behind the team.
“They play a huge role for us, and they are the ones that set the bar for the rest of the team,” Hardin says. “They carry themselves in a manner that represents our program in a positive, uplifting way and they push people to perform at a high level in order to make our team great.”
The team’s season begins Sept. 6 against Drake University, followed by the home opener against Langston University Sept. 13.
Football schedule: http://www.trumanbulldogs.com/schedule.aspx?path=football