The Bulldogs opened fall camp Aug. 12, and many prominent players on both sides of the ball have returned to Kirksville, hoping to jump in and negate the key losses Truman saw last year. The Bulldogs graduated running back Garrett White, who rushed for 1166 yards and 13 touchdowns during last season’s 6-4 overall finish and 5-3 in GLVC games. White finished his career with 2,829 career rushing yards — the fifth-best in Truman history. The Bulldogs also will look to fill the spot left by graduated tight end Chico Orlando, who had a team-high 37 receptions and 334 receiving yards last year.
“Chico Orlando at tight end in this day and age — finding a kid who can block, along with being a mismatch against linebackers and strong safeties in their main coverage is difficult,” head coach Gregg Nesbitt says. “He was the whole package, one of the better players in the league. We will not replace him. We’ll start the season with a lot of four receiver sets.”
While the Bulldogs have graduated two starters at the linebacker position, Connor Nagel and Matthew Bell, Nesbitt says he is confident in the heart of the defensive players that will take the field each Saturday. Junior running back A.J. Hartfield says he thinks the Bulldogs have more than enough firepower to overcome the loss of White, last season’s workhorse in the backfield. “We’re going to have a lot more weapons than we had last year, mostly because of our receivers,” Hartfield says. “We’re extremely explosive. We’ll be able to run just fine, and because of that, the receivers will be able to become open. In the past, if we set up for a run, we run. If we set up for a pass, we pass. We haven’t utilized a lot of play fakes.”
Truman retained its entire starting offensive line from last year, including junior center Brad Wellman, a preseason first-team All-American from Quincy, Illinois. “With the whole offensive line returning from last year, the whole starting cast, having Devonte back is huge,” Wellman says. Wellman says Black is a quarterback who will make big plays happen. He says he hopes this year the offense will have better luck with Black staying healthy, and better protection from the offensive line up front is where it all starts. Black missed two starts last season and considerable time otherwise with a recurring leg injury.
The Bulldogs will open their season with a pair of road games. After a week one trip to Wichita Falls, Texas, followed by a week two trip to Detroit, Michigan, the ‘Dogs will return home for Family Night and host the Missouri University of Science and Technology 7 p.m. Sept. 19 at Stokes Stadium.
For the complete story and more preseason analysis, pick up a copy of the Index.