CHADRON, Neb. — April 10, 2018 — Although never delivering a knockout punch, the persistence of Old Man Winter has interfered with the opening of spring football practice at Chadron State College. Just four of the first six practices that were scheduled through last week took place because of snow and cold temperatures.
However, forecasts of warmer temperatures and no precipitation early this week may allow the Eagles to make up for most of the lost time. Head coach Jay Long said five practices are likely if the weather cooperates. The CSC spring game is set for Saturday, April 21.
“We’ve had four practices—two with pads and two without,” Long said over the weekend. “They went well, but we need good weather to really get rolling. The veterans have shown great leadership and the young kids have been impressive.”
The team’s 86-man roster includes 36 lettermen but only 10 seniors.
Long said it appears there will be strong competition for starting jobs and playing time at most of the positions.
One of those areas is running back, he said. Senior Kevin Coy, who has rushed 299 times for 1,384 yards and 14 touchdowns the past three years, leads the way. The coaches are hoping that elusive juniors Stevann Brown and Priest Jennings will continue to progress this fall.
Long added that Dante Wiggins, a redshirt freshman from Doherty High in Colorado Springs, seems to have a bright future as a ball carrier after switching to offense this spring.
Long, who tutors the offensive line, said redshirt freshman Austin Rapp of Moville, Iowa, has been stationed at left guard in the early practices alongside the three seniors and a junior who are returning starters in the offensive front.
At the end of winter conditioning, Rapp tested as the strongest offensive lineman “pound-for-pound.”
“The line should be a strong part of our offense this fall,” Long stated.
Long added that the coaches plan to work with quarterback Dalton Holst of Gillette, who as a redshirt freshman started all 11 games last fall, to give him more experience in reacting to various situations. The Eagles also return TD Stein, the Chadron native who has been plagued with injuries the past three seasons, and have two redshirt freshmen at quarterback.
The Eagles have both experience and depth at inside and outside receiver, where six lettermen and a dozen young players are on the roster.
On the other side of the line of scrimmage, Long said he’s pleased with the strong leadership exerted by end Kyle Temple of Norfolk, the only returning senior in the defensive line. The coach added that sophomore Brendan Hopkins of Green River, Wyo., appears ready to fill one of the vacancies at tackle.
Defensive coordinator Jeff Larson said the availability of last year’s top three linebackers—senior Merritt Crabtree of Newcastle, Wyo., and juniors Keenan Johnson of Chadron and Tyler Lewis of Arvada, Colo.—make that position a bright spot, and allows the coaches more time to develop the younger linebackers.
The secondary, which graduated four of last year’s top six players, will probably be a “work in progress” all spring.
“I know coach Jersey (Craig Jersild) will work his tail off to get things settled back there,” Long said. “He’s got an array of young players to work with. I’m excited to see how things turn out.”