Dragons Football Primer
The Dragons are coming off a disappointing 5-6 season that lead to their best player make it into the ranks of the National Football League. I’ll excuse the fact that Damon Gibson signed with the Packers because it doesn’t take away from that fact that MSUM produced a pro. That's the two sentence’s that encapsulate the high and the low of last season for the Dragons.
But now it’s time to look forward.
I don't want to beat around the bush, Steve Laqua's bunch will have their work cut out for themselves to score points this year. Their starting quarterback, top two receivers and leading rusher have all moved on from the program.
On the surface that leaves a lot to be desired going into the Fall but the positive angle is that it will set a new foundation for the next few years of the team. As with every team success or failure in 2018 will depend on quarterback play.
Once it became clear that it wasn’t going to work in 2017, freshman Jakup Sinani started to be put into use. In six games last year he threw for 1,030 yards and ran for another 260. These many months of working out & studying the playbook later and I would favor him to come out ahead of his three fellow underclassmen. If that’s not how it plays out then it's probably for the best, that’s how competition works…or is supposed to at least. Outsider that I am though, I would favor Sinani today.
But what weapons will the starting quarterback have to work with?
It’s a hard question to answer right now because there is a lot of youth at the skill positions but will be pivotal in any success that they have this season. The Dragons are six deep at running back, zero seniors. They have a whopping 13 players listed at wide receiver, with only two seniors and no juniors. And while there are only two tight ends listed, even they are both underclassmen. Like I said, the future has a glow but all the youth may lead to some characteristic mistakes and tempered expectations in the interim. I'm not sure the expectations should be as low as a tenth place finish in the conference but that's the current prediction for MSUM.
No matter who leads the way behind the Center, takes the majority of handoffs or catches passes, the offense can only work as well as the offensive line allows. It is yet another position that is light on three and four year guys but is deep with bodies. There are four grizzled veteran upperclassmen in the offensive line group, with the 14 others still very fresh faced. If they struggle to pass protect or open holes for the running backs then every game will be a grind. If they can work cohesively and are able to do those basic things then the offense will have a chance to put up some points. Maybe not enough scores to win more than they lose but at least enough to avoid a bunch of blowout losses.
With all that youth there will be many ups and downs along the way but it’s clear that the coaching staff wanted to load up on young talent to cultivate a soft reset of the program. While the offense is rich with all those green horns, the defense is a bit of a different story.
The bosses did not neglect to supply the future of the program with just as many youngsters for the defense but unlike the offense there is also plenty of experience to help bridge the gap between now and the future. From the defensive back field to the defensive line, there are juniors and seniors at ever level of the D. There are two areas in the defense that can most boast about the amount of experience that they have - the defensive line and the defensive backfield.
The current constitution of the team has me thinking that maybe the coaches are crossing their fingers and hoping to keep opponents under 10 points on a consistent basis. That could happen. Could but I wouldn't count on it. College Football has become about scoring points more then anything else. But maybe the corners and safeties can cover long enough for the line to get pressure on the quarterback. If they can get a sack, a throw away or an interception on every possession by their opponents then they would be in great shape. Like GREAT shape. For four quarters, and over 11 games, that would be just as tall of a task as it would be great!
The slings and arrows of losses, especially embarrassing losses, aren’t ever the goal but if MSUM can manage to win a handful of games this year, all the while showing improvement across the board, then it will be a successful season.
In summation, the present will very likely not be the best season in school history. The future has been addressed en masse, is bright in my opinion and may begin to pay off as soon as 2019. If that’s how it goes then the past will get it’s usual veneer of positivity, even though fans may grumble about it in the interim.
Not to end on the dreariest of notes, maybe the young guys will have a firm grip on the concepts from game 1 on and will be physically ready to perform from the start as well. That would go a long way to preventing a down season.
It's still important to have realistic expectations and my recommendation is to not hold your breath waiting for those possible, positive developments. They're just too unlikely and it’s not fun passing out. So don't do it.
For now, that’s a semi-brief look at your 2018 MSUM Dragons Football team.