CHADRON, Neb. — August 20, 2018 — While the coaches report the Chadron State College football team is coming off another solid week of practice, they also emphasize that much is still to be accomplished before the Eagles are ready for the season-opener on Sept. 1 at home against Black Hills State.
Crews that feverishly have been constructing the Eagles’ new field, stadium and press box almost since the 2017 season ended nine months ago say about the same thing: Great progress has been made, but the finishing touches are still taking place.
Head coach Jay Long said the Eagles, who had the 13th of their 24 practices on Monday, have completed their “building phase” where most of the basics were installed. From now the focus will be on what Long called the “compete phase,” where the game plans for the opener and the season as a whole will be emphasized.
“I’m excited about how things have been going,” Long said Monday. “We’ve worked hard and have a great group of mature seniors to lead the way. They’re ‘team-first guys.’ They’d probably like to skip the next two weeks of practice and play a game now, but we all know there are things that still need to be worked on.”
A question that remains unanswered is at quarterback. Offensive coordinator Chris Stein said his son, TD, now a senior who missed nearly all of last season because of injury, and last year’s starter, sophomore Dalton Holst, are in a tight duel for the starting nod.
“They’re both good quarterbacks, both have been playing well, but they do things a little differently,” the elder Stein said. “Dalton can really throw the ball. TD manages the offense well and puts us in good position. He’s also thrown the ball really well this fall. I don’t know how things will look two Saturdays from now (when the season opens).”
While the O coordinator didn’t comment on whether the two quarterbacks might share the playing time, he also commended Tyler Hyland, a redshirt freshman who is third on the depth chart at quarterback.
“I won’t hesitate to put him in,” Stein said. “He moves really well.”
Elsewhere in the offensive backfield, rugged senior Kevin Coy has been the leader at tailback while both juniors Stevann Brown and Priest Jennings, who were outstanding during spring practice, have not taken part in much contact.
“We’re being cautious with them,” Stein said. “Hopefully, they’ll be ready to see action by the end of this week.
The absence of Brown and Jennings has opened the way for true freshman Elijah Myles of Hawthorne, Calif., to make a favorable impression.
“We’re pleased with him,” Stein said of Myles. “He has some physical tools and a good mind.”
Long added that even if Brown and Jennings reach full speed in the next two weeks, Myles, who is 5-foot-10, 195 pounds, will not redshirt.
The head coach also noted that Austin Rapp, a 6-2, 294-pound redshirt freshman from Moville, Iowa, has been impressive while filling the opening at right guard.
“You’ll hear plenty about him the next few years,” Long said.
Last year’s starters at the remaining four line positions have returned.
Receivers’ coach Logan Masters said that beginning in the spring great emphasis has been placed on not dropping passes by his troops.
“We had way too many drops last year,” he stated. “We’ve got to catch the ball first, then perhaps we can make a big play.”
Masters said several of the younger receivers have been impressive. They include sophomore Cole Thurnessof Rapid City and redshirt freshmen Chad Mikelson of Julesburg, Colo., and Maurice Wyatt of Denver.
Masters added that Thurness could play any of the skill positions and is expected to be a member of all the special teams.
On the other side of the ball where just a handful of starters have returned, defensive coordinator Jeff Larsen said he and his assistants continue to evaluate personnel at several positions.
“We still have a revolving door at places,” Larson said. “We have a lot of good looking young players who are still learning. We’ve got two more weeks to work with them, get them in the right defense and make it work. We may not have everything answered until after the first game.”
Larson added that transfer Tyree Fryar has been a good addition to the secondary, especially since he can play either cornerback or safety. He also noted that sophomore Louis Smith has blossomed at defensive end and said depth appears to be a strength in both the line and at linebacker.
Long said two position changes were made late last week to give promising players a better chance to get on the field. Karson Avila moved from quarterback to tight end and Dante Wiggins shifted from running back to defensive back.