NSU football notebook: UCO features a dominant duo
T.J. Eckert calls the shots for Central Oklahoma on offense. But the Bixby native is certainly not the focal point of UCO’s offense.
Those accolades belong to running back Josh Birmingham and wide receiver Marquez Clark — who will team up and lead Central Oklahoma into Tahlequah when the Bronchos take on Northeastern State on Saturday at 1 p.m.
In Northeastern State terms, it’d be like teamming Joel Rockmore up with the school’s all-time leading receiver Trey McVay.
“That’s a pretty good comparison,” NSU head coach Kenny Evans said.
Making Birmingham and Clark duo that much better is the Bronchos’ offensive line — which features five Oklahoma natives in the starting rotation.
“They’re better on their offensive line than they were a year ago,” Evans said of UCO. “That’s why they’re scoring a lot of points.”
When it comes to snatching up talent from inside the Oklahoma state lines, it would be hard to argue with the haul that Central Oklahoma made. Sixteen of the Bronchos’ starters on offense and defense are from Oklahoma, highlighted by Birmingham, a Luther native.
But Evans doesn’t feel like he’s missed out on too many Oklahoma high school alums.
“We got the in-state guys that we wanted, for the most part,” said Evans, who has 13 starters from the Sooner State. “(UCO) missed out on some of the ones that we have.
“At the Division II level, you only have so many scholarships, so you’re not going to be able to get everyone.”
Not only is Clark a potent receiving threat for the Bronchos, but he is also one of the nation’s top returners. He averages 21.3 yards per kick return and an eye-popping 22.7 yards per punt return.
“We will kick away from him,” Evans said. “But occasionally they put Birmingham back there, so it’s then, who do you kick to? You don’t want to kick to either one.”
Evans said special teams will play a huge role in who walks away with the President’s Cup.
“On special teams, they do a great job,” Evans said of UCO. “They block a lot of people. We need to step our game up and make sure that’s a phase that they don’t win.”