Tahlequah Daily Press

Sports

August 7, 2012

RiverHawks picked to finish 9th, 10th in MIAA preseason polls

NSU football notebook

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Northeastern State was picked ninth of the 15 teams in the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletic Association preseason football coaches poll, released Monday. The RiverHawks were one spot lower in the media poll, also released Monday.

Defending NCAA Division II champion Pitt State, NSU’s season-opening opponent, got the vote from both the media and coaches as the conference favorite, getting 12 of 15 coaches votes and 24 of the 36 media votes. Picked first six times coming in, Northwest Missouri was second in both, getting two coaches votes and 11 media votes, and Missouri Western was third in both, getting one first-place vote in each.

The rest of the top eight -- Washburn, Central Missouri, Nebraska-Kearney, Emporia State and Lindenwood – were identical in both polls.

Fort Hays State, which was 11th in the coaches poll, jumped NSU to ninth in the media poll. Missouri Southern was 10th in the coaches poll.

Central Oklahoma, which along with NSU joins the MIAA this season, was 11th in the coaches poll and 14th in the media poll. Southwest Baptist was 13th in both, the media had Truman State 12th, two spots higher than the coaches did and Lincoln was last in both.

 

Defensively speaking

NSU coach Kenny Evans said part of his team’s defensive struggles was because his offense didn’t run the ball well. He wants that to change. But he also thinks the experience on the defensive side will make a difference.

“When you don’t run, you don’t have ball control and they did stay on the field too much,” Evans said. “We’re a little lighter than we’d like to but six of the eight that rotated in the defensive line are back so they’ll be a year better.”

Logan Andrews, a former Gore quarterback and linebacker, is part of that rotation.

Muskogee ex Kyler Harris will start at strong safety. He’s part of a secondary Evans said might be his best ever.

“He had a great spring and I know he had some injuries in high school that kept him from going Division I but he’s made great strides and I know he likes to hit people,” the coach said.

 

MIAA locals

Several area players are on other MIAA rosters. Muskogee wide receiver Shjuan Richardson led Emporia State in receiving last year with 644 yards on 37 catches and nine TDs.  Eufaula quarterback Ethan Sharp (UCO) is a backup who also plays baseball.  Wagoner defensive lineman Heath Wilson signed with Pitt State after being part of the Bulldogs’ Class 4A state champions this past season.

Expect Richardson to make a major impact this year in his usual outside slot but used more all over the field.

“He’s progressed and invested in what he can become which is better than a good receiver,” Emporia coach Garin Higgins said. “He’s got great hands and he’s fast. I’d say the underneath part of his game needed to be improved on and he’s been one of our hardest workers this off-season.”

Richardson reportedly ran the second-fastest 60-meter dash in Division II last year. “He’s definitely one of the five fastest kids in this league,” Higgins said.

Pitt State coach Tim Beck likes Wilson’s versatility. “We liked him as a pretty good-sized defensive end in high school who we think could move over to tackle. He really moves well for a big guy,” he said.

 

Scheduling

The 15-team league will play a partial round-robin and even with Truman State leaves next season, they don’t plan on going to two seven-team divisions. Central Oklahoma, Pitt State and Missouri Southern will be the permanent common opponents for NSU.

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