Football’s Defense Progressing in Second Week of Spring Practice
DES MOINES, Iowa – Drake University football wrapped up its first week of spring practices on the Drake Stadium turf and head coach Rick Fox feels the Bulldogs are laying the necessary foundation for a successful 2014 season through their first five spring practices.
“I’m really pleased with how our defense is progressing in learning a new defense,” Fox said. “They’re doing a great job and offensively we’re working out kinks which is typical. We’re using a new calling system so that’s our biggest challenge right now on offense.”
That new defense is under the direction of first-year defensive coordinator Todd Stepsis. Stepsis joined the Bulldogs in the winter after serving in the same role at Division II power Saginaw Valley State. The defensive coaching staff also features new faces in linebackers coach Allen Smith and cornerbacks coach Dominic Robinson. Despite the changes in personnel and schemes, Fox is confident the heart of the defense will remain the same.
“We’re still going to be an aggressive defense with an emphasis on stopping the run,” Fox said. “That’s been a hallmark of Drake football. We’re getting used to the new coaches and new terminology, but if you’re strong through the middle, you’re going to be strong defensively. With Matt Acree, Brett Park, John Hugunin and Sean Conerty all returning from last year’s conference leading defense, that makes us feel pretty good.”
Despite plenty of talent returning and waiting in the wings, the defense will still be charged with filling the voids left by all-conference performers such as defensive lineman Brandon Coleman and safety Mike Ratelle who were fixtures on defense the last three seasons.
“There's a lot of guys we look to fill those shoes,” Fox said. “Bob Quilico, Jr. is back in the secondary and looking to step up into that leadership role that Mike held for us.”
In terms of stepping up on the field, Fox will have a better idea on Saturday night of who is ready to make that leap with the Bulldogs’ first full scrimmage looming on the horizon. However, the leadership both off and on the field has been on point as new players and coaches adjust to new roles.
“I’m very pleased with the leadership,” Fox said. “Our guys are hungry to learn and develop. Whenever there’s a transition, sometimes there’s a push back with a new staff. We’re not feeling that at all. That stems from your player leaders and they’re the ones that are setting that tone.”
The Bulldogs return to the practice field on Friday afternoon prior to Saturday’s scrimmage. The following week the team begins its final five practices leading up to the spring game on April 19.