SOUTH SIOUX CITY, Neb. – Patrick Daberkow stepped to the podium on Tuesday (July 31), no longer the rookie among conference head coaches. At this rendition of the annual GPAC Football Media Day, Daberkow batted third while breaking down a 2018 Concordia football team with both strengths and question marks. Despite uncertainty at positions such as quarterback, offensive line and defensive back, the Bulldogs were pegged for a fourth-place GPAC finish by the coaches and media.
Within in the conference, there’s an expectation of respectability for Concordia football, which has not dipped below five wins since the 2011 season. Daberkow has expectations, too. As he joked on Tuesday, Daberkow expects his coaching staff to lead the GPAC in categories like pregnant wives and diapers changed – and hopefully some other ones that translate to wins on the football field.
The good news is that running back Ryan Durdon and linebacker Lane Napier are just getting started in careers that show lots of promise. It will be a crucial fall camp for a program looking for the next breakout performers to replace the ones who have moved on. Players report on Aug. 9 and then open up the season by hosting NCAA Division III Buena Vista University on Sept. 8.
Several GPAC teams enter 2018 with question marks at the quarterback position. That’s not the case for conference favorites Morningside and Northwestern, who represented the league in the 2017 NAIA playoffs. Concordia is perhaps most highly regarded of the squads still seeking to find the right signal caller. A season ago, Daberkow’s first as head coach, the Bulldogs finished 6-4 overall and placed third in the GPAC. The 2017 squad outperformed its conference preseason placement of fifth by the coaches and sixth by the media.
On the national landscape, Concordia checked in at No. 30 in the NAIA preseason rankings released last week by the College Football America Yearbook. The official NAIA preseason coaches’ poll is scheduled to be unveiled on Aug. 6.
Nothing much has changed since the spring when senior Andrew Perea battled sophomore Blake Culbert and junior Jake Kemp, a transfer who began his career at Concordia. They will be pushed during fall camp by incoming freshmen Jack Blumer (Marysville, Kan.), Luke Lang (Brentwood, Calif.) and Kaiston Terry (Lubbock, Texas). Daberkow addressed the situation during Tuesday’s press conference. Said Daberkow, “We have not named a quarterback. We don’t know who that will be. We hope to find out after the first couple weeks of fall camp. We hope to have someone emerge and then we’ll name a starter at quarterback.”
Perea has by far the most experience having seen action in eight varsity games. Last season he completed 52.1 percent (62-for-119) of his passes, compiling 643 yards, five touchdowns and four interceptions. Due to the experience factor alone, Perea has a leg up on the competition. He’ll have to earn it though. Blumer comes in with plenty of honors after tearing up the state of Kansas at the class 3A level. He was tabbed the Kansas 3A offensive player of the year.
Defensive backfield: next man in
All four primary starters from the team’s 2017 defensive backfield have departed. However, that doesn’t mean the cupboard is bare. The next potential stars are youthful players such as sophomores Darius McVay and DaVonte Mouton, both of whom saw limited experience while biding their time behind all-conference upperclassmen. Caden Jameson should also be in line for more playing time after coming on strong down the stretch in 2017. He finished with 39 tackles and four pass breakups.
Said Daberkow, “We have some promising up-and-comers. I think Caden Jameson is a good example of our player development. He’ll be a senior this year. We expect him to earn a starting role. Darius McVay had a great spring ball for us. Those are names you haven’t heard a lot of because we’ve had such depth at defensive back. We put a lot of emphasis on defensive back play at Concordia.
“I think Darius McVay is one of the most explosive corners we’ve worked with, in terms of change of direction and movement. He’s just really athletic.”
Geiger trades bat for pads
Concordia baseball all-time record holder for doubles and RBIs, Kaleb Geiger isn’t ready to give up collegiate athletics. The Sedalia, Colo., native is now listed as a defensive lineman on the Bulldog football roster. Geiger, 6-foot-1 and well put together, has a shot to play significant snaps in his one season of eligibility. A 2016 first team All-GPAC performer for head coach Ryan Dupic, Geiger lettered twice in football during his prep career at Castle View High School. He was also a three-time state qualifier in wrestling.
Well-respected within the locker room, Vince Beasley may be ready for a breakout in his senior season. With Jared Garcia having graduated, opportunities will open up for the likes of Beasley, sophomore Lane Castaneda and others. Beasley has drawn praise for his work in the community. He was recently recognized as a nominee for the 2018 Allstate AFCA Good Works Team. His production on the field may come close to matching his production off of it, especially if Daberkow and his staff find a steady quarterback option. Last season Beasley caught 15 passes for 250 yards and two touchdowns.
Daberkow is most impressed with Beasley’s service away from the football field. Said Daberkow, “Vince Beasley is one of the best representatives in this conference of what a young man can do and be. He serves a lot of the community. I’m excited for him to have a breakout year. He’s kind of been playing a secondary role to some other receivers but Vince has done a great job preparing for this year and we’re excited to see what he does in his senior year.”
Linebackers the strength of D
At least on paper, the linebacker unit looks to be the strength of the defense. The standouts are Lane Napier, the GPAC’s regular season tackles leader, and Kordell Glause, a two-year starter who understands his role on the outside. Daberkow also seems to believe Parker Johnson, Derek Tachovsky and Zac Walter also have starting ability in the program’s 3-4 scheme. Defensive coordinator Corby Osten will lean upon this group while the secondary finds its footing. Said Daberkow, “We have a lot of blue collar kids who I think could all be starters in our linebacker group. We feel like that’s the deepest group on our team.”
Durdon heads deeper offensive backfield
Last season breakout running back Ryan Durdon eclipsed a school single-season standard by carrying the ball 227 times. He may not have to should that kind of load in 2018. The 1,200-yard back will still be the star of the show, but the staff’s confidence in sophomores Payton Kidder and Atanasio “AG” Simba has grown in a big way. Both young backs were impressive during the spring season and both received mention during Tuesday’s news conference.
“We think we have a lot of depth at that running back spot coming out of our spring ball,” Daberkow said. “AG Simba will be a redshirt freshman and then Payton Kidder provides a 1-2 punch. There are a lot of different styles in our running backs. (Position coach) Von Thomas is going to do a good job with that group.”
Jamestown welcomed into GPAC
Jamestown officially became a member of the GPAC on July 1. Concordia will make the trip to Jamestown for the conference opener for both teams on Sept. 15. Jimmies head coach Josh Kittell enters his third season at the helm of the program. Jamestown went 2-9 last season. Kittell says that his team will feature a pro-style, run-oriented offense that will work behind an experienced offensive line. The Jimmies have just seven seniors on their entire roster. They were picked ninth by the media and 10th by the coaches on Tuesday.
Daberkow: “The expectation is to get better every year. We lost some guys who are big names in Concordia football. While we lose those guys, I think we’re going to have a really strong team with a strong locker room. We put a lot of work into that in the last six or seven months to have a strong locker room. That’s going to be our goal, our focus and our emphasis heading into 2018.”