SEWARD, Neb. – Fans in attendance at Friday’s open spring practice got a glimpse at the 2013 edition of head coach Vance Winter’s Bulldog football squad. A team complete with a fast, athletic defense with an experienced secondary and an improved offense under second-year offensive coordinator Curran White was on full display. These components made for a fiery last outing of the spring.
“I love the competitiveness of our group,” Winter said. “I think our group came out here and competed tonight. You saw a little scuffle here or scuffle there. Guys were competing and fighting, enjoying this weather and playing football.”
Friday evening’s scrimmage under the lights at Bulldog Stadium included position drills, special teams work and a full-contact scrimmage for the final 30 minutes or so of action. Fans also were treated to grilled hot dogs and refreshments at the conclusion of the scrimmage. The showcase signaled the end of the spring practice season which began on April 3.
The open session allowed for a first look at some of the team’s new skill talent. After struggling offensively down the stretch in 2012, Concordia knows it must find guys who make plays with the ball in their hands. One athlete who may fit that bill is redshirt freshman John Nunes, a Baltimore, Md., native who has impressed with his big-play ability at the running back position.
“I really like how our running backs ran the ball,” Winter said. “I think we have some guys that have some elusiveness and can break some tackles and run physically.”
Quarterback Von Thomas also looks increasingly comfortable after starting all 11 games and taking nearly every meaningful snap in 2012. Thomas, who put up 2,200 total yards and 20 total touchdowns last season, should take his game to another level with more dangerous skill talent around him.
“One of his main weapons is his feet and running,” Winter said. “I thought he managed things OK out here today. He completed all the short passing game stuff and did some good things. He had a good spring and really improved throughout. He’s got a great grasp of the offense. I’m excited about his development this spring.”
While the offense figures to continue to make leaps forward, the defense under coordinator Patrick Daberkow may end up serving as the backbone of the team. All four starters are back in the secondary, led by first team all-conference choices Darnell Woods and Derek Blessing.
“There’s a good group of guys on defense,” Winter said. “I’m fired up about our defense. We’ve got to stay healthy, but I love how they’re playing. I love the intensity they bring every day. Coach Daberkow has them going. Our defensive staff does a great job.
“I love our athleticism defensively. I love how they compete and run.”
Concordia football players will report to campus in August to begin fall practice in preparation for the season opener on Sept. 5 at William Jewell College (Mo.).