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.
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.
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.
The 15-team league will play a partial round-robin and even when 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.
Adam Dorrel’s toughest part of his first year at Northwest Missouri State wasn't the quarterfinal loss to eventual champion Pittsburg State but the way he got the job to lead them there. Dorrel, the offensive coordinator, took over for Scott Bostwick, who died in June after being elevated from his defensive coordinator post to replace 17-year veteran Mel Tjeerdsma, who retired….One of the newest additions to the MIAA squads,. Lindenwood was a NAIA finalist in 2009. … Lincoln coach Mike Jones is best known for his tackle on then-Tennessee wideout Kevin Dyson at the goal line that preserved the win for the St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXIV...Keith Allen, the head coach at Southwest Baptist, was a student assistant and graduate at Oklahoma, coaching there in 1997.
MIAA preseason coaches poll
(first-place votes in pearentheses)
1. Pittsburg State (12) 192
2. Northwest Missouri (2) 184
3. Missouri Western (1) 165
4. Washburn 154
5. Central Missouri 153
6. Nebraska-Kearney 122
7. Emporia State 103
8. Lindenwood 95
9. Northeastern State 85
10. Missouri Southern 82
11. Fort Hays State 74
12. Central Oklahoma 54
13. Southwest Baptist 49
14. Truman 43
15. Lincoln 18
MIAA preseason media poll
(first-place votes in pearentheses)
1. Pittsburg State (24) 538
2. Northwest Missouri (11) 524
3. Missouri Western (1) 456
4. Washburn 447
5. Central Missouri 393
6. Nebraska-Kearney 390
7. Emporia State 286
8. Lindenwood 268
9. Fort Hays State 241
10. Northeastern State 233
11. Missouri Southern 194
12. Truman 155
13. Southwest Baptist 150
14. Central Oklahoma 121
15. Lincoln 42
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