PITTSBURG — Losing doesn’t sit well with anyone, but the Pittsburg State safeties took the four losses in 2016 personally and look to come out stronger this season under the guidance of a new coach.
After playing for the Gorillas and graduating in 2013, Nate Drilling has taken over as coach of the secondary and has been working hard to help his young players perform above their years.
“It was a nice to able to get here in the spring and I’ve learned a lot about them since then,” Dreiling said. “They don’t care about how much you know until they know how much you care, so I just want to let them know that I’m going to be there for them. If I give them that respect, then they’ll be there for me.”
Dreiling has been getting to know the group in the first two weeks of practice and said he has high expectations of his players, despite their youth.
“Right now, we have a lot of players without much experience,” Dreiling said. “We’re just getting them caught up, getting them ready to play fast and helping them to have an understanding of what’s going on so they’re not hesitant on the field. Schematically, we’re just trying to catch up on things and trying to find out who our players are going to be.”
Opening kickoff can’t come soon enough for the secondary, as they’ve had a long time to think about last year.
“It has been a long offseason,” PSU safety Darian Taylor said. “Last season didn’t go as we had hoped and we’ve had this chip on our shoulder for a long time. We’re looking to come together as a team and really build up that chemistry in preseason practice, so that we’re ready by week one to start the season out 1-0.”
The Gorillas have made team chemistry a top priority in fall camp.
‘I think our weakness last year was team chemistry,” Taylor said. “We weren’t as close as we could have been, but I think this year is a lot different. This is my fourth year here and this is the closest we’ve been, so I’m really excited to see how well we do this season.”
Taylor is one of three three seniors among safeties and tallied 49 tackles with one interception last season, but believes he is capable of more.
“There’s a lot of good receivers and a lot of talent in the MIAA,” Taylor said. “This is one of the best conferences in DII, but we have good coaches. You just have to be coachable and be diligent to do things like watch film so you’ll be in a good position to be successful.”
To make defending against the pass more manageable, the Gorillas will have to work as a team to stop the run and force opponents to beat them through the air.
“I think if you look at all the champions throughout history, you’re going to see that they were a good running team,” Dreiling said. “That’s what football is based on is stopping the run, and if you can’t do that, it’s going to be a long day. We have to be able to make opponents one dimensional and that’s the first thing on our priorities list.”
Despite the difficulty of playing the position, Dreiling said the recipe for success isn’t complicated.
“It’s pretty simple, you just have to be willing to work hard everyday,” Dreiling said. “You don’t win games on Saturdays, you win them on Tuesday afternoons doing drills. Having that mentality each and every day goes a long way.”
Dreiling hasn’t had much time to spend with his team, but the players have bought into his philosophy.
“The biggest thing I learned after not knowing any of them before I came here was how willing they are to do whatever it takes to win,” Dreiling said. “They’ve had a sour taste in their mouth for a little over seven months now and they’re tired of hearing about it. They’re ready to turn the page and they’re going to do whatever it takes.”
— Jordan Buckamneer is the sports editor of the Pittsburg Morning Sun. E-mail him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @jbuckamneer.