The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

April 26, 2013

Gorillas gear up for spring football game

By Ryan Atkinson
Globe Sports Writer

— The Pittsburg State Gorillas will wrap up a month of sporadic spring drills on Saturday with their annual Spring Game.

The Gorillas, coming off a 7-3 season, will have put in 15 practice days with approximately 120 players.

 “We found out a lot about a lot of kids we had questions on,” Pitt State coach Tim Beck said. “And, knock on wood, we haven’t had any serious injuries. That’s always a big thing.”

Beck said the Spring Game, which kicks of at 10 a.m. at Carnie Smith Stadium, is less about evaluation and more about a good way to cap spring drills and build momentum for the summer and fall.

“Saturday isn’t so much about evaluation as it is just about letting them line up and play,” he said. “We’ll break the teams up and try to make them even so you’ll have guys playing next to guys they usually won’t be playing with.

“It’s more about a fun time for the kids and for the fans to come out and see them play. The kids will get to put on their game jerseys and play. That said, we’ll still be looking at certain players and seeing how they react in certain situations. We’ll try and get them out of their comfort zones and see how they react.”

Running back battle

The Gorillas lost a handful of solid running backs — Briceton Wilson, Jason Spradling and Trezz Tillman — to graduation.

They’ll need a mix of part-time returners and newcomers to step up this fall.

Senior Solomon Watkins’ solid spring may have solidified his spot atop the list, but Beck said nothing has been decided.

“We haven’t seen anyone jump up and just take the starting job,” he said. “I will say that Solomon had a really good day the last time we scrimmaged. But that’s something we’ll take into the fall. We’ll still be evaluating those positions.”

Sophomore Jeff Seybold and redshirt freshman Quandre Holman, both top prospects, missed time over the spring with minor injuries.

“We didn’t really get a chance to see what they can do this spring,” Beck said. “They’ll be full strength in the fall.”

Senior leaders sit out

Senior All-Americans Nate Dreiling (a three-timer at linebacker) and John Brown (a two-time honoree at wide receiver and kick returner) missed time with minor injuries.

Brown, Beck said, tweaked a hamstring and missed time. Dreiling wasn’t needed at full force.

Both were voted captains by the team.

“John sat out quite a bit with his hamstring and we sat Dreiling out quite a bit,” Beck said. “But they’re still great leaders and great examples with their work ethic alone.”

Dreiling and Brown lead a group of 20 seniors who will be key for the Gorillas. A good number of them were key parts of PSU’s 2011 national title as sophomores.

“A lot of them have seen a lot of action. They have a good idea what it takes and that makes us feel better as coaches,” Beck said. “We rely on them to take what we’ve accomplished in the spring and carry it through the summer.”

Weather impacts special teams

April’s crazy weather wasn’t kind to the development of the special teams, Beck said.

Many morning practices were held with temperatures hovering in the low 30s.

“The weather really didn’t cooperate at all. We didn’t get as much done with special teams as we would have liked,” Beck said. “When we’re out in the morning with rain and freezing rain, we’re not going to have our kickers and punters doing too much work.”