KANSAS CITY, Mo. — It didn’t take long for Pittsburg State head coach Tim Beck to field a question about his team’s biggest question mark heading into the 2019 season on Wednesday at the MIAA Football Media Day at the Kauffman Convention Center.
In fact, it was the first question he was asked, and it didn’t even come from a local media member.
Who will be the starting quarterback for the Gorillas?
Four-year starter John Roderique, a Webb City product, graduated last season. While Beck has not named a starter, and will not until late August, he does have options.
“We are in a position where we are going to play a young quarterback,” Beck said. “We have four quarterbacks who are fighting it out for the starting spot.
“We are still a little unsure what B.J. Bradbury’s situation is from last season (after having Tommy John surgery). I am not sure that we will know until the middle of August. … Matt Harman ran a lot with our 1s in the spring. (We also have) Brandon Mlekus, Mak Sexton and then B.J. Bradbury. We have four quarterbacks who are sophomores or freshmen. The good thing is, we’ve got pretty good experience on the offensive line and at tight end that will make the transition a little bit easier.”
While Bradbury, a sophomore, is on the mend from an elbow injury suffered last season, Harman, a sophomore, is the lone quarterback left with game experience. He played in seven games last season and completed 29-of-62 passes for 338 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.
The Gorillas were selected to finish third in MIAA preseason coaches and media polls. Pittsburg State is coming off an 8-3 season, narrowly missing a postseason berth. A 40-23 loss to Washburn on Nov. 3 derailed what could have been an even stronger bounceback year.
“We are coming off a season that was very frustrating for us,” Beck said. “We felt like we had a good football team last year. … We had a couple of games where we just did not play very well. I think our guys are extremely motivated to show that we can be better than 8-3. It is a very difficult conference, and it’s a conference that you have to be focused in on and play great every week.”
Pittsburg State returns seven starters on the offensive side of the ball, and it brings back six starters to a defense that led the MIAA in interceptions (16) and sacks (36) a year ago.
“Everyone is pretty locked in,” PSU senior All-America defensive lineman Simanu’a Thomas said when asked about the Gorillas' mindset in the offseason. “We have been averaging 60 kids a day in the summer programs. That’s the biggest number since I’ve been here. It’s been real nice.”
“We are really excited,” PSU senior tight end Jackson Krull said when asked about the team’s outlook. “We had a great turnout this summer, and I think everyone is just ready to get started. We haven’t been in the playoffs since I have been here. That’s our goal.”
Offensive coordinator Dave Wiemers, who is entering his 12th season on the coaching staff, and defensive coordinator Nate Dreiling, third season on the staff, are heading into the second year at their respective positions. Both were impressive last season, and Beck is confident that trend will continue.
“Year 2 makes everything a little bit easier,” Beck said. “There are things you are trying to get better at, and things you are trying to improve on both sides of the ball. Coach Dreiling is a young defensive coordinator who is a very sharp young man (and) has a bright future ahead of him. There is definitely a comfort level there for him. Coach Wiemers has been an offensive coordinator before but had the opportunity to move back. Still, in Year 2, there are definitely some things there that everyone will be more comfortable with.”
Pittsburg State opens the season on the road against Central Oklahoma on Thursday, Sept. 5.
MIAA preseason football
The MIAA coaches and media preseason football polls, with first-place votes in parentheses and total points. Coaches did not vote for their team.
1. Fort Hays State (6) 114
2. Northwest Missouri (5) 112
3. Pittsburg State (1) 97
4. Central Oklahoma 90
5. Central Missouri 80
6. Emporia State 73
7. Missouri Western 57
8. Washburn 54
9. Nebraska-Kearney 46
10. Missouri Southern 34
11. Northeastern State 23
12. Lincoln 12
1. Northwest Missouri (32) 471
2. Fort Hays State (7) 433
3. Pittsburg State 378
4. Central Missouri 336
5. Central Oklahoma 313
6. Emporia State 264
7. Missouri Western 245
8. Washburn 234
9. Nebraska-Kearney 194
10. Missouri Southern (1) 120
11. Northeastern State 79
12. Lincoln 52