UCO Prepared to Tackle Season
Wide receiver Josh Crockett, 6, runs the ball during a Fall 2016 football game at Wantland Stadium. (Provided/ Vista Archives).
After a strong off-season the University of Central Oklahoma football team looks to improve on last years 3-8 record.
“Getting back on track and putting last year behind us is a big deal,” said Head Coach Nick Bobeck.
The Bronchos return (this amount of seniors), who look to lead the team.
“We have a really good group of seniors,” Bobeck said. “We have a strong group along the offensive line, wide receiver core and the offensive backfield.”
The offense looks to improve on their 27.9 points per game average led by Senior Quarterback Chas Stallard, and Running Backs Clay McKenzie and Jake Gandara. Stallard appeared in nine games last season and threw 941-yards with 10 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He is a duel threat quarterback running for 408-yards and six touchdowns on the ground.
“Chas Stallard is probably going to end up being one of the best quarterbacks that have ever played here at the University of Central Oklahoma,” Bobeck said.
McKenzie led the Bronchos as the leading rusher with 171 carries for 785 yards and 13 touchdowns. Gandara chipped in 606 yards and six touchdowns on 117 carries providing the Bronchos with a 1-2 punch in the backfield.
The Bronchos return Senior Wide Receivers J.T. Luper and Josh Crockett.( Add details about the stats behind last years leading receivers.)
“I’m excited about the wide receivers,” Bobeck said. “We have guys like Josh Crockett and J.T. Luper coming back and L’liot Curry who played a lot last year, we have some true freshman who can push (for playing time) and some transfers who can push as well.”
Up front, the Bronchos must find replacements at center and left guard.
“We have a great competition going on at both guard positions”, Bobeck said. “We have four guards and two centers that can play. We have a strong group.”
The Bronchos run defense last season gave up 155.6 yards per game contributing to the defense given up 38.4 points per game.
“If you can stop the run you can force people’s hands,” Bobeck said. “If you can’t you have to dedicate more people to it and you become weaker in the passing game and start giving up big plays.”
Junior Defensive Tackle Carson Smith was fifth on the team in tackles with 37, including seven for loss.
“Carson Smith is probably one of the best defensive tackles in our conference and maybe even all of Division 2 football. He’s a really good football player,” Bobeck said.
Smith is the only defensive lineman thats spot is set on the depth chart.
“Defensive tackle is our biggest concern,” Bobeck said. “We have some talented guys but we are young and we don’t know how they’re going to react to being thrown into the fire.”
Last season, the Bronchos relied on the back seven, with four that recorded over 40 tackles, led by senior safety Riley Galyon (91 tackles).
“We have a lot of talented and experienced kids in the back seven,” Bobeck said.
The Bronchos secondary played a big part last year, with six interceptions and 11 pass deflections last season and look to cut down on the 291.9 yards per game they gave up through the air.
The Bronchos start with their season opener against Lindenwood at home on Thursday, August 31.
“Game one is huge,” Bobeck said. “If you win game one, you get yourself moving in the right direction and build positive momentum for the rest of the season.”