Aug. 26—After a long offseason of practices, conditioning, and training for this season, the Northeastern State football team is almost ready to get under the lights to open the season.
For NSU Head Coach JJ Eckert, the offseason has been a grind to make sure his players are ready for week one.
Throughout fall camp, the RiverHawks have been working on getting back to playing form.
"It takes a little time to get all those little fundamentals back that you felt like worked really hard on back in those 15 practices in the spring," Eckert said. "So the fundamental side, the blocking the tackling, creating turnovers, and taking care of football is important."
Going into the season the expectations are not high for a RiverHawk team that struggled on defense last year.
After finishing 1-10, NSU was ranked as the last team in both the coaches and media polls this season.
While many might be looking at the RiverHawks' struggling defense from a season ago for their low ranking, the RiverHawks should be much better in that area this season.
Last year when NSU attended media day they had just named Mike Lucas as the new defensive coordinator.
"We didn't really release that when we got to Media Day last year, but he had to go and learn the players, and learn how he was going to install [the system] and do all the things along with it. So it was a, it was a new wording and new schemes and all those kinds of things," Eckert said.
Now a year later, the RiverHawks have had more than enough time to learn the system and are now looking better than ever.
"I think we're way ahead, they understand what the call is, they know the adjustments that go along with it, they know how it's supposed to progress and they know the expectations of each individual when that call is made," Eckert said. "I think that is really big deal to have that opportunity of having a lot of guys back with you who had played within the scheme last year."
Throughout fall training camp leaders have started to emerge from Eckert's roster. Johnny Jean, Tre Currin, Blake Horn, and more have all impressed Eckert throughout the three weeks of training camp.
"I think we've got quite a few guys who've been doing a good job," Eckert said. "I think sometimes it's not always about the leader to be someone who talks. I think when you look across the board, I think we've got some guys who've done a really good job in that category."
Show up to any practice during the fall and you will hear one thing over and over from NSU's coaching staff: finish. After not being able to close out a handful of games last season, the RiverHawks are focused on playing a full 60 minutes this season.
"I think they've done a good job of understanding what that word finish means," Eckert said. "I think they've understood that going back to the spring of last year. We've got to be able to continue to make that something that we can take pride in and know there's a 60-minute football game, and we want to be playing our best football when it matters. So hopefully, we can continue to move that thought in the right direction."
After playing each other for the past several weeks, the RiverHawks are ready to face their first real competition at 6 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 31 against Fort Hayes State at home. Last season the Tigers beat NSU 27-14.
"I think Coach Brown has staff do a really good job," Eckert said.
"In recruiting players, they've had a lot of success at Fort Hayes while he's been there. They're going to be a very talented team, it'll be a very physical team, they're going to play hard, I mean, they're going to want to run the football."
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