The Hastings College football team will be looking to take the next step in its climb towards the top of the Great Plains Athletic Conference when the Broncos kick-off the season Saturday Aug. 26 on the road at Jamestown.
Hastings will look a little different this season with a new offensive coordinator in Clint Head, the defense is going back to the 3-3 stack and HC will look to find a new quarterback and a new kicker/punter. We break it all down here.
Breaking it down – Defense
The defense will be looking a bit different in 2017 making the switch back to the 3-3 stack. This is a defense that allows for plenty of players to have the freedom to go out and make some plays. Last season the Bronco defense only came up with 16 turnovers while giving up over 470 yards per contest and that will be a point of emphasis this season. Look for Jacob Tarr (SR/Chaparral, CO) and Austin Bretting (JR/Lincoln, NE) to be key contributors as the season progresses.
Head Coach Tony Harper talked about this team's defensive mindset as they enter camp, "They embraced a mindset of the 3-3 and the guys look to be progressing and buying into the new scheme.
Jake Tarr continues to step up and be a leader as he has done a good job of taking a step back and helping the new guys," Harper said. "We have to hit the field running on day one of fall camp as there is a big expectation, we have to understand that with this scheme, it allows a lot of freedom. Unfortunately some guys are still hesitant about taking advantage of the freedom."
Harper also talked about a few main coaching points that are a must if Hastings is to be successful. "It is straight across the board, get better at stopping the run and get more turnovers," Harper continued. "In order for these things to happen, each guy needs to know what everyone on the defense is supposed to be doing and if so, all of these things will begin to fall into place."
Along with Tarr and Bretting, look for guys like Jeremiah Hodges (SO/Aurora, CO), Nathan Howe (JR/Kearney, NE), Tyler Parthemer (JR/Beatrice, NE), Hayden Jones (SR/Douglas, CO), Ross Ostendorf (SR/Gothenburg, NE) and Tyler Kennedy (SO/Chandler, AZ) to fill in at some key positions if HC is to be successful. Also look for Wesley Jardim (SR/Waco, NE) to make a splash as he is coming back off injury after leading the team in tackles two seasons ago.
Hastings is full of playmakers on the offensive side of the ball with returners Tahj Willingham (JR/Greenwood Village, CO) looking to garner most of the carries, Jordan Johnson (JR/Spring Valley, CA) hoping to continue where he left off leading the team in receptions, yards and touchdowns a year ago, Farao Maileoi (JR/Honolulu, HI) leading the offensive line coming off back-to-back All-Conference seasons.
In order for these playmakers to be successful, the Broncos will need to find a quarterback, "We brought in nine quarterbacks as we need more competition at this position that goes two, three and four deep," Harper said. "True Freshman Taylor Hatchel (FR/Boulder City, NV), Griffin Roberts (FR/Fort Collins, CO), Mason Crossland (FR/Queen Creek, AZ), along with sophomore Isaiah Jackson (SO/Compton, CA) and a few others will be battling it out with Anthony Cloyd (SR/Omaha, NE) for the right to start at QB.
With really no experience coming back at the quarterback position, coach Harper will be relying on the experience of new offensive coordinator Clint Head to mold this thing together, "Coach Head has said he is going to avoid being over complicated with how he runs his system as we do not want to over load those guys," Harper said.
The offensive line has a few question marks with one trying to replace All-Conference performer Mark Nellis and also trying to add some depth as the offense will also be going back to an up-tempo style of play. First Team All-Conference performer Farao Maileoi will anchor the offensive line. Look for more of a spread mentality with plenty of inside/outside zone looks.
"We have a great supporting cast of talented playmakers but with us breaking in a new quarterback, Tahj Willingham and Anthony Cloyd will be key as I believe Willingham is a top three back in this league and if Cloyd is not taking snaps, he's right up there as one of the top six or seven backs in the GPAC," Harper said.
This will be the first time in a few years where the Broncos will not have a returning kicker or punter with at least some game experience. HC does return two long snappers in Anthony Cloyd and Cole Fisher (JR/Omaha, NE) which should take some pressure off new kicker Alex Stogdill (JR/Lincoln, NE).
"I think coach Kimura does a great job with our special teams. When you lose two All-Conference performers (Giaffoglione and Bachle), you're always going to be a little nervous…," Harper said. But Stogs, who redshirted a year ago so we could get him healthy, has done a great job this past off season. He's always out there kicking nearly every single day, he's got good hang time on his punts but it's easy to do those things when no one is rushing you."
Hastings is expecting Stogdill to handle all of the kicking duties such as field goal/pat, kick-offs and punting.
"Stogs is a very even keeled young man, very competitive so I think that is going to be his strong suit we just need to fine tune a few things with him," Harper continued. "Long snappers are the key to everything, if you have a great long snapper that gets that ball back there consistently and having two guys coming back will help with that. We do need to find a No. 3 and a No. 4 for back-up purposes."
Other parts of our special teams needs some work and the Broncos will look to get right to work on this with fall camp right around the corner.
"Now when you get into the specifics of it, our punt return needs to get better. We need to get more positive yards out of that," Harper said. "Our punt pro has been very solid the past few year. Kick-off needs to do some things a little bit different as some teams have picked up on what we are trying to get done, so we are going to tweak some stuff there. Then PAT/FG to be honest with you, we have to shore that up. We used to be able to anchor it down and it was a given and right now it's not a given. We have to be more firm, we have to be stronger from TE to TE."
Overall, things feel as if they are moving into the right direction so this team can build off the 2016 campaign.
"I think it showed in the spring as what we did during that time did not feel anything like what we did during the 2016 season. The guys did a good job when they were on the field, the guys did a good job when they were in the classroom and did a good job when they were off the field," Harper continued. "We've had more guys here this summer then we ever have, we've had more rookies come in over the summer then we've ever had. I think our older guys are embracing in what we are trying to do in the locker room, what we want to do in the classroom, that's kind of been our hang up and hopefully we can make that next step this year."