The Edmond Sun
University of Central Oklahoma head football coach Nick Bobek is non-hesitant when he talks about turning his first year 2-8 record around.
“We’ll be a longer, more rugged football team this fall,” Bobeck said at Thursday’s UCO media day conference at Wantland Stadium. “These are the guys who we want up here.
“They had player-led practices in the summer and I am proud of what they have done.”
In order to flip-flop the 2-8 mark of a year ago to 8-2, Bobeck cited the Bronchos need to improve on turnovers and open-field tackling.
“It is up to us to continue to improve,” he said. “The offensive and defensive lines have improved and it will be a different football team.”
Leading the way for school-record holder running back Josh Birmingham is 300-pound offensive lineman Cameron Pound, who Birmingham loves to trek behind.
“I rely on them (Pound and the offensive line) a lot,” Birmingham credited. “I like to run behind guys like Cameron. They’re workhorses ... big, rough, rugged.
“Yeah, I’ll be relying on him.”
Birmingham, a senior from Luther, holds the Broncho mark for all-purpose yards (4,629) and touchdown runs of 50-plus yards (8).
With all of Birmingham’s success and dangerous breakaway running, defenses will continue to key in on the explosive back.
“We have got to move him around,” Bobeck said. “We have to get the ball in his hands — he’s one of the best players in the country.”
“We just want to give him enough space to get through,” Pound added. “Sometimes, all he needs is a crack. He makes us look good.”
Open-field tackling is one of the hardest things to do in football according to Bobeck, and junior defensive back Thomas Hill will be spearheading the movement to make Central Oklahoma sound when bringing down ball carriers.
“Now that we got depth on the team, we got the players that can make those plays,” Hill said. “It’s something you have to work on at all times.”
Bobek was totally optimistic about the upcoming season and the players he brought out with him on media day. He noted that defensive lineman Tyler Newton “is a tough, hard-nosed guy” and Pound is “the rock of the offensive line.”
Newton also is a 4.0 student, standing at 6-4, 260 pounds from Moore.
Last season, UCO dropped ninth-ranked Washburn 35-20 at Wantland.
Central’s opener will be in Joplin, Mo. on Sept. 5 versus Missouri Southern.
Bronchos ready for camp
Central Oklahoma begins preparations for its 108th season of intercollegiate football next week when the Bronchos host their initial practice.
Players report to campus Saturday, with physicals, equipment check-out and meetings set for Sunday. The first practice is set for 8:30 a.m. Monday.
UCO begins its second season in the rugged Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association and will play all 10 games against conference opponents.
The Bronchos have 14 starters and 16 other lettermen back from last season’s squad.