The University of Central Oklahoma football team is at the midway point of its preseason schedule, and head coach Nick Bobeck is still wading through a depth-filled defensive line.
"Our immediate goal is to find out which of these kids to play with each other," UCO head football coach Nick Bobeck said about the defensive line. "They are very talented and we have some good size. We just need to figure out who is going to work best with one another. I'm happy with the depth we have here too, that's a big necessity and a good thing for us this season."
Central will also see a new defensive line coach this season. Patrick Hill joined the staff this past winter and has spent the spring and summer preparing his new group. Hill came to UCO from Angelo State, where last season he coach the national defensive player of the year and Harlon Hill finalist.
UCO has a mix of newcomers and returning lettermen up front. The Bronchos return six up front that played last season and welcome a large handful more of newcomers who are competing for both playing time and possibly a starting role.
Kahewai Kaaiawaawa and Joseph Roque, along with Stephon Starks, played the most of the six returners from a year ago. Kaaiawaawa and Roque are interior linemen and Starks was last year before an anticipated move to the end this season. Mike Rios, also an interior lineman, might be the best lineman on the team. He got hurt last season in Week 4 and is aiming to bounce back from that. Kaelin Murray and Vaughn Appleman are both physical and athletic ends that look to help there. Steven Krager enters his second year in the program and should push for playing time after sitting out a redshirt year last season.
Derek Shaw, Richerd Desir-Jones, Corey Brown, Devon Bajek, and Daryl French are all newcomers that should play a key role, while Sitani Lemeki, a true freshman, is also pushing to get on the field sooner rather than later. Donte Reece, Mason Roberts, and Ethan Williams are also newcomers adding to a deep and talented group.
UCO last season held opponents to 20.1 points per game on 356 yards per game. The Bronchos held the opposition to 160 yards rushing yards per game and also totaled 21 sacks in the pass-rush game. In Week's 8-9-10, Central shut out each of its opponents.
The Bronchos are at the midway point of preseason. UCO opens the 2019 regular season Thursday, Sept. 5 at 7 p.m. against Pittsburg State inside Wantland Stadium.