Dragon football: Coaching staff, onfield strategies get overhaul

The coaching staff has a new look, the defense will be different and the offense is getting tweaked. Change is the theme for Minnesota State Moorhead as the Dragons start spring football today. "We're ready to go," said MSUM interim head coach Jo...

Joel Beard and his staff
Joel Beard, standing, is joined by members of his coaching staff as he was announced as the interim head football coach for the 2010 football season at Minnesota State University Moorhead in January. The staff, from left to right, includes: Mike Haynes, Damian Droessler, Bryce Leggins, Brandon Lemer, Travis Anderson and Robin Abraham. Photo by Dave Wallis / The Forum

The coaching staff has a new look, the defense will be different and the offense is getting tweaked.

Change is the theme for Minnesota State Moorhead as the Dragons start spring football today.

"We're ready to go," said MSUM interim head coach Joel Beard. "I'm excited about that. We're going to try to implement those new things that we've been waiting to do."

This will be Beard's first spring in charge of the program. In January, he was named interim head coach for the next season.

Beard was first named interim head coach for the final five games last season after former head coach Damon Tomeo was placed on paid leave in October.


Tomeo never returned to the team.

"It is a little different because I don't get to focus just on offense," said Beard, who was the team's offensive coordinator last spring.

"I've got to focus on other things and trying to make sure everything runs smoothly and try and get organized and make sure everything is going in the right direction."

The defense is taking a different path as MSUM is changing its scheme from a 3-4 to a 4-3.

"It just fits us a little bit better we feel," Beard said. "We've changed some people around."

While the offense will still function primarily out of spread sets, Beard said the focus will change. He would like put an emphasis on the running game.

Last fall, the Dragons were last in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference, averaging 54.5 yards rushing per game.

"We want to get better in the run game," Beard said. "That's our goal for the spring is to get better in the run game. It was severely lacking last year and that's what we want to focus in on and get that going."


Dragons, from D1

The coaching staff has also been reworked in the offseason.

Offensive coordinator Damian Droessler, offensive line coach Jacob Topp, defensive line coach Tim Kelly, defensive backs coach Omar Young and defensive assistant coach Bryce Leggins were added to the staff in January.

Defensive coordinator Brandon Lemer, wide receivers and special teams coach Travis Anderson, running backs coach Robin Abraham and offensive assistant coach Mike Haynes are holdovers.

"You gel over time, but we don't have time," Beard said. "We've done some things since we've gotten together (this offseason) to speed that process up a little bit."

A search for a permanent head coach will be ongoing next fall. MSUM athletic director Doug Peters has said he would like to name a head coach, which could be Beard, after next season.

MSUM was 2-9 in each of the last two seasons.

Beard thinks developing the right mindset will be as important as the Xs and Os during spring drills.


"The one thing I'm really looking forward to is, seeing how we come together as a program and as a team," Beard said. "It doesn't matter what your schemes are - if (the players) are not together, not confident in what you're doing, you're not going to win anyways."

Several players to watch this fall

Below are four positions to follow as Minnesota State Moorhead starts spring football:

- Quarterback: Juniors Bryson Pluta, Kevin Koch and Kyle Hall are in a three-way race for the starting job. Pluta saw limited action last season, Hall didn't take a snap for the Dragons and Koch is a transfer. "Each guy is going to share reps," said MSUM interim head coach Joel Beard.

- Running back: Brett McWilliams played in 11 games last season as a freshman. Sophomore Matt Taffe, junior transfer E'boni Luscious-West, senior Tim Lango and freshman Glen Abbott are also in the mix.

- Defensive line: Outside linebackers Cory Capra and Steve Parks will shift to defensive end as MSUM converts to a 4-3 defensive scheme.

- Linebackers: Seniors Jake Larsen and Joey Dawson and junior Jeff Schuette anchor a solid group. Larsen and Schuette were the team's top two tacklers last season.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Eric Peterson at (701) 241-5513.

Peterson covers college athletics for The Forum, including Concordia College and Minnesota State Moorhead. He also covers the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks independent baseball team and helps out with North Dakota State football coverage. Peterson has been working at the newspaper since 1996.
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