Nick Bobeck made no secret about his excitement about the new football season approaching.
The UCO head football coach used the word “excited” many times in his opening comments at the 2014 Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association Football Media Day in Kansas City. The adjective described his feeling about the season, the players flanking him on the stage (seniors Marquez Clark, WR, and Tyler Newton, DL), and the depth his team is developing.
“The thing we’re looking forward to most is that we’ve finally created the depth within our program that we’ve always wanted,” Bobeck said. “We’re not quite there yet, as far as our age, but we’ll report with 116 kids on Saturday.”
UCO was picked 10th in the MIAA preseason coaches poll and 11th in the media poll.
The Bronchos, 2-8 in 2013, dealt with a number of injuries over the course of the season, bringing down the number of players available specific positions.
“Defensive line wise, last year we ended up playing with two defensive tackles toward the end of the season and we played with two defensive ends. In our conference, it’s next to impossible to be able to survive like that and we’ve finally created that depth that we’re so excited about.
“We knew we were going to take some lumps early on, but this program’s about ready to take a turn and we’re very excited about that and the future of our program.”
UCO is entering its third season in the MIAA, one of, if not the, premier leagues for football in Division II. And Bobeck said he understood that his team would experience rough start, but that now the situation is changing.
“Injuries are going to happen, but the biggest challenge that we’ve had at the University of Central Oklahoma is that from 2007-2012, we were under NCAA sanctions. And it did what it was supposed to do; it choked the program. And rightfully so.
“So we’re rebuilding and coming up out of those ashes.”
Bobeck said he knew coming in what awaited him. But it didn’t deter him.
And he came with a plan.
“We’ve got a proud program at UCO. We’re the fourth all-time winningest program in Division II history. We’ve won two national championships. We’ve got countless numbers of All-Americans that are coming through the program and we’re starting to build the talent pool back.”
“When I came in and interviewed for the job – I’m an alum. I’m proud of the university. I’m proud of what it stands for. I’ve got two degrees from the University of Central Oklahoma.
“I said we’re going to redshirt football players. We’re going to take some transfer guys to try to build our roster up. The thing we had our first year in the first spring in 2012 was that we had 42 kids that went through spring football. Our second year, we had just over 60 kids and last year we had over 80. And like I said, we’ll bring 116 kids into the program this fall and we’re excited about that.”
The depth Bobeck lauds is not something he said he believes to be a luxury. It’s a necessity in the MIAA.
“You know, the depth in this league is just ridiculous. When you start playing against football players, and some of the guys that we’re playing against are fourth-, fifth-year, and some guys are sixth-year players in the program. You’re playing against guys that are 24 and 25 years old and when you’ve got an 18-year-old kid lining up at offensive tackle, that doesn’t bode well.
“When you’re dealing with those numbers and attrition and so forth, the thing we want to do is keep our kids in the program. And we’ve now got it where we’ve got guys that we recruited and that fit our system and fit what we want to do. And we’re excited about that. We now have over 10 guys that have been in the program for three-plus years and next year we’ll have close to 20. And we’re extremely excited about that.”
UCO opens the season on a Thursday night, heading to Hays, Kan., to take on Fort Hays State on Sept. 4.
The Bronchos host Missouri Western on Sept. 13 at Wantland Stadium at 6 p.m.