Morehead State coach Rob Tenyer has seen a level of commitment and progress by his players to make him believe they’re ready to become winners.
That’s a lot of confidence in an Eagles squad that was 4-8 last season and is picked to finish eighth in the Pioneer League in the coaches’ preseason vote. But unlike Tenyer’s first two years featuring the growing pains of getting players to buy into his philosophy before seasoning them on the field, he has 19 seniors among 60 veterans eager to make the program competitive.
“This is an important year,” Tenyer said in a phone interview. “We’re built to play a better brand of football, No. 1, and we’re better in all phases.
“This is step 3 in the process and I hope by week 7 or 8, we have something to play for. But the progress is there.”
Morehead State returns 16 starters including nine on a defense hungry to improve after yielding nearly 475 yards and 44 points per game. The Eagles were especially generous on the ground as opponents rushed for 247 yards per contest.
Seven starters return on a high-octane offense that averaged 429 yards a game. Quarterback Austin Gahafer completed 64 percent of his passes for 2,840 yards and 23 touchdowns and looks forward to seeing what that unit can do this season.
“I’m just trying to pick up where I left and start the next chapter for this offense,” the junior said. “I have a little more freedom this year and I’ve got guys around me that can make big plays.”
— — —
Some things to watch with Morehead State in 2015:
HARDEN-ED RUNNER: Fifth-year senior Rob Harden becomes the featured running back after rushing for 183 yards on 66 carries with two touchdowns last season. Redshirt freshmen Quintin Bailey and Ryan Watkins will be part of the mix, but Tenyer looks toward Harden to be the workhorse. “He’s not the home run threat,” the coach said, “but when it’s third-and-1, he’s in the conversation.”
NEW ASSISTANT: Former Oregon player Andre Crenshaw is Morehead’s running backs coach, arriving after two seasons at Dakota Wesleyan in South Dakota as a graduate assistant.
RETURN SPECIALIST: Senior slot receiver Justin Cornwall is a preseason PFL pick as a kick returner after averaging 22.9 yards per attempt last season. He also caught 35 passes for 420 yards and six TDs.
START FASTER: MSU was often out of it by halftime last season in being outscored 295-136 in the first 30 minutes. Tenyer believes his team’s depth can change that.