Apr 26th, 2010 @ 9:21 am | Author: Ryan Cunningham (NewsDakota.com)
Valley City--There is a "buzz term" floating around Viking spring football this year.
The term: new offense.
All players and coaches are learning, running, and talking about a new offensive strategy this year as the Vikings work through their spring football season.
All coaches, that is, except Rob Hunt, who is doing the teaching.
Hunt has assumed the offensive coordinator role for the Vikings as they wait to make two hires in their coaching staff. One hire will be a full-time football coach, and the other will split duties with the new track and field program.
The Vikings do not know who they will be hiring. They do know who they have right now, and they know what they want those people doing. That strategy involves head coach Dennis McCulloch out of the offensive role, back to defensive backs, and on the sidelines for games after a two-season absence.
"The best thing for this football team is for me to go back on the defensive side. It's a comfort level, coach (defensive coordinator Gregg) Horner and I work great together. I'm excited to be back with defensive backs," explained McCulloch Monday at the Vikings' practice.
"I spent 13 years coaching that position. That's something I can give them that's a positive, and that will be a positive for our defense," added McCulloch.
The Vikings had the third best overall defensive numbers of the teams in the Dakota Athletic Conference (DAC), and they were the best against the pass, allowing just 161.9 yards an outing through the air.
Where the Vikings struggled was getting off the field. They were hit hard by runs to the flats on third down on multiple occasions, something defensive backs can help with, and something the Vikings have been drilling through the first week of spring ball.
[image2]It's the offensive side of the ball that needs the most attention, and while the changes are not wholesale, they are apparent to Viking players, as Hunt begins installing a new look after coaching offensive line in his past Viking tenure.
Hunt will not be alone on the offensive side of the ball, according to McCulloch. The new hires will be related to helping Hunt directly.
"What we want to do is bring another guy in with him to be, maybe, a passing coordinator type of guy. If we get a strong guy in here with a great background, Rob is going to allow him to develop some passing game stuff," said McCulloch.
McCulloch believes Hunt is ready. "He's taken it and run with it and I've been very impressed. The two new guys we bring in will add a lot to him, and he will have a chance to have a big say in the guys we bring in," McCulloch said.
There are two burning questions around the offense. They involve the differences from the past, and who will have the keys to the offensive car behind center.
A. J. Pfeifer (So., Buffalo, ND, left), a runningback/receiver combo for the Vikings, says the changes are not small. "Pretty much everything we're doing, the whole offense, is new. It's way simpler than it was last season, and everyone is getting it a lot quicker," he explained.
The idea of a simpler offense resounded through Viking offensive players. Trent Kosel (Jr., Edgeley, ND), one of the signal-callers in camp, knows the differences first-hand, after starting every game last year.
"Hunt's installed more of an 'I' offense, but we have the capability of moving into spread, which is nice. It's typical of an 'I' offense, but all of the terminology has changed with Hunt as the new offensive coordinator. We can spread it out still, so there will be alot of new things incorporated," said Kosel.
Kosel (right) and Tommy Zinke (RFr., Rolla, ND) will once again battle for the starting quarterback spot, and Kosel says the battle is familiar.
"I'm just taking it like we're right back at the start of last fall. No one has been told they will be the starter. I'm just going out and competing every day. Tommy is a good competitor, and I'm sure he's doing the same thing. We'll just play it by ear and see what happens," said Kosel.
Zinke says the competition is fierce, but respectful. "On the field, we're competitors, but off the field, we work as a team together. We're in meetings together, we work with each other. We get along just fine. We're friends," says Zinke.
The Concordia Cobbers are not friends, and the theme throughout spring ball has been preparation for the game with the Cobbers in Moorhead, MN, in week two of the season. McCulloch has been instilling this concept in his players through drills.
"Our defensive guys are defensive guys, their attacking guys, they get up field. Now we're telling them to stay on the line of scrimmage, slow-play things, read. That's not easy, and it can't happen in one week. Offenses like Concordia's only see trouble from defenses that have more than one week to prepare," said McCulloch.
If Concordia is the specific focus, the general focus is simply improving on a 3-7 season that the Vikings feel they were much better than in 2009. "That record really doesn't reflect our skill set as a team," says center Kevin Murphy (Jr., Tomahawk, WI). I think we are a lot better than that, even going back a couple of years. We were 3-7, 5-5, and 4-6. I know we've had a better team than that," he says.
Murphy adds, "I'm not going to sit here and guarantee a conference championship, but I will guarantee that we will be a lot more competitive, and I just know that record will not reflect how we're going to look next year."