BY BREANN LENZMEIER
There may have been snow on the ground when the Dragons football team was scheduled to start the spring part of their season, but that hasn’t stopped them from working to get better.
The team has been using NDSU’s Dacotah Field for practice and are hopeful that they will be able to return to MSUM soon.
The Dragons are looking to build off a successful 2013 season and a strong recruiting class; they added 26 new players. Head coach Steve Laqua said they are confident the season will be better, whereas in prior years they have only been hopeful of having success on the football field.
“We have had solid practices this spring. There is a lot of excitement and confidence with the team,” Laqua said.
The Dragons are coming off a successful season in which they went 4-7 and had a winning record in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference North division. Laqua said it is critical the team be ready to go from the first kickoff to the last whistle of the year.
With the first game still months away, the team is working on getting timing and sharpness down, so everyone is ready to go if they are called into the game. The Dragons return a number of starters from last year’s team and are looking to build off the late season success.
Coach Laqua stressed the importance of the Dragons’ defense improving from last year.
“We gave up too many points and yards on defense,” he said.
Laqua pointed to the improvement of the offense the past couple seasons and said it is time for the defense to make the improvement this year.
Last season the Dragons won three conference games in a row, and Laqua said the team has made the progression from losing by a lot to losing by little and then winning by a little. Now, they need to start winning by a lot.
To do that Laqua said there are things the team needs to enhance. For the Dragons to have success in the 2014 season the defense needs to improve, players need to stay healthy and the quarterback play needs to be solid.
Last year Jake Hodge led the team after Demetrius Carr was hurt early in the year and missed the remainder of the season. Laqua said it is a tough competition between Hodge and Carr this spring, but right now Hodge has the edge.
“Jake has taken first team reps. He has been a consistent and reliable player,” Laqua said. “The Jake Hodge now is different than the Jake Hodge that was beat out at fall camp.”
Looking at the team on the defensive side of the ball, Laqua pointed to some of the players in this year’s recruiting class as making an impact right away.
“We don’t have as much depth on the defensive side as we do on the offense,” Laqua pointed out. “We thought of that when we recruited this year. We don’t have as many established starters on defense, so some freshman will have to play.”
To improve on defense the team has been transitioning some players into different positions. That will make a difference when the team plays next year, Laqua said.
With a limited number of practices for the team this spring and in the fall, Laqua stressed the urgency of each practice and the importance of improving each time.
He pointed to the first four games of the season as being critical for starting the season off right.
“We need to be ready to win game one. We need to start off on the right foot,” Laqua said.
Although the team won’t face an opponent for more than four months, they do have their spring game on April 26 to look forward to.
“We need to have our first team be sharp by then, and our back-ups need to have really developed by that point and be viable options to go into the game,” Laqua said.
Game time is 2 p.m. on April 26 at Alex Nemzek football field as part of the Dragon Athletics Spring Thaw.