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Drake football: Bulldogs like their new feeling of continuity
If there’s one thing Steve Platek has learned playing football at Drake, it’s adjusting to change.
Platek went from quarterback in high school in Arlington Heights, Ill., to playing defense at Drake. He switched back to offense last season when new coach Chris Creighton made him his J back, a combination fullback-slot receiver. It worked out, as he made first-team all-Pioneer Football League after grabbing 41 passes for 468 yards and rushing for three touchdowns.
And Platek has had to adjust to more new coaches than position changes. The Bulldogs had a different coach in each of the past three seasons. Rob Ash completed an 18-year stint in 2006, Steve Loney served as a temporary coach in 2007 and Creighton was hired last year.
Now, with the same coaching staff and same system in place for two consecutive years, Platek thinks the Bulldogs are ahead of last season, when they were 6-5.
“The difference between starting brand new and having a year under your belt is huge,” Platek said at the Bulldogs’ media day Tuesday. “Now, the upperclassmen can teach the freshmen what they know from experience. Last year, everything was brand new. We’re comfortable already, we’re able to move ahead much quicker.”
Click here to view a gallery of photos from Tuesday’s media day
Creighton sees a difference from having that continuity.
“The guys know each other and trust each other,” he said. “The chemistry is really exciting now. Because of that, there are two things - we’re having more fun now, and we’re going to be better.”
Drake’s season starts Sept. 5 with a home game against Grand View. The Bulldogs return 16 players with starting experience, eight each on offense and defense.
The defense was a strength last season, recording three shutouts and ranking second in the PFL by surrendering 17.9 points per game.
The defensive line is intact with seniors Josh Walkup, Sean Kitts and Dain Taylor, plus sophomore David Witkiewicz.
At linebacker, Cale Hunt is back from injury and Ben Morrison, Drake’s leading tackler the past two seasons, also returns.
“Our defensive front is really, really talented,” Creighton said.
“Our defensive line and our linebackers are really good, so they will lead our team. The rest have to do our best to catch up to those guys.”
The secondary includes returning starters Matt Hancock and Skye Buckner-Petty, plus Tyler Moorehead, Nick Chenier and Lucas Mosier.
The offense has a veteran line of Dan Clinton, Stephen Flynn, Quinn McVey, Eric Mora and Evan Lawrence.
Platek heads an experienced group of receivers that also includes Spencer Cady, Frank Pucher and Drew Blackmon. Patrick Cashmore, who carried 69 times for 307 yards, is the most experienced running back.
One spot where the Bulldogs will be young is quarterback. All seven of their quarterbacks are freshmen, although four were on the team last year but withheld from competition.
Creighton said Peter Badovinac and Mike Piatkowski are the front runners to start.
“I like them all,” Creighton said. “The thing I look for at quarterback is leadership. If you have a guy that’s to take the team by the back of the neck and make them win, you’re going to come up short as a team. And being young, that’s challenging. They’re learning, but talent-wise, we’re in good shape.”
Badovinac and Piatkowski say there’s pressure since Drake has so much experience elsewhere, but they like that.
“If there’s no pressure, that means there’s no expectations,” Badovinac said. “I live for those expectations.”
Piatkowski said the competition will be friendly.
“On the field we get along, off the field we get along,” he said. “We both know we’re fighting for a job.”
It took a half-season for Drake to jell last season. After a 2-4 start, the Bulldogs finished 4-1.
“The last five games, we had to step it up and we did,” Witkiewicz said. “We really started playing well and it was a good way to end the season.”
Drake was picked sixth in the PFL’s preseason poll, but that’s fine with Creighton.
“I’ve been an underdog guy my whole life, so the lower we go (in the preseason poll), the better,” he said. “It makes me grind my teeth at night. That just makes my competitive juices go.”
By Dan Johnson
Des Moines Register