By JD Pelegrino
In less than one week, on Sept. 1 at 6 p.m. (CST) the Bulldogs will kick off the regular season against the non-conference William Jewell. This will be the first of three straight non-conference games, followed by Montana (away) and Missouri S&T (home).
Head coach Rick Fox enters his fifth season with the Bulldogs in 2018. The Dogs are looking to improve from their impressive 6-2 Pioneer Football League record (7-4 overall) last season. With the outgoing NFL-bound tight end Eric Saubert at the conclusion of the 2016 season, Fox and the Bulldogs found new weapons on offense in 2017 and used them to exploit opponents’ defenses all season long.
Looking to the 2018 season, many of those offensive weapons are returning bigger and stronger than ever, including fifth-year players: quarterback Grant Kraemer, wide receiver Cole Neary safety Sean Lynch, offensive lineman Jordan Lewinsky and defensive lineman Nathan Clayberg. The decision for Kraemer to stay for his fifth year will help a great deal as the Bulldogs try to chase down a PFL conference title and make a push into the playoffs.
Now in his senior campaign, wide receiver Steven Doran stands tall at 6 feet 3 inches weighing in at 216 pounds. Doran led the team with 790 yards receiving with eight touchdowns and 39 receptions. For the first time in his career, he recorded three consecutive 100-plus yard receiving games against Jacksonville, Campbell, and defending PFL champion San Diego. Since the conclusion of last season, Doran has been hard at work to improve and sharpen his skills on the edge. “I’ve been trying to improve my line of scrimmage release. I’ve been decent at it in the past, but I’ve kind of gotten away with being longer and more physical than most corners I play,” Doran said.
Doran’s size, speed and physicality are only some of the attributes that awarded him All-PFL second team last season. Doran explained the many offensive weapons on this year’s team, in receivers: Cole Neary, junior Mitch McFarlane, and senior Devin Cates. All he wants is to be an integral part of the offense this year, remaining to be the deep threat and help maximize the team’s opportunities on offense.
As far as young guys making an impact early on in the preseason, Doran cites red-shirt junior Shane Feller as an offensive talent to look out for this season. “He is currently a back-up to Devin Cates, but we have a lot of offensive packages that put him in the mix. He’s another 6 foot 5, 225-pound guy that can run, and he’s been ballin’ out,” Doran said.
Moving across the line of scrimmage to the defensive side of the ball, red-shirt sophomore Jeran Proctor and red-shirt junior Collin Seymour have been performing well throughout practice and the pre-season, according to Doran, but still have much to learn from veteran corners Jabari Butler and Terry Wallen. Drake will need to prepare everybody on the team from first-string players to those coming off the bench to compete in games against the always troubling Dayton and San Diego later in the season.
For Doran, this season is special, regardless of the fact that he has one more left. “Just something about your senior season. Being a senior, you feel like you’re a more important player on the team and I’m just excited to be a major contributor this year and make that push for conference,” Doran said. The traveling, bonding with the team, and all of the small moments are the ones that players remember, but it is the leadership and the PFL conference title that are most important to Doran.
After an impressive season in 2017, the Dogs are looking to get after it in their first regular season game against William Jewell. Drake is set to host William Jewell on Saturday, Sept. 1 at 6 p.m. at home in Drake Stadium. Show up and show out for the Dogs in their season debut.
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