Eastern Kentucky Colonel football Head Coach Mark Elder is adamant about fostering a culture with his young team.
Coming off his first year at the helm, Elder is hoping to improve from last year’s 3-8 record, but that may be easier said than done.
In his first two seasons with the Colonels, Elder has produced back-to-back top- 25 ranked recruiting classes.
Which is an incredible achievement, but also leaves Elder with a very young team.
Elder stated at Eastern Kentucky Football Media Day that, “We’ve got about half of our starts back from a year ago. We are going to be a fairly green team.”
With only five returning starters on offense and seven on defense, the less experienced players need to step up and Elder is impressed with their effort.
“I’m encouraged with the talent of this team.” Elder said, “So far those guys have done a good job.”
Those new players are learning from the veterans, which is exactly what Elder wants.
“The culture is established by the staff, but the leadership and the direction and enforcing that culture has been much more taken over by the players. Which is what you want.”
The defense heads into the upcoming season with more on-field experience than their counterparts on offense, and return leading tackler from last season, R-Sr. LB Jeff Canady and 2017 First Team Preseason All-Ohio Valley Conference selection, Jr. DL Aaron Patrick.
And as the more experienced group, the defense feels a responsibility to help bring along the offense.
Sr. DB Nigel Bethel II said, “It’s our job to go as hard as we possibly can to make them get a closer bond and get better so they can work together as an offense so we can put up more points this season.”
On the other side of the ball, the offense returns only five starters, including leading yardage rusher Jr. RB Ethan Thomas, but brings in a lot of talented newcomers.
Last year’s Colonels relied on depth at the running back position, and although many of those players are gone, a new group of running backs, including Louisville transfer R-Jr. RB L.J. Scott and Arizona State transfer R-So. RB Jason Lewis, appear ready to fill their shoes.
“Each back brings a different part of their game to the table, and that’s going to help us in the long run. We all bring different things to the table and the coaches know how to use that.” Thomas said.
As far as the quarterback position goes, the starting position is still up for grabs as four players compete for the job.
But as Connecticut transfer R-Sr. QB Tim Boyle said, the competition is a good thing, “We should be the gold standard of what the team should look like and how we should prepare. At the end of the day we are competitors, but if we continue to help each other progress as quarterbacks then at the end of the day it is all about winning football games.”
The goal of this team appears to be building upon last year’s foundation and foster a winning culture within the team and they seemed poised to accomplish that goal, but only time will tell.
The Colonels first game is in Bowling Green, KY, Saturday Sept. 2 against Western Kentucky University.