College football: West has good numbers, key experience back
WORTHINGTON -- It's far too early to make predictions. The 2013 Minnesota West football team hasn't even gotten all its players into camp yet.
But since practice began on Friday, head coach Jeff Linder believes he's found reason for a positive outlook.
"I'm excited about what I've seen on the field so far," he said Tuesday.
The Bluejays have 55 players in camp -- up about 10 from last year -- and more will be coming in the next few days.
"We could be up to 60 pretty easily," Linder said.
About 15 players are returning with experience, with most of the experience showing up on offense. Quarterback Logan Massop, from St. Paul, returns. So does the Jays' athletic tight end Zelius Morrow, a Monroe, Mich. product. West's fine punter-kicker Tyler Smith, from Phoenix, Ariz., is back. What's more, the Bluejays plan to operate behind a big, talented line this year, which means they could improve on last season's 6-3 record.
Given the fact that Minnesota West enjoys a tradition of playing stingy defense, Linder feels he has the makings of a winning formula this fall.
The team opens Aug. 31 at home in a 5 p.m. start against Vermillion Community College.
Minnesota West continues to recruit well outside the area, with at least 35 of its 2013 players coming from beyond Minnesota and Iowa. For many college coaches, recruiting is the least favorite of duties, but Linder says he enjoys it.
"I really like the part when I get to speak with the parents. You gain more support that way during the course of the school year," said the coach.
Linder, in his 17th year of coaching the Blue Jays, says he's proud of the success stories he's had on and off the field. A college coach's record in that area is never perfect, but Linder maintains the Minnesota West football program takes its job seriously as a positive example to young men.
"We're just hoping to make better people out of the people we have here," he said Tuesday afternoon.
The veteran coach says he and his staff occasionally hear from players who played at the college and moved on. But he wishes they could hear from more of them.
"They've got lives of their own, of course. A few of them, you wonder where they're at and how they're doing."