WINCHESTER, Ky. (KT) — Mark Elder is expecting big things from his football team this season.
Entering his fourth season at the helm, the Eastern Kentucky University football coach is anxious to see what transpires after the Colonels notched seven victories last season and was in the discussion for a berth in the FCS playoffs.
“We’ve got almost everybody coming back,” he said during a speech to the Winchester Rotary Club Friday. “We’ve got a ton of talent (and) every person in the person believes we’re a good football team, a really good football team. We are going to be ready to take that next step of where we re competing for conference titles, making the playoffs, competing and winning games in the playoffs and becoming a sustainable product to be able to do that consistently moving forward.”
In his first two seasons, Elder went 7-15 and experienced several close setbacks during a 4-7 campaign two years ago. It was then, he noticed the Colonels started turning the proverbial corner.
“We were real competitive, but really just didn’t know how to win,” he said.
Last year, the Colonels won their last four games and finished 7-4, a season that renewed hope for the future.
“We were a better football team,” he said. “Not a good football team, not a great football team, but a better football team. We were talked about (being) in the playoffs, but we were left out, rightfully so. We should have been left out, we were not ready for that next step ye, that’s O.K. We were ready to be in the conversation and we were.”
Elder welcomes a new offensive coordinator in Adam Austin, who spent the past eight years at Midwestern State University where he helped guide the team to four conference championships and five appearances in the NCAA Division II playoffs. Elder said Austin made an immediate impact during spring workouts with an emphasis an eliminating turnovers.
“We took steps leaps and bounds (last spring),” he said “He created a ton of explosive plays. We’re going to put the ball in open space a little bit more and we’re going to be able to create some more explosive plays. It’s going to be a lot of fun to watch our offensive system this year. Those things are certainly going to be a positive. We performed better on offense by leaps ad bounds this spring than we had the previous three springs and that was against a veteran defense.”
The Eastern Kentucky coach also expects a competitive environment when fall camp begins next month. Among the top battles will be at the quarterback position, between Parker McKinney and Oregon State transfer Conor Blount.
“We’re going to have a great battle between those two guys for who is going to be in that starting position,” Elder said. “I think we’re going to get good play out of that quarterback spot. We have two guys who have played in games and proven it on Saturday afternoons. I’m really excited about that position.”
Eastern hasn’t won a playoff game since 1994 but Elder expects the Colonels to change that trend in the future.
“We’re going to be a fun team to come watch,” he said. “We’re excited about this season and there is a lot to be excited about.”
Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter @keithtaylor21.