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The Antelope

The Antelope

Drew Thatcher

New OC brings experience, familiarity to UNK hoping to improve, build up football team

BY Austin Jacobsen

Head coach Josh Lynn knew he needed to help his offense out with an improved passing game. That obstacle only grew more challenging once former quarterbacks coach Kevin Bleil left UNK to join Stephen F. Austin’s staff as an offensive assistant coach.

Lynn called Drew Thatcher, and by Feb. 13 the former New Mexico Military Institute offensive coordinator had packed his bags and moved from low elevation desert to high winds and bitter cold winters in Kearney. 

“He’s a great up-and-coming coach,” Lynn said. “Some of the guys he’s coached are very talented, and have played well at the junior college and Division I level.”

Some of those players, such as the University of Mississippi’s Jordan Ta’amu, prove Lynn’s high praise. Ta’amu was invited to the 2019 NFL Combine in Indianapolis, and is expected to be one of the 256 players drafted in the upcoming NFL draft.

The passing game for UNK last season was in desperate need of a reload. While competent, the Lopers never had an explosive passing game that could threaten defenses behind the arm of first year starting quarterback Alex McGinnis, the redshirt junior from Crete, Neb.

Our goal is not only to throw it more, but to throw more efficiently.

McGinnis completed 50 percent of his passes for six touchdowns and seven interceptions last season. He also added 1,364 yards in passing, along with 157 rushing attempts leading to 471 yards gained on the ground.

Thatcher understands the need to grow the offense and expand with the playmakers surrounding McGinnis. The Lopers ranked 7th in the MIAA last season in total offense, torching defenses with 268.9 yards per game which lead the MIAA. UNK faltered in their passing game, however, sitting 11th out of 12 teams mustering only 128.6 yards per game.

“Our goal is not only to throw it more, but to throw more efficiently,” Thatcher said. “If we can succeed in that, and with a few new concepts, it’s going to make our running game even more explosive.”

Luckily for Thatcher, UNK has a staple of workhorses to work with in his new backfield. Darrius Webb was two yards short of one thousand last season, and rising juniors Dayton Sealey and David Goodwin received significant playing time last season as well. Key contributor and team leader Luke Quinn also returns to provide a reliable and steady hand in the backfield.

Thatcher runs a similar system 

to what Loper fans saw last season. Bringing back that familiarity helps in the transition from coach-to-coach, especially when working with players who ran a successful offense the previous season. Jack McLeay, a senior offensive lineman from Omaha, is already enjoying the new coaching change this spring.

“Many of our calls are very similar to last year,” said McLeay. “The offensive line has so many guys returning this year, and it feels like we’re already hitting our stride.”

The Lopers will return on Friday, April 12 for a short scrimmage followed by their own spring game the next Saturday, April 20 at 1:30. The Lopers will begin their season on the road for the first time in three seasons, as they take on the Lions of Missouri Southern State. 

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