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The Antelope

Offensive additions highlight spring practice

Isaiah Harris, right, transferred to UNK this spring after spending four seasons at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Photo by Jon Willis / Antelope Staff

Spring football symbolizes the start of a new season, and after a 3-8 record last season, the UNK football team is ready to turn a new page 

UNK has practiced 13 times with two more left to come which includes a couple of different scrimmages along with their annual spring game. 

This is the second year under coach Ryan Held along with the first full offseason, he says this spring has run much smoother. 

“It doesn’t mean we’re going to win, but it means that we all have our feet on the ground and guys know what to do and how to practice and what our expectations are,” Held said. 

The Lopers went out in the offseason on a mission to improve on their team, and with that came acquiring new pieces in the transfer portal. One of the big names is junior running back Isaiah Harris, who transferred from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. 

Harris, who had already worked with Held when he was the running back coach at UNL, has had a big spring so far including a touchdown scored in the scrimmage against Concordia St. Paul on Saturday.

 He says it’s been a smooth transition coming to UNK.

“Everything has looked a lot better than I expected this spring coming in knowing I was going to have to learn a lot of new offense, but it’s pretty much everything I already knew,” Harris said. “It’s not so much like a business here at Kearney, you don’t have to worry about the little politics and all that. Everyone’s more of a tight knit family right away.” 

Another promising transfer is graduate quarterback Reagan Jones from Missouri Western. Jones started for Missouri Western in 2022 throwing for almost 2,000 yards and 15 touchdowns. Jones also threw for a touchdown in the scrimmage against Concordia St. Paul. 

Held says he hopes to be able to utilize his running backs more this year and create a balanced offense. 

“It can be more balanced, so you can’t just focus on the quarterback and you have to have your eyes everywhere and that’s where we just have to continue to get better,” Held said. “We’re going to be more running back focused this year than we were quarterback focused.” 

On the other side of the ball, UNK will rely on some of their returners to help pave the way for a defense that has been good at holding teams in red zone situations. One of those key returners is defensive linemen Quillan Felton, who finished with over 10.5 tackles for loss and four sacks last season. 

“Even when you look at last year’s red zone defense, we were the best red zone defense but hopefully we can learn how to get away from that,” Felton said. “I think we’re a lot bigger on both sides of the ball and even in the weight room, everyone’s numbers are just tremendously improved.” 

UNK wraps up the spring on Friday with their annual spring game which starts at 6 p.m. The Lopers will also hold the Loper Backers Banquet to raise money for scholarships on April 25 at 5:30 p.m. 

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Jon Willis
Jon Willis, Reporter
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