The Baker Orange

Q&A with football coach Mike Grossner

Story by Chad Mullens, Writer

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What have you found out during this spring session?

We had a good recruiting year, and we kind of had some questions we needed to figure out. We’re in our last week, but we got some answers. We got some new guys coming in that we’re counting on which gives us a bit of a nervous feeling, because we look good on paper, but at the same time we haven’t seen them perform here.

We’ve had some injuries sustained in the fall, and there are some guys that aren’t with us right now. This summer is going to be crucial in getting everybody healthy and cohesive, because our schedule is relentless right away.

What kind of questions did you have?

Offensively, we had to find a tight end or two, with three of them leaving. Josh Seybert has stepped up, and Troy Periman is coming along, and Dylan Good has been a pleasant surprise. On the offensive line we’ve had some attrition, some guys suspended, and some guys that haven’t recovered from injury.

The blessing about that is that we’ve got some guys that normally wouldn’t have had any reps that got quite a few this spring. We found a couple of guys; Brandon Gebhardt has been thrown into the mix. Kyle Wittman at center had gotten a ton of reps for us, and he’s shown that he can win for us. Adonis Powell, we are really happy with, but he can’t be the only one getting the ball out of the backfield.

Alex Stebbins, our fullback, will be getting more carries, and we like what he’s doing with the ball. At receiver, we have two guys, Clarence Clark and Ladai Boose, out with post-surgery stuff, but the guys we have out there, Michael Thomason, Tye Hughes, and Cornell Brown have really stepped up this spring. You can see that we haven’t put it all together offensively, but we’ve shown flashes of good stuff.

And on defense?

Defensively, the big question is in the secondary, we’re replacing three senior studs. We signed some transfers, but Avery Parker has stepped up when he can, (but) since he’s in track right now his participation has been limited. The kid who has really come along for us is Hayden Jenkins. He can play corner and safety, but right now, out of necessity, he is playing safety for us. At defensive line, we’re really good. At linebacker, we’re experienced. Young, but experienced.

Where do you see the team heading into the fall?

The summer will be crucial. We only have three weeks together, then we play Grand View University, a really good team … a national champion two years ago. The schedule is going to be hellacious, where every week we’ll have a challenge. I love it. We’re going to know early where we stand, and I think after the first quarter of the season, they can become really good if they come together. I’m excited about this group, we just have to see if the big question marks come through for us.

Do you pay attention to the spring poll at all? Right now you’re sitting at 16.

The nature of the beast is, with the additions of William Penn and Grand View, the league has just stepped up a whole notch. We played two good teams in non-conference last year, but to win a conference championship, you absolutely have to be a top five team.

And the at-large berths are down, so the chances of getting an at-large will be decreased. I’ve always been a believer that we are going to win a national championship and to do that we’ll just have to beat everybody, no matter where we are ranked in the spring or the preseason.

What do you and your coaching staff work to do over the spring and summer?

We just look for answers. The spring is all about answers, what will our personnel be, and how are we going to go into the season. Nothing is concrete, but your expectation of people is there, and you see who is prepared, and whether they are meeting our expectations. And if they are not, they step to the side and you see who has progressed.

For me and (coach) Jason Thoren, this is our 11th year working together. For coach (Miguel) Regalado, he’s going on year eight, so nothing is really new to us. Right now, we have a wonderful group of kids, very coachable kids, so we feel good right now. But we’ll see what happens over the summer where they really have to stay disciplined, whether they are here or away, and over training camp, which is just three weeks long, and then we’re thrown into the fire.

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