SHAWNEE—The 2014 season has had a different start than last year for the Oklahoma Baptist University (OBU) football team. Of course, last year, the Bison were experiencing their first season on the gridiron in 73 years, concluding with a 4-7 record after an 0-5 start.
Prior to facing Panhandle State University on Sept. 20, OBU was undefeated (3-0) and outscored their opponents 168-61 in those first three contests.
“We knew at the end of spring we were a lot stronger and a lot faster than we were a year ago,” said OBU Head Coach Christ Jensen. “Obviously that has shown itself on the football field.”
Two other factors Jensen said have contributed to the Bison’s success are returning all but three seniors from last season and making some additions to the coaching staff, including new offensive coordinator Jeff Brickman.
“The biggest move that was made in the offseason was taking myself out of the role of offensive coordinator and finding somebody who could do a really good job with it,” Jensen said. Brickman replaced Jensen as head coach at Southmoore High School, but the two coaches are working together again at OBU. “(Brickman) has done a phenomenal job with our offense. He has a brilliant mind.”
Leading the Bison offense this year is sophomore quarterback Blake Woodard from Newcastle. Jensen said Woodard has shown a great level of confidence as OBU’s signal caller.
“He has worked really hard,” Jensen said about Woodard. “You’re not going to find anybody in our program who outworks Blake. He’s always the first one to meetings, always the first one to practice, always the first one to the weight room. His teammates respect him.”
The Bison offense appears to have a balanced attack, with great results in both the running and passing games. The receiving duo of Nyko Symonds (Jr., Norman) and Derek Serowski (Jr., Moore) have combined for 31 catches for 442 yards and six touchdowns, which doesn’t surprise Jensen who mentioned how both are NCAA “Division I talents,” as Symonds came to OBU after competing at the University of Oklahoma and Serowski transferred from Colorado State University.
Jensen also praised the rushing attack, as OBU has been “blessed with three running backs who have helped carry the load.” After three games, Dawson Myers (Jr., Cushing), Jordan Barnes (So., Van Alstyne, Texas) and Frankie Edwards (Fr., Mustang) each have recorded four rushing touchdowns.
The success of the offense also has been attributed to the Bison’s offensive line, led by Zack Clark (So., Oklahoma City) who was a first-team all-conference performer last season.
When asked about OBU’s defense, Jensen said he could not pick out one person, but the whole squad has contributed to the early success. NAIA All-American Kimes Gilbert (So., Moore) is a standout leader on the team, but Jensen also is high on his other defensive end Gage Wimer (So., Blanchard), nose guard Ed Morgan (So., Fort Worth, Texas), linebackers Tyler Day (So., Ardmore) and Brynden Pitzer (So., Edmond) and defensive back Nelson Mederios (Jr., Edmond).
OBU will face some major challenges heading into the meat of their schedule. Along with their Sept. 20 matchup against Panhandle State, the Bison will host Langston University on Oct. 11. Both opposing schools easily defeated OBU last season.
As the Bison continue to plan for success this season on the field, Jensen is equally preparing his team for success in other areas. With numerous reports of popular football players in the NFL and at major colleges dealing with domestic failures, Jensen was asked how he is training the young men under his charge to overcome such off-field situations.
“We have a plan for character development,” he said. “Even though we have had success to this point, I think it’s more important for us as coaches to teach character development and try to get players skills that will benefit them in all areas of life. These are core values that can apply as a student, as a son, as a husband, and as a father as they get older.”
Jensen believes all coaches need to take the responsibility to actively train their players for life after football.
“I think it’s important for coaches to be intentional about character development. I think you’re seeing more and more coaches do that,” he said.
As the season continues, OBU plans to add to its successful start, and Jensen continues to prepare his men for success after football as well.