During the past three seasons, the Lindenwood football Lions have been stuck on the not so flattering number of three wins and it hasn’t set well with the Lions or their faithful.
In just six days, Lindenwood will get their first opportunity to change that trajectory as the Lions will kick off the 2016 season at home.
The Lions are ready to show that they are ready to turn the corner and be a force in the Midwest Intercollegiate Athletic Association.
“To me it’s really not about the returners because when you win three games a couple of years in a row it doesn’t matter what you have returning,” Lindenwood coach Patrick Ross said. “We are a much better football team than we were a year ago and we’ve added guys to the roster that are going to help us win.”
Key returners for the Lions this fall include senior running back Calen Campbell, junior receivers Armani Miller, DeSean Prince, and senior tight end DeVonte Majors (Northern Illinois/Fort Zumwalt West).
“We have about four or five guys in the skills positions that we feel if our quarterbacks can get the ball to them consistently, they could do some special things,” Ross said. “The potential of our offense is really exciting.”
At the quarterback spot, the Lions have redshirt sophomore Mason Bendigo (Eureka) back and Bendigo is poised the make a big contribution to the offense after coming in as a starter in midseason in 2015. Bendigo, in seven starts threw for 1,371 yards and nine touchdowns last season.
“He was voted as the captain as a redshirt sophomore and he’s stepped up his game off the field influencing people the right way as a leader of our football team which is key for the quarterback position,” Ross said. “His development has been really strong and he has spent more time in the classroom to be a better quarterback.”
A.J. Thigpen, a senior transfer from Fort Lewis College will try to push Bendigo for playing time at quarterback.
Senior Derek Gurnea, fifth year senior Alex Zendejas, will anchor the offensive line and senior DeShaun Lawson will switch from defensive tackle to o-line to give the Lions more depth there.
“We moved DeShaun Lawson over from defensive line and he’s been a huge addition over there for us,” Ross said. “We like the group we have there.”
Defensively, the Lions will be led by senior All-American linebacker Connor Harris and standout senior linebacker Clint Koons (Holt).
Sophomore John Harris, junior defensive tackle Derrick Nsubuga, and senior defensive end Justin Taylor are expected be the core of the defensive front. Freshman Tanner Sobotka (Eureka) is also expected to contribute to the d-line rotation.
Senior defensive back Wesley Thomas is back to anchor the Lions secondary.
The Lions will be deeper at virtually every position on the field. That added depth mixed with solid veterans should give them a chance to be better than the ninth place they were voted of out the league’s 12 teams in the MIAA preseason media poll.
“We’ve played a young team these past couple of years so now we have a balance of youth and some upperclassmen to bring in some leadership,” Ross said. “We improved our strength and we have also improved our depth and I think that’s why you’ll see a much improved team this year.”
Lindenwood opens the season at home against the University of Central Oklahoma on Sept. 1 at Harlen Hunter Stadium at 7 p.m.