The AU football team has taken on a difficult task: leaving their dark days in the past and becoming a winning program.
Since head coach Steve Rock was hired prior to the 2018 season, he has preached “The Resurgence,” a motto focused on moving on from the old perceptions of the team and reviving a lost program. He knows that it won’t happen all at once and it won’t always be pretty.
The first step to building a strong college football team is the recruiting process. AU has had a problem in the past with retaining players after their freshman year. Rock and his staff had their first full year of recruiting this year and the results are starting to show.
“We were able to recruit these freshmen all the way from our camps last year and throughout the off-season,” said Rock. “That gives us an entire year with them and they all knew who we were as a program and a team. Everyone gets what we are trying to do.
The returning guys have been here and know our mission, while the freshmen knew coming in because we were able to recruit them.”
The Ravens are still a young team, with more than half of their roster comprised of freshmen. Rock says the upperclassmen have been instrumental in establishing the new culture.
“This year the returning guys have a real understanding of what we were looking for from a culture standpoint,” said Rock. “They’ve been with us now for a season and an off-season, so that allows us to establish expectations and standards.”
Another issue the program has had in the past is recruiting players who don’t necessarily meet the standards that AU has as an institution. Rock has addressed this issue by seeing his players as men before looking at them as football players.
“The biggest thing I’m looking for when recruiting our guys is a good human being,” added Rock. “We would obviously prefer these guys to be strong in their faith, but that’s the beautiful part about AU. We accept everyone no matter where they are in their faith journey. Obviously, we look for guys who are gifted athletes as well, but we really care about who they are as men.”
The team is 3-3 going into their Homecoming matchup against Rose-Hulman. The offense has shown its potential in several games this year, looking like a dynamic group led by freshman quarterback Tyson Harley and sophomore wide receiver Zac Tallent. The two-headed rushing attack by sophomore Reggie Lipscomb and senior Johnell Wortham has added to the group’s versatility as well.
“The chemistry has become better as the season has gone on,” said Tallent. “We hang out off of the field a lot and do stuff around campus together as a team. The culture is much better this year, too. The team comes out to practice every day with a great work ethic, expecting to win every game.”
It hasn’t been a perfect season for the Ravens. They showed resilience in their back-to-back comeback wins to start the year. They also flashed their offensive firepower in a 56-29 win over Defiance. At other times, they have looked like a program that isn’t quite where they want to be, struggling against HCAC powerhouses Mount St. Joseph and Hanover.
“The general concept we have for this team is bringing Anderson football back to being great,” said Rock. “We’ve had great team wins and we’ve had some games where we have made some mental mistakes.”
The Ravens are 3-0 at home on the year, and will put that perfect record to the test Saturday against a tough Rose-Hulman team. Last year, the Ravens fell to the Fightin’ Engineers 44-6. They have not won their Homecoming game since 2014.