As the seasons change the Southern Oregon Raider football team can now shift from winter conditioning to tightening the pads for spring football. The Raiders defeated Marion University last season to win the NAIA national championship for the first time in school history. The achievement can be attributed to the dedication and hard work in the off season, “It’s a grind waking up at 5 in the morning, but it’s worth it to pave the way for a national championship” says player Sam Woods.
During spring, football players will fight for their place in the depth chart by proving their fitness as well as worth on the field. Competition levels will be high as there are multiple players going for opening positions. Woods, a new lineman transfer to the program, describes spring ball practices as being, “fast-paced in comparison to others schools.” He added, “It was a hard transition at first, but once you get acclimated to it, it’s not that bad.” Players this year will have to wake up at 5:30 in the morning in order to make morning weight training and meetings with coaches.
A couple notable players have left SOU in pursuit of post-collegiate football careers including the starting quarterback Austin Dodge as well as receivers Dylan Young and Ryan Retzlaff. Dodge and Young are currently training and going through the process of reaching the NFL as Retzlaff is going overseas to play in Germany for the Munich Cowboys. Filling these new openings could prove tough as all of these players were important factors to the team’s offense. Dodge has set records in multiple categories such as touchdown passes (151), passing yards (18,821), completions (1,232), total yards gained (17,150), and total touchdowns responsible for (158). Young was responsible for averaging 116.5 receiving yard per game and leading the country with twenty-one touchdown catches. Retzlaff was a consistent target for Dodge and had twelve touchdowns and 1594 yards gained in his 2014 season. Each of these players have attended pro days from various colleges such as Portland State and Oregon State due to Southern Oregon being unable to host an official pro day.
While the older players are graduating to pursue careers on and off the field, Southern Oregon has no lack of younger athletes and transfers, all eager to step up and fill their shoes.