MIAMI — Entering the final two weeks of preseason workouts, the Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College Golden Norsemen will have a final audition at 5 p.m., Thursday, with a scrimmage against the Lions of Langston University on Red Robertson Field.
Free and open to the general public, the game-like scrimmage will pit the No. 14 ranked Golden Norsemen against the Lions, who are ranked No. 22 in the NAIA.
Both teams are scheduled to open the regular season on Sept. 2.
The Norsemen entertain New Mexico Military Institute at 6 p.m. in the Southwest Junior College Football Conference opener while Langston hosts Lincoln University of Jefferson City, Missouri.
“We’re at a point where things are going pretty good in our practice sessions,” NEO head coach Clay Patterson said. “We’re still trying to nail down our backups on both the offensive and defensive lines for depth, but that’s where this scrimmage will help us.
“But for the most part, the physicality in practice has been good,” Patterson said. “We’re working hard to establish ourselves as a defensive football team.”
With 116 players available for the scrimmage, Patterson and his staff are more concerned about developing depth at every position that they are about how many points are on the scoreboard.
“As offensive coordinator, we’re going to be pretty basic with our offense against Langston,” Patterson said. “We want to be very simple and show our kids that we can do what we do and be really good at it.
“We’ve got all of our installs in on both sides of the football and right now we are just polishing things up,” Patterson said. “We’ll use the scrimmage to clean things up in terms of personnel groups and what our best options are.”
Sophomore Cordale Grundy (6-1, 170 from Tulsa Washington) will start at quarterback for the Golden Norsemen.
Last season Grundy completed 74 of 134 passes for 869 yards and nine touchdowns with three interceptions. He rushed for 366 yards on 54 carries with four TDs while splitting playing time with Nick Johns.
“Our quarterback position is very competitive,” Patterson said. “Cordale has done a great job of leading this football team and has established himself as kind of a sure-thing starter.”
Challenging for the backup role are sophomore Wyatt Steigerwald (6-1k, 180 from Nowata) and freshman Nick Burns (6-0, 170 from Berryhill).
“Steigerwald established himself as the No. 2 guy last spring while Burns made significant progress during the July session,” Patterson said. “All three of these guys will play during the regular season, so I feel like we’re in pretty good shape at quarterback.”
Another jewel in the Norse offense is the wealth of talent at both tight end and receivers. Entering the scrimmage, the Norsemen have 16 players competing at the two positions combined.
“With three tight ends, this might be the most competitive group we have right now,” Patterson said. “All three guys are either 6-4 or 6-5 and have had Division I offers so far and they go to work every time we’re on the practice field.
“Overall, they really go to work and do things right,” Patterson said. “They are also extremely competitive against each other.
“Then we’ve got 10 to 12 receivers that are battling each other day in and day out,” Patterson said. “We’ll play 10 receivers throughout the year, so it’s a good group and they are all going to work. There’s not a lot of selfishness, they all are just trying to get better.”
While the defensive front is experienced and talented, creating depth will be a main issue going into the scrimmage.
“We’ve got a lot of depth at the cornerback positions with some guys in Darreyl Patterson (5-11, 175 from Lawson) and Kevion McGee (5-10, 180 from Ardmore) coming back,” Patterson said. “We’re four or five deep at corner in Division 1 talent.
“On the back end at both safeties, we’ve got four or five redshirts that are back from last year,” Patterson said. “They all are really, really steady in the things that they do.”
The Golden Norsemen return three full-time starters at linebacker, led by Dillion Hall (6-1, 210 from Edmond Sante Fe), R.J. Goodman (5-11, 225 from Midwest City) and Lamontre (Tre) Huval (6-3, 185 from Beaux Bridge, Louisiana).
“They all got to play a lot of snaps as freshmen last year and all three are good leaders,” Patterson said. “So we feel really good about the middle of our defensive unit.”