Edward Waters head football coach Toriano Morgan has been pleased with the development of his team during the spring practice season, culminating in a spring game last Saturday where several players and position groups showed their improvement on the field and the sidelines.
The coach explained the key to the Tigers’ great spring was accountability.
“We sat back at the halfway point of last season and pointed the finger at ourselves for how we started the season,” Morgan said. “Looking back, we were 13 points away from finishing 9-2. It probably was a play here on offense, defense or special teams that made the difference.”
As one of two new member schools of the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (Allen University being the other), Edward Waters had a period of adjustment to their new surroundings, not just in conference but as an NCAA Division II school. Morgan said the improvement was very encouraging.
“The newness of everything wore off, and we took a holistic approach to improvement as a team,” he said. “Our guys saw that they could win in this conference and that’s how we won our last five games of the season.”
EWU overcame an 0-6 start to finish 5-6 overall and 4-4 in what was formerly the SIAC East. With that strong finish serving as a boost of morale, the Tigers came back for winter workouts ready to go.
“I saw great growth with our players,” Morgan said.” They had a different level of accountability, making sure the standard remains the standard. Seeing the maturity and growth in the team in a mental standpoint catapulted us to a successful spring.”
The spring game on the still new Dr. Nathaniel Glover Community Field and Stadium turf showcased three position groups that Morgan feels will be vital to EWU’s 2023 season.
“Our offensive line had the biggest gains,” he said. “We had some young guys that came into the program last year and made the commitment to building their bodies up.”
Morgan added that rising sophomore Johnny Jones and Stetson University transfer Devin Thompson established themselves as a wide receiver tandem to be reckoned with while cornerbacks De’Angelo Sapp and Vashaun Stockman shore up a Tigers secondary that allows them versatility in that group and should spark defensive-wide improvement.
Aside from the newness of joining the SIAC, the Tigers will now contend with a new format in conference play. Gone are the East and West divisions that had been the league’s trademark for years, in their place will be just a one-league standings system in which the top two teams will advance to the SIAC championship game. Morgan feels it won’t have much affect on how his team approaches each game.
“From a coaching standpoint, no matter how the conference is set up, you have to go out and perform every week,” he said. “We control what we control – our goal is to be 1-0 every week. Then when we get to the end of the season, the hard work will show.”
Morgan is very pleased with not just the effort of his players, but the support the city of Jacksonville has lent to the university, making his job a fun one.
“We give the community something to call their own as the only NCAA football program in Jacksonville,” he said. “The community has been amazing with their support, and it makes our guys’ level play that much higher. The spring game was packed out, and if April was like this, we can’t wait to get started in September.”