Lincoln, NE - Last year Ryan Gottula, head coach for Lincoln Southeast, had one of the best seasons a first year head coach could have. His team won the state championship, and the Lincoln Journal Star named him coach of the year.
Even with all his success, he believes that it is his team, and his supporting staff of coaches who earned those awards.
“Certainly I understand that there were a lot of people that went into our success from last year,” said Gottula. “Great football player, great coaching staff around me, so for me it’s more of an award of what we were able to accomplish as a group last year.”
Their team was definitely filled with great players, ones including defensive end Trey Foster and tight end/defensive end Sam Cotton, who will now be attending the University of Nebraska.
“Sam and Trey, last year, were outstanding leaders for us,” explained the head coach. “So not only do you have to replace their production on the field, both offense and defense, but also their leadership.”
Last year Lincoln Southeast had ten seniors that had a lot of playing time on the defensive side of the ball, so that could be a big weakness for this team, but Gottula believes his team will be up to the challenge.
“I think we have some very good players in our program, so I don’t think that’s a weakness,” explained Gottula. “But these new guys will need to step in right away and play at a high level.”
Players’ playing at a high level is something that Gottula has grown accustomed to seeing. With Cotton, Foster, and David Sutton being great players in the past, and even players nowadays like junior offensive lineman D.J. Foster, and senior quarterback Najee Jackson.
“D.J. has good footwork for a guy his isze on the offensive line,” said the coach. “He has worked really hard this offseason at improving his technique and playing the position. Any time you have a kid that age with that size and ability, he is going to be a pretty special player.
“Najee had a tremendous season last year,” said Gottula. “Obviously he has an outstanding arm, so he can make all the throws he has to make, and he was a great leader for us, even as a junior.”
In his first year leading the Knights, Jackson combined for over 3,000 yard on the ground and through the air. Foster already holds an offer from Nebraska, the only in-state 2014 prospect that can claim the honor.
Gottula believes if his players step up to replace the ones that left, his tem will have a great chance to make it back to the state championship.
- Josh Harvey -