MSSU emphasizes 'consistency' as Bradley's second season approaches

Jul. 26—One of the key words often reiterated among the Missouri Southern Lions' representatives at the 2022 MIAA Football Media Day was consistency.

For a program that's seen its share of coaches and coordinators come and go through the years, second-year MSSU head coach Atiba Bradley has kept the majority of his coaching staff intact from 2021.

"In my time here, I've never had the same defensive coordinator for two years in a row," MSSU All-American linebacker Richard Jordan Jr. said on Tuesday. "I think that's a bonus for us."

MSSU made marked improvements under Bradley last fall, finishing 3-8 for its winningest season since 2014.

But for the second straight season, the Lions were picked to finish 10th in the MIAA by both the media and coaches polls that were announced at the start of media day at the Little Theater inside Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City, Mo.

"I thought last year we took some steps in the right direction for our program," Bradley said. "When I took this job about 18 months ago, I knew it was a process. I knew it was something that would require a lot of time and energy. It paid off last year. We took some steps to really start to turn this thing around.

"As we move forward, I think our team has gotten better. I think our team is more disciplined. But like every coach has said up here, it's a tough league. I think every team in this league has gotten better. I think every team in this league has gotten more disciplined. I'm excited to see where we are with the league and mix it up a little bit."

MSSU returns eight starters on offense and defense, including six All-MIAA players. Jordan Jr. was also a second-team All-MIAA pick last year after tallying 112 tackles, while Nick Williams earned third-team honors at kicker and honorable-mention at punter.

Solomona Fetuao, Dylan Bolden, Nick Kruse and Colton Winder all return as All-MIAA honorees.

Standing at 6-foot-4, 194 pounds, Dawson Herl returns at quarterback after putting together one of the better freshman seasons in school history. He threw for 2,260 yards and had 16 touchdowns.

Consistency from an offensive standpoint, Herl said, certainly helps.

"Being able to learn the offense for two years — we've not had that yet," Herl said. "It's nice for us to get some consistency and be able to really lock down on offense and learn it inside and out ... I'm learning the offense better, and I'm working with our receivers to really get that timing down, so we're ready to roll right off the bat."

Added Bradley, "These kids have had multiple coordinators over the past two to three years. For us to provide the same coordinator from fall to spring to summer and now fall again as we come back around, I think that breeds success. I think it will breed confidence that we need to go up against a tough MIAA schedule."

Despite a 3-8 record last year, MSSU played in a number of close games. The Lions' suffered four of their losses by 10 or fewer points.

Bradley said learning how to finish games will be a key going into 2022.

"We're trying to learn how to do the things we need to do to push us over the edge and switch some of those Ls into wins," Bradley said. "Quite honestly, it's a credit to how good our league is top to bottom when you have so many games that are one score or 10 points as the deciding factor."

MSSU opens the season at home against Nebraska-Kearney on Sept. 1 at Fred G. Hughes Stadium.

"It's always good to have a chip on your shoulder," Herl said. "All I've got to say is don't count us out this year."