Coach wants to see more leadership, improved blocking

After Portland State’s spring football game had ended, coach Nigel Burton was asked where his team needed to make improvements over the summer.

Burton gave the predictable/politically correct answer:


While there isn’t a football coach in the country who would not want to see his team improve in every aspect over the summer, Portland State has a few areas in particular to address: leadership, receiving, quarterback Kieran McDonagh’s timing with the receivers, offensive line and big plays allowed by the defense.

“The biggest thing we have to do is continue to develop leadership,” Burton said of the Vikings, who must replace mainstays such as graduated linebacker Ian Sluss.

McDonagh, a 6-2, 245-pound sophomore, has stepped up as a leader on offense. He completed 12 of 14 passes for 131 yards and a touchdown in last week’s spring game at Vancouver’s Evergreen High, and looks forward to getting more in sync with a largely new receiving corps.

“We have some youth there,” McDonagh said. “But the timing is going to grow during the summer, especially with those 7-on-7s every day and all the passing that we’re going to do.”

Junior receiver Roston Tatum caught two touchdown passes in the spring game and seems likely to be one of McDonagh’s go-to targets next year.

“We’re the best receiving group Portland State has seen in the past four years, since Burton has been here,” Tatum said. “We’re all coming together. We’re all on one another about getting better, about being places on time, about having integrity.”

Burton said he was pleased with the development of the receivers over the spring, but more work is needed.

“We really looked for our receivers to be playmakers,” he said. “We’ve also got to work on some blocking.”

Up front on offense, Kyle Smith and Cam Keizur are redshirt freshmen who could start, with sophomore Darnell Adams also vying for increased playing time. “They had an excellent spring,” Burton said of his

O-linemen overall.”

The spring game — which pitted the PSU offense against the defense and a modified scoring system — was tied 13-13 with 36 seconds remaining. The offense then drew up a trick play, with backup quarterback Paris Penn throwing a slotback pass to Thomas Carter, who stayed behind the line of scrimmage. Carter launched a 40-yard pass to David Jones for the deciding touchdown.

Whether the offense or the defense came out on top was of little importance. However, the trick play did illustrate the improvement Burton most wants to still see from his defense.

“The biggest thing that you saw throughout camp was eliminating the big play,” he said. “Unfortunately, that’s what bit them in the end and cost them this game.”

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