Football head coach talks team and recruitment struggles

Football head coach talks team and recruitment struggles

Christopher Edwards, Sports Reporter

This year, Winona State University head football coach Tom Sawyer said he has had a more difficult off-season than he is used to having.

This sudden change came after the COVID-19 pandemic hit the U.S. this past March.

According to Sawyer, the pandemic hit Winona particularly hard especially for the size of the county.

Thousands of students from all over the world with different levels of exposure are making their way back to the Winona area for the fall 2020 semester.

With that being said, over the last several months the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference (NSIC) was going back and forth to make a decision on whether to have fall sports or not.

After a lot of thought, the NSIC has finally made a decision; no fall sports in the year of 2020.

Erin Lind, NSIC commissioner, stated in a press release, “Our student-athletes deserve a competitive experience that provides a greater degree of safety and certainty than current conditions would allow.”

According to Lind, this was all in the interest of the athletes as well as students overall.

With numbers going down at a significant rate, cancelling fall sports has seemed to be the right decision to most NSIC members.

Coach Sawyer says his offseason has looked different from past off-seasons in various ways.

The first way was the fact that he was on vacation when COVID first hit, after that he was not able to communicate with players like he wished he was able to.

He also said that he did not have much new information for current players about next steps of the season until recently.

Since then, he has been able to adapt by staying in-touch with players through Zoom or call/text which still is not ideal but has still had some success, Sawyer said.

Coming off an 8-4 record in their 2019 campaign season, Sawyer said the Warrior football team was expecting to bring a lot of veteran players and starters, including the entire offensive line and seven players for defense.

However, due to COVID, the team has had multiple players opt-out and one player transfer.

Most of the opt-outs were because players either got jobs or had safety concerns regarding COVID.

This upcoming spring season is looking more and more doubtful as the only current option is for “a four to five game schedule in the spring in a scrimmage-like atmosphere,” Sawyer said.

This will be another difficult decision for players to make as they still could risk catching COVID or getting an injury during this possibly shortened season.

Coach Sawyer said his recruitment also looked a lot different.

He said he has had to use Zoom  communication as a way to recruit prior to Sept. 1.

Coaches also had to go to Iowa to scout high school players because early on, Minnesota and Wisconsin high schools delayed the start of their football season.

Winona State has been able to get a commitment from Griffin Wiegel, a class of 2021 defensive back from Kimberly, WI.

The high school senior is 5-feet-11-inches and weighs 170 pounds and was an all-conference player last year.

Wiegal is also known for his speed as he also runs track and ran a 4.56 in the 40-yard dash.