NAIA: Perennial Iowa Power Morningside in Quarterfinals Saturday

The Morningside Mustangs advance (photo / Morningside)

Morningside College is located in Sioux City, Iowa and is a consistent power in the small college football ranks of the NAIA. Prior to the start of the current campaign we caught up with Steve Ryan, the Mustangs’ head coach, who heading into the season had a lifetime mark of 132-37 in Sioux City after 14 seasons. 

In his first season at Morningside in 2002, he led his team to a 5-5 mark, snapping a string of 15 straight losing seasons at the college. His very first game was a double-overtime victory over the NCAA DII’s Wayne State College.

This Saturday, the 10-1 Mustangs face Saint Francis (Indiana) in Fort Wayne, Indiana in the quarterfinals of the NAIA’s 2016 playoffs. 

The interview was conducted via email and edited for clarity. – TF

Fieldhouse: How would you describe your offensive scheme?

Ryan: We’re a multiple formation uptempo football team. We try and run as few plays as we can get away with from as many different formations as possible.

Fieldhouse: What is your greatest challenge each August in terms of developing players/units. In my experience, the offensive line is one of the toughest parts of a team to get to work together cohesively, and I was wondering what your experience is there. 

Ryan: I believe that one of the greatest challenges a small college coach has is to figure out is what each of his players can be really good at, fit them into that role, and get them to believe that the most satisfying experience they can have playing college athletics is to be great at their role. 

The building of a team is always the greatest and most rewarding challenge.

Fieldhouse: Describe where you practice, how a preseason summer practice goes, and what is a final, optimal roster size for Morningside. 

Ryan: We practice on our game field every day. We use a one practice a day, then two practices, then back to one practice a day format. We will practice mid-morning and mid-afternoon on field turf. I think it’s hot but our guys handle it really well.

We are a fast-paced offense so we practice fast. Most practices are two hours or less. We practice exceptionally well and we get a lot accomplished in those two hours. 

Our optimal size would be between 110-115 players. 

Fieldhouse: What is a characteristic of a Morningside team under your direction that you try to cultivate?

Ryan: We really try and cultivate a team-first mentality on our football team. We do a lot of activities and spend a lot of time working on “team.” I believe the consistency of success that we’ve been able to enjoy over a long period of time is due to the way our players practice together, help coach each other, and work as a unit in practice. 

Fieldhouse: Describe a little of your playing experience.

Ryan: I played football, basketball, and ran track in high school like so many men my age who grew up in small towns in the Midwest. I then played linebacker for four years at Wheaton College (Illinois) and played overseas in Europe for a couple years after graduating from college.

Quarterback Trent Solsma (photo / Morningside)