OVC Media Day: Redhawks look to be top contender in conference

OVC Media Day: Redhawks look to be top contender in conference

(KFVS) - Entering his second year as Southeast Missouri State's head football coach, Tom Matukewicz wants his team focused on the trip rather than the destination.

"Winning an OVC championship is really what it's all about," Matukewicz said. "We try to not have any goals that have to do with results, we try to make our goals about the process."

The Redhawks enter the year expected to finish sixth in the conference by the coaches and sports information directors and fifth by media members.

"Any time you start talking about those kinds of things it's going to create peaks and then it's going to create valleys," Matukewicz said. "We try not to mess around with that too much."

The six spot marks the highest preseason ranking for Southeast since 2011 when they were predicted to finish fourth. That's hard to ignore.

"Just the general feeling of our program is on the rise and what people think, it does matter, so I'm glad they feel like we're moving forward," Coach Matukewicz said.

It will be a season of change for the Redhawks, on the field but around it. Southeast has a new president, a first in 16 years, and they are expected to announce a new athletic director in the coming months.

"There's just a lot of people out there that want to see what happens with all this change. I think it's great," Matukewicz said. "We just have to focus on us and go about our day."

SEMO will see the return of senior wide receiver Paul McRoberts, a preseason All-American selection. McRoberts is coming off a lisfranc fracture in his right foot that forced him to miss five games last season.

"I feel great. It hasn't been bothering me at all," McRoberts said. "I feel like I'm back to my full potential. I'm just ready to play."

The Redhawks should be ready for his return. In seven games last season he caught 44 passes for 711 yards. That led him to nine touchdowns, including the game winner against then third ranked Southeastern Louisiana.

Who will be throwing to McRoberts and the other receivers is still a bit unknown. Transfer Tay Bender looks to be the front runner at the quarterback position as he is taking majority of the reps with the first string according to Matukewicz. Bender comes to the Redhawks from Iowa Wester Community College where he threw for over 1,900 yards and 25 touchdowns in two seasons.

The other option would be fellow transfer Alex Niznak. He joined SEMO from Central Michigan where he played in four games last season.

"Each quarterback will get time with the first string offensive line," Matukewicz said. "You know I feel good about both. They are tremendous athletes and great people. Now we just have to figure this football part out."

For Matukewicz, the quarterback selection is a process, like his approach to the rest of the season.

"You focus on winning you don't win," Matukewicz said. "You have to focus on how to win."

The Redhawks open up conference play with Murray State University on October 3.

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