CEDAR RAPIDS — Zach Andre had to question what led him to Coe College.
After all, he was switching from a triple option quarterback at Antioch (Ill.) High School to the Kohawks’ spread offense under then-offensive coordinator Tyler Staker.
Andre faced a steep learning curve, noting he was sixth on the depth chart.
“I had never taken a snap from the shotgun before I stepped on campus,” Andre said. “It was different my freshman year, for sure.”
The senior signal caller is taking the reins of the offense that was once foreign to him. Andre will lead the Kohawks into Saturday’s season opener at Wisconsin-River Falls, beginning at 1 p.m.
“I’ve been in the program for a few years,” Andre said. “It’s exciting to get a chance to show what I can do.”
Andre has thrown just 13 career passes at Coe, completing 7 of 12 last year as a reserve to second-team all-Iowa Conference QB Gavin Glenn.
“Every year, I’ve felt more comfortable,” Andre said. “This year, in camp so far, it has really clicked.”
Andre made big transitions on the football field in the past. He followed in the footsteps of his father, John, who played at Antioch High School and then one year at Elmhurst (Ill.) College. When his father started Andre playing middle-school football, Andre began as a defensive end.
He was unfazed by the move under center in sixth grade.
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“I was one of the biggest kids on the team,” Andre said. “I played baseball since I could remember. Throwing the ball came natural.”
Staker, in his second season as Coe head coach, said he likes Andre’s strong arm. He said Andre can make the throws required in their offense. Staker tried to address the lack of exposure to game scenarios.
“He has a good understanding of our offense and what we do,” Staker said. “He hasn’t had a ton of game experience, so we try to do a lot of situational football as much as we can to get him that game experience.”
Andre said he has made the biggest strides in football knowledge, crediting Glenn for helping teach him the offense and alleviate the pressure of being his successor.
The 6-foot-3, 219-pounder had to learn the basics to reading coverages. Andre is up to speed and said reading coverages are “second nature” now.
“I’m more mentally prepared,” Andre said. “Knowing what you’re doing is a big part of having that game slow down.”
Andre is lucky to have a strong cast of players around him. Coe returns the nucleus of a dominant defensive front, including all-conference players in Drew Heitland and Robbie Peters.
Offensively, Andre benefits from good targets, including Demetrius Harper, who led the Kohawks with 617 receiving yards last season. Harper was also third on the team in scoring with 54 points from nine touchdown catches.
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A trio of running backs will likely be the focus of the offense that is spearheaded by an experienced and physical offensive line. Andre knows how much the big guys mean to his success.
“They give me all day in practice,” Andre said. “I’m excited to see what they do in games.”
Andre said the Kohawks have the chance to compete in every game, having the potential to convert on key plays like they did in last season’s unbeaten regular season.
No question that Andre will play a big role.
“We can build off some of that success we had last year,” Staker said. “We can build some confidence. We played in some tight, close ballgames where we were able to come out on top and made it to the second round of the NCAA (Division III) playoffs.
“I think that is great experience and confidence to build off, but they fully understand that each year is a brand-new year and they have to go out there and earn it and stay hungry.”
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