When it came to making big plays last season, Collin Corcoran was always in on the action for NCAA Division II Winona (Minnesota) State’s football team.
“Collin is a very instinctive football player,” said David Braun, Winona’s co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach. “From Day One, we knew he had the opportunity to be a special football player.”
Corcoran, a Prairie Ridge grad who will be a junior this season, led the Warriors (6-5) with nine sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss. His 67 tackles from a starting inside linebacker position ranked third on the team.
Thanks to his breakout season, Corcoran has earned plenty of preseason recognition.
The 6-foot-4, 220-pound Corcoran was named a first-team preseason D-II All-American by USA College Football and a second teamer by the Lindy’s college football preview publication. He also has been chosen to the Beyond Sport Network’s preseason All-Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference team.
“It’s an honor to represent my team and my teammates and coaches, but it won’t help us win any football games this season,” Corcoran said.
Braun said that attitude is what makes Corcoran and his fellow linebackers a key part of Winona’s success.
“The first thing I told him was how proud of him I was,” Braun said of the preseason honors. “We also talked about realizing the opportunity that was in front of us and the work that was still ahead.”
Braun credited Corcoran’s maturity in accepting the honors but not being overly joyful about them.
The same can be said for Corcoran’s sack total last season.
“Those are because of the work the D-line does,” said Corcoran, who said a large number of his sacks came when he was unblocked.
Braun said Corcoran’s knowledge of the defensive scheme allowed him to make big plays on delayed blitzes, a key piece of Winona’s “extensive pressure package.”
Corcoran had a career-high 16 tackles in the team’s season finale against Concordia-St. Paul and is focused on improving his skills this offseason.
“I’ve really focused on getting off of blocks and using my hands more to my advantage,” said Corcoran, who recently has worked with a boxing trainer in Highland Park. “We did a lot of drills working on hand quickness.”
The Warriors are hoping for a quick start to the season when they open the 2014 campaign Sept. 4 at Northern State in Aberdeen, South Dakota.
A year ago, the Warriors started the season 0-2 before winning five in a row. They ended the season, however, by losing three of their final four games.
“The biggest thing we’re focused on is consistency,” Corcoran said of the Warriors, who lost only one game by more than 10 points. “We had several games where we didn’t make a play here or there in the fourth quarter.”
Corcoran and his teammates will be showcased on national TV this season as part of CBS Sports Network’s Thursday night D-II football schedule. The Warriors’ Oct. 9 home game against Minnesota State, Mankato will air live on the cable network.
Winona had seven players mentioned on the USA College Football teams, including fellow linebackers Ryan Gerts (63 tackles) and Morgan Weaver (75), who earned second-team recognition.
“We have a lot of experience back,” Corcoran said. “It’s a good core group of guys.”
• Barry Bottino writes a weekly column and a blog about local college athletes for the Northwest Herald. Write to him at BarryOnCampus@hotmail.com, check out his On Campus blog at McHenryCountySports.com and follow him on Twitter @BarryOnCampus.