KANSAS CITY, Mo. — It has been six years since the Missouri Southern Lions ended the season with a wining record. Since that 2013 season the Lions have won just eight games and have mustered just one win over the last two seasons. There will be certain expectations for Southern in 2019 with new head coach Jeff Sims taking over the program.
“I think expectation levels had to change, I think 2019 Missouri Southern football has higher expectations and that doesn’t come from Coach Sims, that comes from the board of governors, from the president and the athletic director,” Sims said. “I think Missouri Southern has made the decision that football is going to be important and it’s an opportunity to show what a great university that we have.”
Sims’ coaching career has seen him bounce all over the Midwest and even down to Florida Atlantic University. The Lions' new head coach first began coaching at Maryville High School in 1995 and last coached Garden City Community College to the National Championship game last season.
The Lions can only improve in 2019 after a dreadful season last year in which the offense averaged just seven points per game, last in the MIAA. The Lions also finished last in passing offense, averaging just 105 yards per game.
Missouri Southern’s coaching staff may look to former Virginia Tech and Garden City quarterback Dwayne Lawson. Lawson played under Sims’ 2016 National Championship team. Lawson is one of nine players who followed Sims to Southern. Sims says that those players should expect the same guy who coached them at Garden City.
“What it takes to be successful at Missouri Southern isn’t what it takes to be successful at Northwest,” Sims said. “Every school has its own niche and I think the ability to coach at different schools and be successful from Florida Atlantic to Garden City I think gives me a unique perspective on how a school can identify what it needs.”
The Lions will have a chance to completely revamp their offense and infuse it with new players. Southern graduated seven starters from its offense last season, only quarterback Sean Kelly and running backs Dalton James and Shemar Coleman return.
James was Missouri Southern’s best weapon in 2018, finishing fifth in the MIAA with 739 rushing yards. Coleman will have to bounce back from a disappointing sophomore season in which he averaged just three yards per carry.
The rebuild will have to crossover to the defensive side of the ball as the Lions lose their top three tacklers from last season. The defense struggled in all categories during the 2018 campaign, finishing last in pass defense, second-to-last in run defense and generating just three sacks all year.
Southern will start the season with two of its first three games at home and its lone road game is a trip to Jefferson City to face Lincoln. The Lions kick off the season with Nebraska-Kearney Sept. 5.