After a year at QB, Sterling’s focus is back on defense

In his first year with the Blue Hawks, Rob Sterling spent most of his time blanketing receivers and daring quarterbacks to throw his way. A first-team all-conference performer in 2014, he tallied 40 tackles, four interceptions and four deflected ...

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Dickinson State’s Rob Sterling carries the ball in for a touchdown against Jamestown Sept. 12, 2015 at the Biesiot Activities Center. Sterling saw time at quarterback and defensive back last year, but he’s returned to his natural DB position this fall.

In his first year with the Blue Hawks, Rob Sterling spent most of his time blanketing receivers and daring quarterbacks to throw his way.
A first-team all-conference performer in 2014, he tallied 40 tackles, four interceptions and four deflected passes.
At cornerback, his instinct was to terrorize the ball thrower.
Then, last season, out of necessity, Sterling stepped in and switched perspectives, taking the majority of Dickinson State’s snaps at quarterback. He did a diligent job replacing the injured Kaler Ray - splitting time with Seth Moerkerke - but his new offensive duties took away from his time and productivity at his natural position.
He still platooned as a corner, but his stats were not reminiscent of his 2014 season: 14 tackles and zero interceptions.
Now, in the early stages of this year’s training camp, a happy and healthy Ray at quarterback has meant a happy and at home Sterling on the other side of the ball.
“I feel like, you know, I’m just an athlete, so wherever they put me, I just try to do my best,” said Sterling, now a senior. “But I’ve been only playing (defensive back) this whole camp, so that’s what I’ve been focusing on. It’s nice to focus on one position, that way I can get my technique back.”
At quarterback, Sterling relied on his feet almost as much as his arm. He acted as a hybrid, totaling 949 yards through the air and 461 on the ground. He accounted for 10 touchdowns in all, seven on the ground.
But now that order is restored, Sterling has less on his plate, and coach Pete Stanton again has the luxury of a shutdown corner.
“He handled (the switch) very well. He was a great teammate last year. His best position was corner, we knew that, but he stepped up,” Stanton said. “But now, since training camp started, we haven’t had to go back and forth with him. He’s very much back in the rhythm; he’s just had a great camp this year.”
Still, noted Stanton, his success as a dual threat last year means the coaching staff won’t rule out a few Sterling cameos on offense over the course of the season.
As for those vacant defensive stats last year?
“Yeah, yeah, I mean hopefully I get some of those stats up, but I’m not really worried about the stats,” Sterling said. “I just want to win. You know, whatever I can do to help the team win.”
Linemen wanted
Stanton likes his defense. He likes his secondary; it’s a unit that returns Jay Liggins and a reincorporated Rob Sterling.
He likes his core of linebackers - especially Drew Johnson and Thomas Sease, both preseason all-conference team members.
The only question mark, he says, is the line.

With the exception of preseason all-conference pick Noey Tauave, there is a lot to be determined.
“Right now, we’re trying to develop more depth on the defensive line,” Stanton said. “Most of the defensive line is fairly untested. We think we have some guys that can come along and help us, but we won’t know until game day. Right now we like where we are at, but we’ve got a long way to go there.”
Strong out the gates
Maybe it’s the success of last season. Maybe it’s the large number of upperclassmen. Maybe it’s the preseason accolades. Maybe it’s because two-a-day grind hasn’t caught up to them yet.
Whatever it is, there is a definitive dose of pep amongst the Blue Hawks this training camp.
In offense vs. defense drills at Thursday’s afternoon practice, there was a real competitive edge. Interceptions were celebrated loudly by the defense. Touchdowns were celebrated accordingly by the offense. In all types of drills, there is no shortage of encouragement amongst the players.
“We’re a little bit ahead of the game from a year ago, we have more veteran guys, more reason for excitement,” Stanton said. “Anytime you have 20 seniors and 22 juniors back from a good year, and you’ve had a good spring, and a good summer, there’s reason for excitement.”

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