The top-ranked Bearkats have been hard at work for nearly a week now.

With plenty of time between now and their Sept. 8 season opener, the Kats continue to dive headfirst into their offensive and defensive playbook, trying to install and learn as much as they can before Saturday's scrimmage.

"We're trying to give everybody repetitions right now and getting a chance to evaluate our younger guys, giving them a chance to figure out what we're doing," Bearkats coach Willie Fritz said during Tuesday night's walkthrough. "There's a lot of competition and we're going to keep an open mind and give everybody reps until Saturday morning.

"We've gone a little bit heavier on offense and defense right now. Next week, we're going to do a lot more of the kicking game. I like to find out who's going to be playing for me before I start doing that. We're just working on everything, doing a lot of situations."

On the defensive side of the ball, the Bearkats have picked up where they left off last season with eight returning starters and reserves who saw a wealth of playing time during a 14-0 run to the national championship game.

Even though Sam Houston's defense was one of the best around the Football Championship Subdivision last season, the Bearkats are doing what they can to be even more of a force this fall.

"We have some new blitzes. We've made our playbook a little more complicated. We've emphasized takeaways a lot more to still be the top defense we were last year," senior cornerback Dax Swanson said.

While there isn't necessarily a new playbook to learn, the experienced Sam Houston defense has been kept on its toes so far by defensive coordinator Scott Stoker with new blitzes and working on creating and recovering more turnovers that made the Kats so dangerous last season.

"We haven't gotten complacent," Swanson said. "Our coaches make sure that we don't get comfortable. We're hungry. We want to come out and finish where we left off last year and try to get that national championship this year."

On the offensive side of the ball, the Bearkats continue to make strides with a tweaked scheme that involves more of a passing game to complement their explosive running attack. With new offensive coordinator Doug Ruse and wide receivers coach Matt Barrett, the receivers have been asked to do more in this preseason camp.

"With new coaches on offense, you've got to adjust to the terminology and the playbook. That's what the spring was for. We started off fall camp and retained all of that and polishing stuff we already know and adding in new plays," junior receiver Torrance Williams said. "We're all trying to constantly get better and everything's going smooth right now.

"A lot of it is mental. Physically, we're there and we've gotten better since summer workouts. I guess you could say it's a load, but we're handling it very well."

With the freshmen who have come in and performed impressively so far, there have also been some key transfers from Football Bowl Subdivision schools who have fit in well.

Sam Houston picked up four transfers from Big 12 schools as it looked to bolster the receiving corps and the interior of the defensive line, as well as another receiver from the Big Ten.

The Kats added a pair of former Texas A&M skill players in wide receiver Chance Nelson and running back Will Randolph. On the defensive line, Diamonte Wheeler comes from Oklahoma State and Eric Humphrey from Oklahoma. SHSU also brought in Terrence Robinson, a wide receiver from Michigan.

"Terrence Robinson has looked very good," Fritz said. "We think Chance Nelson is going to get into the fray and play for us. We picked up another receiver with Will Randolph. Defensively, we've added some size with Eric Humphrey from Oklahoma and also Diamonte Wheeler.

"They're fitting in great."

After another couple of days of practices, including two workouts today, the Kats will get their first taste of action in their intrasquad scrimmage, which will be on Saturday at 8:30 a.m. at Bowers Stadium.

"I'm very excited about everything," Fritz added. "We've got to get the guys to that first game on September the eighth. That's going to be a big deal."

Season tickets remain on sale as well. Season ticket holders receive first priority on road tickets at Baylor, Dynamo Stadium and Texas A&M and to all NCAA playoff games.

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For more information contact the SHSU athletic ticket office at (936) 294-1729. The ticket office is located in the Ron Mafrige Field House in the south end zone of Bowers Stadium. Ticket office hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.