When preseason football camp started at Sam Houston the first week of August, one of the biggest offensive concerns for head coach Willie Fritz and his staff was running back.

Not one player who had touched a ball as a running back last season returned. In fact, none of the running backs in preseason camp had participated in spring ball in April.

Two games into the 2010 season, however, running back appears to be one of the young squad's strengths.

"We've got five guys at running back right now who are really doing a good job for us," Fritz said. "They're young and untested, but they have some talent and are working hard. We believe they all are capable of performing at the NCAA Division I level."

The young quintet of ball carriers consists of four freshmen and one sophomore. Tim Flanders, a 5-9 208-pound freshman transfer from Kansas State, heads the stable of new backs. Flanders carried 17 times for 153 yards in Sam Houston's loss at Western Illinois. He scored on touchdown runs of 33 and 31 yards.

"Tim really played well at Western Illinois. He was a bright spot for us," Fritz said. "He has good speed."

Flanders was Oklahoma's Big All-City "offensive player-of-the-year" for Midwest City High School in 2008, rushing for 2,134 yards and 34 touchdowns as a senior and more than 5,000 yards and 65 tallies during his high school career.

"Give the offensive line lots of credit. They did a great job opening up the holes," Flanders said. "We had watched a lot of film on Western Illinois and saw their defense liked to over pursue. I tried to be patient and wait for my opportunity to cut back. Even though we lost, we did make some plays."

Cameron Brown, a 6-0 225-pound true freshman from LBJ High School in Austin, has shown the ability to pick up big yards up the middle.

"Cameron runs with power," Fritz said. "He can get the tough yards."

Brown rushed for 1,336 yards as a senior in high school as he led his team to a district title and the state playoffs.

Louisiana Tech transfer D. J. Morrow, a 5-10 205-pound sophomore, is the only non-freshman at the running back position. Morrow played in seven games last year for the Bulldogs. He led Palestine Westwood to the district title in 2007, rushing for 2,550 yards as a junior and senior.

"D. J. can be a quality back for us," Fritz said. "He was impressive in preseason camp and will get lots of carries for us this year."

Spring product Ridgeway Frank, a 5-9 160-pound true freshman, started Sam Houston's first game at Baylor but missed the Western Illinois contest with a pull hamstring.

"Ridgeway has good speed and has the ability to break into the open," Fritz said. "We hope to get him back on the field soon."

Frank was an all-state running back and was named district "offensive player-of-the-year" in 2009. He was a regional qualifier in track and field as a sprinter.

Ryan Wilson, a 5-10 185-pound true freshman from Creekview High School in Carrollton, rounds out the running back corps for the Bearkats. Wilson was a two-time all-district performer.

"Obviously, one of the best things about this group is that four are freshmen and the fifth is a sophomore," Fritz said. "They're young and eager and will continue to develop."

Sam Houston plays its first home game of the 2010 season Saturday when the Bearkats host Gardner-Webb of the NCAA Division I FCS Big South Conference.

"It's definitely good to get home. The kids are looking forward to having the chance to play before a big crowd at Bowers Stadium," Fritz said.

Bearkat Family Weekend will highlight the contest next Saturday with the "Hillcrest Ford Heroes" salute to Walker County area veterans and police and fire department emergency service personnel, an appearance by the Houston Texans Cheerleaders, military flyovers by U.S. Army helicopters, the SHSU band's "March from the Mall" to kickoff tailgate and a postgame fireworks show.

Tickets are on sale online at www.gobearkats.com/tickets or at the Sam Houston athletic ticket office. The ticket office is located in the Ron Mafrige Field House at Bowers Stadium. Hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. The ticket office telephone is (936) 294-1729.