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Courtesy: GoBearkats.com
Excitement highlights first practice
Courtesy: Gene Schallenberg/Huntsville Item
Release: 08/05/2011
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Ask anyone and they'd say that it'd be a pretty tough task to try and contain the Bearkats' excitement Thursday night.

Going strong since 6 in the morning, the 2011 Sam Houston State football team hit the field for the first time since April's spring game and kept up the intensity all the way through the 2 1/2-hour practice.

Heading into the second year of the program under head coach Willie Fritz, the Kats could hardly wait to get started.

"It's definitely good to be back. We're having a lot of fun," Kats sophomore quarterback Brian Bell said. "We had a lot of meetings so far, so it's good to get back out here on the field with the guys."

Throughout the practice, the Bearkats split up into position groups and were tested through a variety of offensive and defensive drills. Later, Sam Houston players also ran plays through a variety of offensive formations, including the wildcat with the speedy sophomore Richard Sincere taking snaps. The skill position players also had their turn during 7-on-7 drills.

"It's so much different this fall because the guys know what we're talking about," Fritz said. "Guys understand schemes and terminology. We're putting a lot of things in and there seems to be a lot of retention from the spring. We've got smart kids, so we're able to use that to our advantage.

"I thought we did pretty good today, but there are some things we need to get sharper and crisper on. It seems the majority of mistakes were made by new guys who haven't been in the system, but they'll get with it and understand what we're doing. Overall, it was a good day. It was nice and cool and the kids seemed to like working out under the lights."

As expected for the first day of practice, not everything was as sharp as hoped.

"It was a long time coming. Everybody's excited, but I think it was a little bit sloppy. We're going to get it together. Knowing the plays from last year, I think it's going to be a good year," said sophomore defensive back Bookie Sneed.

But Sneed also said that it was the first practice after all and that the sloppiness will dissipate with each practice and more repetitions.

"We've got a good program here and the coaches expect a lot out of us," Sneed said. "It was a pretty good day, but we just need to pick it up. We're trying to be (Southland Conference) champs. We just have to do what we know we can do."

Unlike last summer's camp where there were a majority of new faces, this season's Kats aren't having to learn a system. Instead, they're looking to regain the rhythm they had last fall when Sam Houston won six out of its last nine games and had its first winning season in three years.

"There's no doubt we're 10 times where we were last fall camp," Bell said. "Last fall, we had to start from the basics. We're light years ahead of where we were. That will be good for us in the long run.

"Having as many starters coming back is a huge advantage for us. Getting our starters in there and meshing and becoming a unit has been our goal from day one and we we're still working toward that goal."

Before even starting their first practice, the Kats went through conditioning drills in the morning, dubbed Bearkat Run, which consisted of sprints and change of direction and amassed 850 yards. Most of the Bearkats passed or met their goal times, while some fell short.

Sneed ran the Bearkat Run in 2 minutes, 28 seconds, which set the record for the football team.

For the first practice, having as many guys in shape was attributed to the work done during the summer.

"Every day, we conditioned pretty hard. We did a lot of lifting and stretching," Sneed said.

The Kats will practice in helmets and jerseys for a few more days before strapping on shoulder pads and then eventually getting into full gear next week for the first of four scrimmages.

"We've got 28 more practice opportunities. I think in three or four days, we're going to look a lot different than we look tonight. For the first practice, I was happy with it," Fritz added.

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