Seventy-four days after their appearance in the 2012 NCAA Division I football championship game in Frisco, the Sam Houston State football team takes the field again Wednesday afternoon at Elliott T. Bowers Stadium.

The Bearkats begin 2012 spring practice Wednesday. The team will hold 14 practice sessions during the next five weeks with spring work climaxing Wednesday, April 18 with the annual Orange-White spring game.

Fifty lettermen return from the 2011 Southland Conference championship squad that rolled up a 14-1 record and earned the No. 1 seed in the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision playoffs.

That number includes 19 returning starters (eight offensive, nine defensive and two specialists). Sam Houston returns 24 offensive lettermen, 23 lettermen on defense and three players who lettered on special teams.

"Everyone is excited to get back on the field," Sam Houston head coach Willie Fritz said. "After two seasons of people talking about how young and inexperienced we were, it's great to have such a veteran group returning."

Included among the 50 returning lettermen are 22 seniors and 15 juniors. Ten players on the Bearkats' roster have more than 20 starts in their career.

There are some new faces on the field this spring. Three new offensive coaches have joined Fritz's staff.

Former Western Illinois assistant coach Doug Ruse joins the SHSU staff as offensive coordinator. Bart Tatum, formerly head coach at Missouri Southern, will be the Bearkats' new offensive line coach. Matt Barrett, who coached at Missouri Southern and Catawba College, will coach Sam Houston's wide receivers.

"Doug, Bart and Matt are all three outstanding coaches and a major emphasis during spring ball will be having them become familiar with our personnel and system," Fritz said.

While the Bearkats return a large group of veterans, there are some voids left by graduation. Sam Houston lost three-year starters Travis Watson and Chris Crockett in the offensive line. Both were All-Southland Conference performers who were selected to All-America squads as well. Defensively, the Kats must replace starting linebackers Will Henry and Kash David.

The football team will hold 14 practice sessions on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from March 21 to April 16. Practice session dates are subject to change due to weather.

Spring work will climax on Wednesday April 18 with the annual Orange-White Spring Game at Bowers Stadium.

"Last year, for the first time ever at Sam Houston, we ended spring ball with a mid-week Orange and White game and it was a big success," Fritz said. "The players have worked hard during the conditioning phase of the annual schedule and are looking forward to getting back out on the practice field."

The 2012 SHSU Football Spring Schedule

March 21 (Wednesday)

   Practice #1 - 3:30 p.m.

March 23 (Friday) 

   Practice #2 - 3:30 p.m.

March 24 (Saturday) 

   Practice #3 - 9 a.m.

March 26 (Monday) 

   Practice #4 - 3:30 p.m.

March 28 (Wednesday) 

   Practice #5 - 3:30 p.m.

March 30 (Friday) 

   Practice #6 - 3:30 p.m.

March 31 (Saturday)

   Practice #7 - 9 a.m.

April 2 (Monday) 

   Practice #8 - 3:30 p.m.

April 4 (Wednesday) 

   Practice #9 - 3:30 p.m.

April 6 (Friday) 

   Practice #10 - 9 a.m.

April 9 (Monday) 

   Practice #11 - 3:30 p.m.

April 11 (Wednesday) 

   Practice #12 - 3:30 p.m.

April 13 (Friday) 

   Practice #13  - 3:30 p.m.

April 16 (Monday) 

   Practice #14 - 3:30 p.m.

April 18 (Wednesday) 

   Spring Game - 6 p.m.