Ninety student-athletes will report Thursday for preseason camp at Elliott T. Bowers Stadium as the defending Southland Conference champion Sam Houston State football team officially begins the campaign to continue the success they achieved last year.

The Bearkats have a tough act to follow in 2012 after rolling up 14 consecutive victories to earn the program's first No. 1 Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) ranking and a berth in the NCAA Division I national championship game.

The Kats were the only FCS team to go 11-0 through the regular season, earning the team the No. 1 seed in the Division I playoffs.

Ninteen starters return from that squad along with 31 other lettermen. Already, the Bearkats have been tabbed as the preseason favorites in the annual Southland Conference head coaches poll.

Sam Houston won the Southland Conference championship with a perfect 7-0 mark, out-scoring league opponents 308-67. The Bearkats led the Southland offensively in rushing, scoring and pass efficiency and defensively in rushing, total defense, scoring, pass efficiency and turnover margin.

The first practice will take place on Friday night at 7:15 p.m. Preseason camp will continue through Tuesday, August 28. Classes at Sam Houston begin Wednesday August 29. The Bearkats open the 2012 season Saturday, Sept. 8, when they play host to Incarnate Word in a 6 p.m. contest.

"We had a great season last year. But that season is over," SHSU head coach Willie Fritz said. "Every year is a new season. We have a lot of great players coming back but we lost 12 quality seniors who provided outstanding leadership for us. I think we have seniors this year who are capable of filling those roles and we're looking forward to the opportunity."

Last year, Sam Houston ranked No. 1 nationally in rushing defense, No. 2 in scoring defense and turnover margin, No. 4 in scoring offense and pass efficiency defense and No. 6 in rushing offense.

The only blemish on the Kats' record was a 17-6 loss to North Dakota State in the NCAA Division I Championship Game in Frisco in hard-fought defensive battle.

"We face a lot of challenges this year. Everyone in the league is returning a lot of talented players and the league is going to be tough top to bottom. We have a tough schedule with only three home games at Bower Stadium. Nine of our 14 victories last year came at home. We also play to big FBS bowl teams in Texas A&M and Baylor. We've got to become a better football team if we're to succeed again this year."

2012 Bearkat Football Preseason Camp Practice Schedule
(Subject to change)

Thursday, Aug. 9 - Players report
Friday, Aug. 10 - 7:15 p.m. Practice #1 (Helmets)
Saturday, Aug. 11 - 9 a.m. Little Kats Camp
                             7:15 p.m. Practice #2 (Helmets)
Sunday, Aug. 12 - 8:45 a.m. - Practice #3 (Uppers)
Monday, Aug. 13 - 8 a.m. - Practice #4 (Uppers)
Tuesday, Aug. 14 - 8 a.m. - Practice #5 (Uppers)
Wednesday, Aug. 15 - 8 a.m. - Practice #6 (Uppers)
                                 7:45 p.m. - Practice #7 (Uppers)
Thursday, Aug. 16 - 8:30 a.m. - Practice #8 (Uppers)
Friday, Aug. 17 - 8 a.m. - Practice #9 (Uppers)
                         1:30 p.m. - Practice #10 (Helmets)
Saturday, Aug. 18 - 8:30 a.m. - Practice #11 (Scrimmage)
Sunday, Aug. 19 - 8 a.m. - Practice #12 (Uppers)
                           7:45 p.m. - Practice #13 (Helmets)
Monday, Aug. 20 - 8:30 a.m. - Practice #14 (Uppers)
Tuesday, Aug. 21 - 8 a.m. - Practice #15 (Uppers)
                            7:45 p.m. - Practice #16 (Uppers)
Wednesday, Aug. 22 - 8:30 a.m. - Practice #17 (Uppers)
Thursday, Aug. 23 - 8 a.m. - Practice #18 (Uppers)
Friday, Aug. 24 - 8:45 a.m. - Practice #19 (Uppers)
Monday, Aug. 27 - 7 p.m. - Practice #20 (Scrimmage)
Tuesday, Aug. 28 - 3:15 p.m. - Practice #21 (Uppers)
Wednesday, Aug. 29 - First day of class