A little more than two months following the NCAA Division I National Championship Game in Frisco, the Bearkats were back on the field, preparing for the 2013 season.
On Wednesday afternoon, Sam Houston State players went through a variety of drills during the first practice session of the spring.
“We’re excited to be back,” Kats senior linebacker Jesse Beauchamp said. “We’re really motivated this year. We’ve got a lot of new faces. People may be saying that we’re rebuilding, but we’d like to say that we’re reloading. We have some talented people and I’m eager to see how we’re going to come together and how we’re going to look.”
Wednesday’s workout was the first of 14 scheduled practices for the Bearkats before the Orange-White spring game on April 18.
With nearly every offensive starter returning for the upcoming season, Sam Houston State coach Willie Fritz and his staff are looking for the veterans to step up and make strides over the next four weeks.
“Offensively, we’ve got a lot of playmakers back and a lot of guys who’ve touched the ball,” Fritz said. “Wide receiver guys, we want to see Chance Nelson continue to develop. He did a nice job last year and we want to see him play at that consistently high level all the time. We think he can be our go-to guy.
“We’ve got two or three other receivers who can be primetime players for us. We’re looking for a guy to step up at tight end for us. We have a lot of confidence in Shane Young, but we need to find another guy or two.
“Quarterback-wise, we’ve got to find a No. 2 guy. We’ve got to get some of the young guys (Don King III and Jared Johnson) to press Brian (Bell).”
This spring, the Bearkats won’t have to get accustomed to new coaches like last year when offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Doug Ruse, wide receivers coach Matt Barrett and offensive line coach Bart Tatum joined the staff.
The Bearkats also won’t have to learn any new terminology or coaching styles in the next month.
“That’s always great, that second year,” Fritz said. “Those guys did a super job with what we were doing and installing things that they’d done in the past.
“Now, we’re going to expand the no-huddle (offense) and we want to do a good job of changing tempos. Having those guys for a second year is a big deal.”
Defensively, the Bearkats have some holes to fill on the line and at linebacker, but mostly in the secondary, where SHSU lost four starters (three safeties and a cornerback) to graduation.
“This is going to establish our depth chart for the fall. It’s going to start us off after 15 practices with who should be our starters going into the fall,” Fritz said. “Then in the fall, the new guys who come in will have a chance to compete for those jobs.”
With on-field experience and also knowledge of the pressure-heavy defensive scheme, the Bearkats feel they can plug players in and pick up where they left off from last season’s defense that carried them back to the NCAA Division I Football Championship Game for a second consecutive season.
“(Defensive coordinator Scott Stoker) definitely has a good scheme of things,” Beauchamp said. “He knows when to make adjustments. He’s a good coach. He can tell what’s going to happen before it happens from the sidelines. As long as we listen to what he has to say and all of the other defensive coaches, we’re going to be successful.”
Sam Houston will hold a scrimmage on the morning of April 6 with the Orange-White game signifying the end of the spring before summer workouts get under way in August.
“This is really, really a valuable time for us,” Fritz added. “I’ve read some coaches who don’t think spring ball is very important, but I think it’s highly important.”
Renewals for Sam Houston State 2012 season ticket holders are underway now. For more information, go to www.gobearkats.com/tickets .