The opening of preseason camp for all eight of the teams involved in the 2013 Southland Conference football race is a week away.
Each of the head coaches expressed their views on the upcoming season at the Southland’s annual media day last week in Louisiana.
Here is a sampling of the Southland head coaches’ remarks:
SAM HOUSTON STATE – Willie Fritz
“Every team you coach comes into the season with areas where you need to find some new guys. This year, for us, it’s the offensive line and the defensive secondary. But we have a lot of young men back with plenty of experience and look for them to step up for us.
“We have 18 players who have started one game or more for us on the roster this year. In seven games last season, we were able to sit our starters and play their backups for most of the third and fourth quarter.
“The biggest plus we have for us this year is the big play potential we have in senior players like Timothy Flanders, Brian Bell, Richard Sincere and others. These guys know what it takes to win a conference title and get to the national championship game.
“Defensively, we’re really excited about our depth in the defensive line and our linebackers. With Bookie Sneed back in the secondary we’ve got great leadership and some players taking over starting roles who have had experience as backups in the past.”
“There’s not an easy team in this conference and we’re going to have to be ready to play our best each week. But each of our years here, the players have done a great job of taking things one week at a time and staying focused.”
CENTRAL ARKANSAS - Clint Conque
“Most of our conference games are very close, very physical, very competitive. It’s awesome to be recognized as one of the top teams in the conference, and there’s also been some national recognition in the polls, some Top 10, Top 12 selections. With that said, we have to go out and do it. Our players are hungry. One of the big things I’ve talked about all through the spring and summer is, we’re not entitled to anything. What was last year is last year, the year before is the year before. What we do this year is what matters. And that journey starts next week.
“In the Southland, its difficult to go 6-1 in this league, and we’re very proud of that. But we’re all 0-0 now. We have four quality home games and three very challenging road games in conference play this year. We’re going to have to play well in the non-conference part of our schedule, stay healthy and get some of our inexperienced players some game time. And when we open up after the open date on Oct. 5 with McNeeseState, we’re going to have to be hitting on all cylinders because for seven straight weeks, it’s going to be a grind.”
LAMAR - Ray Woodard
“I’m very excited heading into this season. Our senior class, the combination of the two classes – the redshirt seniors and the seniors – I think this is the first year in my mind that we’re full strength with five recruiting classes. We have experience and some depth coming back and we should be able to compete every week.”
“I think a combination of the returning players we have and our entire staff is back in tact should give us a lot of continuity. We’re coming off our best spring. We should be able to come in further ahead than we ever have and we should be further ahead coming out of camp.”
McNEESE STATE – Matt Viator
“Going into last season we knew that Cody Stroud was our guy. He did some great things last season, which in turn allowed us to hand out more responsibilities in terms of changing plays and no huddle things. We felt like we could expand his role not only to help the team but to challenge him as well.”
“We are glad to have Marcus back. He has stayed healthy and he is a really good player and a great kid. Hopefully, we can keep him healthy throughout the season so that way he can be productive for us.”
“It’s been a different year concerning changes in our program. We had several coaching changes late in the year, but I look at it as a challenge. I really do like the guys that we have brought in and I think they will do a great job. Losing Mike Collins to Sam Houston was tough.”
NICHOLLS – Charlie Stubbs
“When I first took over the program we had 56 players available and now we built the program up and it has taken time. Now we’ll have 95 reporting on August 1 and then add 15 additional more players when school starts to bump that number up to 110 and that’s the most that we keep because of locker room space.
“Then we have 20 more that we work in throughout the season, but we do have a lot of guys back with playing experience and retaining those athletes is extremely important for the success of the program. You have to have some continuity, and having guys with experience is very valuable, especially when you add the incoming newcomers that can help fill any voids at other positions that might be there when you start the season.”
NORTHWESTERN STATE – Jay Thomas
“It’s still a wide open competition for us at quarterback. Daniel Hazelwood came out of the spring as the guy. We’ve got some new guys coming in, and we’re looking forward to having them.
“We’ve got a number of hybrid-type guys in defensive line who can play with their hand in the grass and we we’re able to use them in the spring in a two-point stance. We worked on dropping in to coverage and a three-point stance. When we do that it gives us a little more versatility.
“I stay in there pretty close with the offense. I allow everyone to do their jobs. I understand what we’re trying to get done. Robby (Brown) is really, really a sharp guy. We have a lot ahead of us, and they did a really good job in the spring.”
SOUTHEASTERN LOUISIANA – Ron Roberts
“I’m real excited to see what’s going to happen this year. Our players have done a great job in taking the momentum of last year and they ran with it. They did a great job in the weight room under our strength coach (Brandon Howard). Our coaches did a great job in recruiting and identifying the talent that we needed. Across the board, we’re a bigger and faster football team. We’re stronger at every position. It’s just time for us to get on the field and find out how mature we’re going to be and handle our business and get better as a football team.”
“We’re still changing the process, we’re not where we want to be by any means. We can’t just sit back there and say ‘we’ve arrived.’ We’ve got a long way to go. We’re just now in a position to where we can compete in this conference. There are some great teams and great coaches in this conference. I think we’ve accumulated the talent, but we’re still a long way from getting it done.”
STEPHEN F. AUSTIN – J. C. Harper
“It is hard to tell how the team’s progress is going through the summer, because we have very little contact with the players. Our strength and conditioning coach has been very happy with the commitment of the guys in the weight room. This year we were fortunate to have a number of guys committed to both semesters of summer school and getting stronger and that is positive. We also had a very good spring. I was very happy with the energy I saw from the guys on the field. We are very excited to get the season started.”
“Quarterback Brady Attaway comes into the season with a lot of experience. That is something that can’t be underestimated. I think Brady will have a tremendous senior year. He really has the desire to be successful, and wants to end his senior season with a bang. It is our job as coaches to put him in a place to be successful, because he has done everything we have asked him to. If Brady puts it all together then we will all be very happy.”
Sam Houston State will play seven home games at Elliott T. Bowers Stadium this year. Reserved bench season tickets are on sale now online at www.gobearkats.com or at the SHSU athletic ticket office.
The ticket office is located in the Ron Mafrige Field House at Bowers Stadium. Office hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. The ticket office telephone is (936) 294-1729.