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March 18, 2014

SHSU FOOTBALL — Bearkats get first look at new practice format, play terminology

HUNTSVILLE — They haven’t made it to the second day of spring practice yet and the Bearkats are already glad to be back on the football field.

The opening practice Monday was mostly designed for the Kats to get introduced to how they will practice from now until the season kicks off at Eastern Washington on Aug. 23.

Just at first glance, soon-to-be senior running back Keshawn Hill says the team has a lot of work to do in order to be where they want to be when it’s time to get things started against the Eagles, who are expected to be one of the top-ranked Football Championship Subdivision teams in the country before the season begins.

“We made a couple of mistakes out there, but they are mistakes that we can control like not dropping the ball and making our routes more crisp,” Hill said. “We need to get our heads in the playbook a little bit more to eliminate the mistakes.”

First-year head coach K.C. Keeler said there will be some challenges in trying to establish the new offensive system, but that it can be done if the players embrace the mental aspect of the game.

“I just want to get cleaner,” Keeler said. “There’s an old term I’ve told the kids. If we play clean, we win. I think we’ll have enough talent here that if we play clean we’ll win a lot of football games. So that’s going to be the challenge, seeing if we can play clean. Everyone wants to do it but it’s easier said than done. That’s where coaching comes in, you get these guys to understand what you want them to do.

“I think the art of coaching is seeing what your talent level is and trying to figure out how best to put them in the right situations. I know this, there’s enough talent here for us to be successful.”

The Kats have cut an hour off practice time under Keeler, only going for two hours at a time this spring. The change provides for an up-tempo pace. Sam Houston flew through drills and tutorial sessions Monday.

“Today was a good day,” defensive back Desmond Fite said. “Everybody’s just trying to do whatever Keeler asks us to do as a team. We still have some progress to make to get things back to where they need to be. Everybody needs to get in shape because it’s going to be high-tempo, fast pace. We don’t do much running, we just go fast all of the time. That’s how we get in shape.”

Until the season begins, the Bearkats are measuring themselves against Eastern Washington, a familiar foe at Sam Houston for both old and new Bearkats.

Sam Houston has defeated Eastern Washington to advance to the FCS title game in the past two seasons, but the Eagles are expected to be one of the most formidable opponents in 2014.

The Kats and Eagles begin the college football season earlier than any Division I program as part of ESPN’s new “FCS Kickoff.”

Keeler is familiar with the Eagles program after losing to Eastern Washington in the 2010 championship game as head coach of Delaware.

“I’ve played those guys once before and lost to them in the national championship game,” Keeler said. “I know they’re very good. One of the first guys to call me when I left Delaware was (Eastern Washington head coach) Beau Baldwin. So I have great respect for what he’s done with that program and we have a great opportunity to play at their place.”

 

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