In four years at Sam Houston State Willie Fritz won 40 games, went to the playoffs three times, and two FCS title games. Fritz took the head job at newly minted FBS school Georgia Southern. Welcome K.C. Keeler to Huntsvegas ya'll! K.C., lately of Delaware inherits a program that can win a lot more games in the coming years, but also a team that lost some key cogs. Let's hit the books and talk summer school at Sam.
Questions that need answering...
Have you met your coach?
Keeler comes to Sam after a stint in Delaware that saw him win an FCS title then get drummed out three years and two subpar seasons later. Prior to Delaware Keeler led Rowan to 5 title game appearances.
Keeler may be uniquely suited to follow Fritz at Sam Houston. Keeler brought Delaware into the 20th century by moving the Blue Hens from a Wing-T office to a no-huddle spread attack. He'll attempt to turn the run first Sam Houston attack into a pass first air raid unit.
With him, Keeler has brought a group of air raid centric coaches including OC Phil Longo whose teams at Slipper Rock averaged 40 points and over 530 yards a game. Mike Collins is still around as a defensive coordinator, he's joined by Brad Sherrod from Elon in heading up the defense.
Anytime a new staff is introduced it's critical that players "buy-in." This phenomena can be overstated but particularly in the offseason players needs to indoctrinate into the new system. Teams that don't make a smooth transition between coaching staffs don't necessarily fail to buy in, some just aren't that good for whatever reason. There are tools at Sam Houston, but whatever failings may occur it Sam, there's just as good a chance that they're caused by personnel issues rather than coaching differences.
How do you replace the dynamic duo?
Brian Bell and Tim Flanders became the poster children for the Bearkat Program. Bell is the career leader in just about everything a quarterback can lead a team in. Flanders leaves as the leading rusher in Southland history and a top 10 rusher in FCS history. Two trascedent player who left the program at the same time.
Don King III got plenty of work in the spring in part because of the incredible injury bug that has hit the Bearkats. The sophomore from Waxahachie completed 14 of 21 for 2 touchdowns in the spring game.
He'll have to beat out last year's second stringer Jared Johnson who was injured for the spring. Along with everyone else. Johnson had two starts in 2013, though his sub 30% completion numbers didn't exactly set the world on fire. John Roderique is also in the mix and brings perhaps the best mixture of passing ability and athleticism.
There are rumblings that true freshman Cole Martin from Cy Ranch could swoop in and take the job. He certainly appears to have every tool necessary, still Saturdays are different than Fridays.
Whoever it is taking snaps they'll be asked to use a different set of skills that under the previous regime. Longo likes to go fast. They'll also have four returning starters on the offensive line which always helps.
As for Flanders' replacement, the Kats may do it by committee. Keshawn Hill had over 500 yards and 8 TDs last season as Flanders' understudy. Steven Hicks returns as well after seeing limited time and carries. RS Freshman D'Chaar Greer out of Waco Midway needs to find his way onto the field if for no other reason than his hi-top fade.
Before we move on we'd also like to point out that swiss army knife Richard Sincere and near thousand yard receiver Torrance Williams are both gone as well. Fondly remember the senior class of 2013 Bearkat fans, their like may not be seen again for some time.
Who plays up front on D?
As the Bearkats depth chart shook out last fall, five of the front six were seniors and most were big-time productive. Eric Fieilo started for two years at linebacker and lettered for four years. He was all SLC in 2014. Tanner Brock transferred in from TCU and stepped in at the other inside linebacker and led the Kats in tackles. All SLC linemen Andrew Weaver and Jarrett Brown depart as well.
So the defense is starting from scratch up front. James DeLaRosa, who started as a freshman returns up front. Sione Latu should be a handful up front at defensive tackle. He split time with DeLaRosa and comes from Euless Trinity.
A.J. Davis made an impact during the spring at linebacker and Kevin Jackson returns at the position as well. Because spring practice looked like a disaster episode of ER a lot of depth/playing time questions will be answered in August.
Who's that guy?
Yedidiah Louis RS Freshman, WR 5-8 171 Richardson (Berkner)
Louis, who redshirted in 2013 has rocketed up the depth chart in the spring. Louis was an undersized quarterback coming out of Berkner in 2012. Now he looks like he might play a big role in the Bearkats 2014 plans as a wide receiver.
There will be plenty of touches to go around for the Bearkats in 2014 and a player like Louis took the spring to lay claim to his fair share. Louis was consistent in making catches and making plays. Two traits that will come in handy.
As an undersized slot who's a plus athlete, the Sam Houston brain trust will find ways to get Louis the ball. Look for Rickey Smith to play a big role for the Kats as well.