Training camp looms large for Lions
Offense returns eight starters; defense has nine
Fans urged to 'Like' new Facebook page, follow Twitter feed
WAXAHACHIE, Texas -- The start of football preseason camp for Southwestern Assemblies of God University is six days away. Like spring is to baseball, late summer is the season of hope for football.
The Lions have been building something good in recent seasons. They now stand at a place where they could make a move to get over the .500 hump.
In each of the past two years they have assembled 4-6 records, and have won four games three times in the past five. Two years ago they appeared in the NAIA rankings for the first time before receding late in the season.
Much of this year’s defense returns intact. They ranked #8 in the nation in pass defense and racked up 31 takeaways. John Allen, the Defensive Coordinator, looks to mend the Lions against the run.
The offense has its share of incumbents expected back, including four-of-five linemen, the quarterback and the top two receivers.
Frank Tristan, the Offensive Coordinator, is back for an encore year at the helm. He aims to tune-up the attack while limiting turnovers. Finishing drives in the end zone will be a focus. It will require ramping up the rushing game.
The point of the offensive attack begins with senior quarterback Reid Golson (Grandview, TX / Grandview HS). A whirling dervish at 5’10, he is the triggerman as well as an elusive runner.
A right-hander, Golson ranked #18 nationally, averaging 257 yards of total offense last season. He led the team in rushing as a sophomore and a junior with 491 yards and five touchdowns in 2011 and 705 and three scores in 2012.
As a passer he racked up 1,867 yards and a dozen TD’s.
The Lions top two receivers, Jeremy McDonald (San Antonio, Tx / Cornerstone Christian) and Trevor McKinley (Arlington, Tx / Seguin HS) return. They reeled in 40 and 29 catches respectively, with McDonald averaging almost 19 yards per reception.
Dylan Moore (Denton, Tx / Guyer HS) and 6’4 tight end Caleb Shelly (Coldspring, Tx / Coldspring HS) and redshirt wideout Venique Benton (Waxahachie, Tx / Waxahachie HS) all figure to be effective targets in the spread.
Golson will have the benefit of an experienced offensive line. Four of five starters are back, and they do not lack size or agility. Three of them will be juniors; Mitchell Grimes (McKinney, Tx / North HS), Peter Akorikin (Dallas, Tx / Conrad HS) and R.J. Adame (Keller, Tx / Central HS), all over 300 lbs.
Should they resume their steamrolling ways, a new backfield stands to benefit.
According to Tristan, the Purple & Gold expect about 95 players in camp; 49 offensive, 42 on defense, and four special teamers.
Senior placekicker James Gish (Waxahachie, Tx / Waxahachie HS) led the nation with 1.5 field goals per game last season. The 5-foot-9, 195-pound Gish connected on 15 of 21 attempts, including his second 50 yarder.
Swinging from the left side, he gives Head Coach Jesse Godding a strong scoring threat.
The reason for optimism is that eight offensive and nine defensive starters return. Forty-two players have measureable game experience.
Starting assignments will not be announced until the week of the first game. Newcomers, recruits, transfers and returning gridders will vie to earn playing time. Battles to define individual roles will be spirited and will only strengthen the team’s depth.
As for practicing in the broiling sun, the squad will alternate two-a-days with a one-a-day itinerary.
Starting on Tuesday, August 13, the team will hold 9:30-11:30am and 6:00-8:00pm practices. The following day they plan a 2:30-4:45pm session.
In between are team meetings, film sessions, weight training and team meals.
The annual Media Day is slated for August 16. Team photographer Steve Patterson, of Moving Pictures, will snap individual and team shots. During the season his photos will be available for fans to view and/or to purchase.
Video of players will also be taped by the crew from SAGU Sports Live for use in the five home game HD broadcasts.
The Lions first two games will be played at Lumpkins Stadium, a 9,500 seat facility a mile from campus. They take on Bethany College (Lindsborg, Ks) in the opener on September 7. Kickoff is set for noon.
A week later, Sept. 14, Howard Payne University (Brownwood, Tx) comes to town for a 6:00pm twi-night game.
Fans are encouraged to visit the SAGU Sports Network page on Facebook. It replaces the SAGU Athletics and SAGU Sports Live fan pages, which close down on Sept. 1.
‘Like’ the SSN page to receive e-mail updates of news, video highlights, articles and action photos.
The Lions’ new Twitter handle, @SAGUSportsNet, will provide fans with updated scores and breaking news.
A season and team preview will be posted on-line the week before the season opener, including downloadable versions of Game Day and the Lions Media Guide.