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Bearkat Football Outlook Bright
Special to the N.E.T.
HUNTSVILLE, Texas - In his 22 years as a
head football coach at Sam Houston State, Ron Randleman
never had a team as young as his 2003 Bearkats. More than
half of last years roster consisted of freshmen and
The Bearkats played 20 freshmen and 10
sophomores in the two-deep during the Southland
Conference portion of the 2003 schedule.
The inexperience hurt as SHSU struggled to a 2-9 record.
But the good news is, all that young talent is back and
some top newcomers have Bearkat fans excited about 2004.
We played more true freshmen last year than we ever
have here, said Randleman. But they are good
players, and we have been pleased with the progress they
have made. We are still a little young in spots, but
these are youngsters with a years experience now.
We have a better balance between experience and youth and
more depth this season.
The Bearkats return 48 of 62 lettermen including 18
starters. Five players who earned All-Southland
Conference honors in 2003 are back -- offensive linemen
Stephen Izevbizua (6-1, 315) and Chris Louvier (6-5,
290), running back Jason Godfrey (6-0, 225), and wide
receivers Jarrod Fuller (5-8, 170) and Vincent Cartwright
The most impressive thing about our returning
players is their attitude, said Randleman. We
had a disappointing season in 2003. The players feel they
have a lot to prove and have a good sense of what it will
take to succeed. We accomplished a lot in spring training
and are excited about the coming 2004 season.
Two new faces brought excitement to the Bearkats
spring drills as a pair of top quarterbacks transferred
from NCAA Division I-A teams. Senior Dustin Long (6-3,
210) passed for 3,118 yards the past two years at Texas
A&M while sophomore Noah Allen (6-3, 219) came to
SHSU from the University of Oklahoma.
Long and Allen combined for 341 yards passing in the 2004
Orange-White spring game. Long completed a 38-yard
touchdown pass to Cartwright for the winning points on
the last play of the contest. All three quarterbacks from
last years team also return including Travis
Tobaben (6-3, 215) who threw for 1,350 yards and nine
touchdowns; Wade Pate (6-3, 200) who passed for 910 yards
and four touchdowns; and Adam Karas (6-0, 185).
Fuller and Cartwright lead an impressive group of wide
receivers. Fuller led the Southland Conference in
receptions per game (5.2) last season with 47 catches for
628 yards. Cartwright has 44 receptions for 775 yards and
six touchdowns to his credit in his three years as a
Other returning receivers include Bernard Campbell (5-8,
170), Cory Crawford (6-1, 200), and Cory Zeno (5-10,
190). In 2003, Campbell caught 34 passes for 384 yards,
Zeno 20 for 255 yards, and Crawford 19 for 312 yards.
Jason Mathenia (6-0, 193), the leading receiver in the
Southland in 2002, also returns.
Corey Roberts (6-5, 235) moved from wide receiver to
tight end during Southland Conference portion of the 2003
schedule should be the starter for 2004. Redshirt
freshman Blake Martin (6-3, 245) provides depth at tight
Godfrey ranked fourth in SLC rushing as a sophomore. He
rushed for more than 100 yards four times with 712 of his
725 yards rushing coming in the final seven games of the
season. Stevie Smith (5-11, 185) was third in the league
in all-purpose yards (114.2 per game), rushing for 454
yards. Robert Garmon (5-9, 185), who ranks fifth in
all-time SHSU kickoff return yards (813) moved to running
back this fall. Brad Baca (5-11, 215) joins the Bearkats
as a transfer running back from Air Force.
Izevbizua and Louvier, both seniors, are the veteran
leaders of a young but improving offensive line. Junior
Jarrod Westerman (6-3, 275) and sophomores Lance Hancock
(6-6, 275) and Chris Pope (6-3, 305) all saw extensive
action during the 2003 season. Raymond Serres (6-4, 270),
a transfer from Texas Tech, sophomore Stephen Akindona
(6-4, 280), and redshirt freshmen Ben Savell (6-2, 285),
Brennan Williams (6-0, 270), and Brock McDaniel (6-2,
270) provide depth.
Both of the transfer quarterbacks throw the long
ball well and, combined with a quality group of wide
receivers, give us the potential to have an explosive,
big play offense, said Randleman. We have
good depth at running back as well. Our offensive line
continues to improve but is one of the positions where we
still are extremely young.
Eight starters are part of the group of 26 lettermen
returning on defense for the 2004 Bearkats. Senior Steven
Hagler (6-3, 255), juniors Jeff Mayhew (6-4, 290) and
John Griffin (6-3, 265), and sophomore Ed Jackson (6-3,
245) comprise the defensive front four. Jackson and
Griffin led the Bearkats in quarterback sacks last season
with four apiece. Sophomore lettermen David Branch (6-2,
265), Brandon Villanueva (6-0, 295), and Aaron Ivey (6-3,
255) and redshirt freshman Jeremy Wilson (6-1, 280) bring
depth to the defensive line.
Junior Marcus Mikulec (6-2, 245) started all 11 games
last season at linebacker, totaling 102 tackles.
Sophomore Jerod Brown (6-2, 245) steps into a starting
role after making 25 tackles as a freshman. Michael
Saumell-Baston (6-0, 245), a senior three-year letterman
who redshirted last season, returns to provide quality
depth at linebacker along with redshirt freshman Ayo
Akindona (6-2, 210).
Seniors Paul Donelson (6-0, 210) and Mark Hughes (5-9,
175) provide leadership in the secondary. Both were key
players on the 2001 Southland Conference championship
team. Hughes ranks ninth in Sam Houston State career
interceptions with seven. Donelson has 99 career tackles
to his credit.
Senior Ronnie Johnson (5-10, 175), juniors Greg Brown
(5-11, 185) and Robert Herron (6-1, 190), and sophomores
Chadd Oliphant (6-0, 190), Derrick Harris (5-10, 180),
Tony Jones (5-10, 205), and D. D. Terry (6-2, 190) bring
additional talent to the Sam Houston defensive backfield.
Defensively, we werent stopping people last
year, said Randleman. We have some work to
do. We made progress in the spring. We have better depth
and good leadership. Creating a positive turnover ratio
by eliminating offensive mistakes and forcing more
take-aways will help as well.
Special team play looks to be a team strength for 2004.
All of Sam Houston States top special teams players
return. Joey Price (5-8, 190) begins his senior season
ranked third in all-time Bearkat kick scoring (168
points) with 81 career extra points and 29 field goals.
Curtis Parks (6-2, 200) ranked third in the Southland
Conference in punting (39.1 average) as a true freshman.
Sophomore Patrick Holland (6-2, 230) is back for his
third year as Sam Houston States deep snap
Besides their roles on offense, Campbell, Smith, and
Garmon were productive on special teams. Campbell stood
third in the Southland in punt returns (10.3 yards per
return) last season. Smith was second in the league in
kickoff returns (25.1 yards per return) including a
99-yard touchdown. Garmon has averaged 21.3 yards per
kickoff return the past two seasons.
We return a lot of good young players with speed
and the experience to make good things happen on special
teams, said Randleman.
Sam Houston State will play seven home games in 2004, the
most regular season games at Bowers Stadium since 1994.
During the past three seasons, the Bearkats traveled
across the country to span three time zones playing in
Illinois, Alabama, Mississippi, Michigan, Arizona, and
We certainly have been road warriors lately,
said Randleman. We play several quality opponents
this year, but having seven games at Bowers Stadium
certainly will help.
The 2004 Southland Conference race again appears to be
one of the most competitive in NCAA Division I-AA
This years race is wide open. Anyone could
win, said Randleman. Last year, McNeese State
was seen as the powerhouse, and they went through the
league undefeated. This year, however, everyone is
improved with quality teams from top to bottom. We intend
to be in the hunt. What pleases me most about this years
team is that we have more competition for starting roles
at every position. Thats something that can only
make you better.
August 21, 2004
the UIL send four teams to the playoffs?