SFA finishes second day of preseason camp.
Aug. 4, 2012
NACOGDOCHES, Texas -
The Stephen F. Austin football team donned the helmets and took to the field at Homer Bryce Stadium for its second day of preseason practice Saturday night. Two days down and 26 to go as SFA prepares for the 2012 season opener against Southwestern Oklahoma Thursday, Aug. 30th.
"Our guys worked hard during the offseason, and I'm proud of how they returned ready to play," said head coach J.C. Harper. "They returned in good shape and the practices leading up to the season opener will get us into game shape."
Despite a new offensive coordinator and first-year starter in Brady Attaway, the Lumberjacks remained one of the nation's premier passing programs. Attaway is back with another year of experience under his belt, but he will be working with a new offensive coordinator in Dick Olin, who coached former Walter Payton Award winner Jeremy Moses at Baytown Lee High School.
"The key thing right now for our guys is getting plenty of reps and staying healthy," said Harper. "Dan (Eason) has done a great job with them in the weight room, and I really like the leadership on this team. It is a fun group of guys to be around."
The leadership on this squad comes from the return of numerous veterans. In addition to Attaway, SFA has returned its top four receivers, top four running backs and four of five starting offensive linemen from a group that led the nation in pass protection in 2011. The 'Jacks also return offensive lineman Corey Dickerson and receiver Anthony Foster, both 2010 starters who missed most or all of last season due to injury.
The defense has more gaps to fill but return plenty of key players, including ends Willie Jefferson and Malcolm Mattox. A preseason All-American, Jefferson set conference single-game records for sacks last season on his way to earning Southland Conference Newcomer of the Year, and All-America honors. Mattox also caused havoc in the opposing backfield, and together helped SFA lead the nation in sacks and tackles for losses last season.
Senior linebacker Ryan Epperson is back after a junior year that saw him finish among the nation's leaders in tackles last season. Epperson is the only returning starter at linebacker, and may have to take on a bigger role in 2012.
The middle on the 'Jacks defense may only return one starter, but the secondary returns three key figures from last year. All three are all-conference selections in corner Josh Aubrey, and safeties Jordan Aubrey and Caleb Nelson. Josh has been one of the conference's best corners over the past three season, while Jordan overcame an injury-plagued 2010 season to set a career-high in tackles and earned honorable mention All-SLC. It was a similar story, as Nelson really became in a leader in the secondary last season. He enters his junior season with more than 100 tackles and two interceptions in 22 games.