SHAWNEE — Oklahoma Baptist has practiced enough. The Bison want to see if a year of planning, recruiting, weightlifting and drilling will pay off on autumn Saturdays.
“We're eager to see how we measure up to another opponent,” OBU football coach Chris Jensen said. “We want to take the field to see if we've made progress, see if we can compete.”
OBU will play its first varsity football game in 73 years at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, hosting Southwestern (Kan.). It's been two years since OBU officials said they were reinstating football, and it's been a journey for all involved since. All the must-dos it takes to put together an NAIA football program are almost done. Otherwise, a Bison football team is ready to play for the first time since before World War II.
“It takes a great deal of vision. You kind of start from no where,” Jensen said of starting — or restarting — a football program. “The key is to hire really good people, people who can help carry the load. I think I've done that. I've got a great staff, and we went out and found some really good players. We're eager to take the field.”
Oklahoma Baptist has 112 players on the roster, some who will play Saturday as starters or reserves. Others will redshirt.
The Bison have one senior, defensive back Roman Gray, and five juniors. The rest are sophomores or freshmen.
Before anyone targets the 2013 season a potential disaster, consider that some players have transferred from other schools, Division I programs such as Oklahoma, Colorado State and SMU. Others have spent time at Division II's Central Oklahoma, Southwestern State or Southeastern State.
It's not as if Jensen is throwing 22 barely-out-of-high-schoolers out there. Some have played — or practiced — at a higher level of football.
“We still have some older leadership,” said defensive tackle Kimes Gilbert, who transferred from Southwestern State. “We have some good guys who have transferred in. I'm not going to predict that we're going to win every week, but if you don't feel like you're going to win before every game, there's no point in going out there. Our goal is to win.”