COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Harold Nichols understands and appreciates the patience Presbyterian administrators and football fans have shown his program the past five years. The Blue Hose coach hopes that wait is about to pay off.
Nichols has been 9-44 the past five years at Presbyterian, his best showing coming in a 4-7 mark in 2011. The club won three games a year ago and while it was a step up from a 2-9 showing in 2012, it still left the Blue Hose picked last this preseason in the Big South Conference.
Nichols won't put much stock into such predictions, instead relying on what he sees from his players. He says they'll have improved depth and experience at key positons like quarterback and expect to make steps forward this fall.
5 things to know about Presbyterian football:
SLOW BUILD: It has been a slow, gradual climb to build a program to compete with Big South powers Coastal Carolina, Liberty and Gardner-Webb in recent years. The Blue Hose have struggled financially and have had to take on several FBS schools to keep moving forward. They played Georgia Tech and Vanderbilt in 2012. This fall, they'll face Northern Illinois, North Carolina State and Ole Miss. "I think we'll have better leadership on our football team," Nichols said. "We'll have some guys who are battle-tested. Some of our better players are now our older players on our team and I think that's going to pay dividends, I really do."
LIGHTS ON: While such Football Bowl Subdivision games don't help the win-loss record, they can help with facilities. The school installed lights at Bailey Stadium and is expected to play its first night home game in a quarter century when it takes on Bluefield on Sept. 6th. The Blue Hose will play a second night home game a week later against Southern Conference champ Furman.
QUARTERBACK ISSUES: Presbyterian inserted freshman Heys McMath into the spot with seven games left in the season and coaches liked what they saw. McMath finished with 1,142 yards, 10 touchdowns and five interceptions last season.
JUST FOR KICKS: Presbyterian must improve its kicking game. The Blue Hose made just one field last year. Then again, they only attempted five and its two kickers in Brett Wilson and punter Stephen Doar didn't try anything longer than 37 yards last year. Doar had the lone made field goal, a 34-yarder in a loss to Coastal Carolina. Davidson was the only FCS school with fewer field goals, going 0-for-1 last fall.
STEADY ANTIGHA: Count on playmaking receiver Tobi Antigha to again be in the center of Presbyterian's offense. He finished last season with 54 catches for 764 yards and six of the team's 14 passing TDs on the year. He'll be backed up by Jeremiah McKie, second on the club with 38 receptions and 487 yards.