Southern Nazarene sticks its head in the tiger's mouth right off the bat. The Crimson Storm opens the football season Sept. 7 at Henderson State (Ark.), the overwhelming Great American Conference favorite and the No. 13-ranked team in NCAA Division II.
The experience last season of playing a partial GAC schedule should help Southern Nazarene this fall, but whether that leads to an improvement on a 2-9 record remains to be seen. League coaches say SNU will struggle once again, selecting the Division II newcomer to finish last in the 11-team circuit.
But what coaches forget was SNU lost five games by 10 or less points. And several key starters, including quarterback Dylan Terry, wide receiver Jarod Martin and linebacker Michael Hicks, return.
“My teams have never been picked to finish last in the preseason,” Southern Nazarene coach Mike Cochran said. “I've been first in the preseason, but that doesn't count either. It's all based on last year's results. You've just got to go play them all.”
*Former Oklahoma tight end Austin Haywood, who transferred to Oklahoma Baptist, is not on the Bison roster. OBU coach Chris Jensen said Haywood “is getting some things straightened out” and would not be playing football for the Bison this season.
*Central Oklahoma coach Nick Bobeck said he wants to get the football in his playmakers' hands, and that includes reserve running back Christian Bobo. Bobeck says the 5-foot-11, 230-pound senior is “really good skill wise. He's a good football player. We want to find a way to get the ball in his hands.”
*Matt Pruitt, a standout in Southern Nazarene's secondary the past few seasons, has transferred to Central Oklahoma. He will sit out this season. Pruitt, who was on The Oklahoman's State College All-Star Team the last two years, had three interceptions and 72 tackles last season. He returned two fumbles for 105 total yards.
*George Robbins returns at wide receiver for East Central. The 6-4, 250-pound senior sat out last season with academic issues. He will be a big target for sophomore quarterback Spencer Bond, who helped the Tigers win their last three games. Robbins led ECU receivers in 2011 with 30 catches for 487 yards and 12 touchdowns. Starters Lindsey Anderson, LaQuan Harper and Caleb Holley return from last season, too.