Southern Arkansas Muleriders football reported for fall camp on Saturday.
Head coach Bill Keopple welcomed more than 120 players for the beginning of team activities which officially start Monday with the camp's first practice.
Players will go through NCAA and orientation meetings and receive team equipment on Saturday and Sunday, before taking to Wilkins Stadium at 8:30 a.m. Monday.
"We currently have 122 (players) here and we know where the rest of them are at," said Keopple. "We still have a few traveling and we expect to pick up a few more by the time school starts on August 21."
Two hundred and fifty-three days since walking off the field following a tough 30-25 loss to Missouri Western in the Live United Bowl in Texarkana, the calendar officially turns to football season. Expectations are high as Southern Arkansas looks to build on an 8-4 campaign, which included winning their first six games in 2018.
"We're ready to get started. Expectations are high with this football team. They came back in shape and are looking good as an overall group," said Keopple. "We have some really talented, good looking, young men and you can tell they have been working hard this summer. You're always a little nervous if you have someone not show who you're expecting to."
Not showing up for the Muleriders in 2019 are a trio of All-America performers in Barrett Renner, Ka'Ronce Higgins, and DaVondrick Lison as well as three additional All-GAC standouts in Anthony Washington, Lorenzo Alexander and Malachi Pointer all of whom were lost to graduation.
However, the theme throughout the spring and into the summer for Keopple and his staff has been that their replacements are already on campus and as well as within a solid 2019 recruiting class.
With many new faces and with others expected to assume larger roles, Keopple's message on day one is straightforward. "Don't lose sight of why they are here," said Keopple, who is in his 11th season at SAU.
"Their education is number one with football being a close second this fall. The discipline it takes to be a great student-athlete is important and it starts with the basic fundamentals of executing the little things."
Keopple also added that the little things require zero talent. "Being on time, having a great work ethic, your attitude, effort and energy. Body language. Preparation and passion, being coachable and putting in extra work is what it is going to take to be a successful football team in 2019."
Practice Schedule through August 18
8/12 | Practice #1 | 8:30 a.m. – 11 a.m. | Helmets & Shorts
8/13 | Practice #2 | 8:30 a.m. – 11 a.m. | Helmets & Shorts
8/14 | Practice #3 | 8:30 a.m. – 11 a.m. | Shells
8/15 | Practice #4 | 8:30 a.m. – 11 a.m. | Shells
8/16 | Practice #5 | 8:30 a.m. – 11 a.m. | Full Pads
8/17 | Practice #6 | 8:30 a.m. – 11 a.m. | Full Pads
8/18 | Practice #7 | 2:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.