Aug. 3, 2014
BEAUMONT, Texas -
There has been a lot of anticipation for the start of the 2014 season, ever since the final horn sounded to wrap up Lamar's record-setting 2013 campaign. The anticipation jumped to a whole new level Sunday as approximately 90 student-athletes officially reported to campus to begin fall workouts.
"This time of year is very exciting," said LU head coach Ray Woodard. "No matter how long you've been a coach, the beginning of fall camp never loses its excitement. Obviously, a lot was made of the records set last season, but that was last year. We are focused on 2014, and I think we have the opportunity to field our best team since bringing the program back."
A good majority of that excitement is centered on an offense that returns the heart of its lineup from a 2013 team that set nearly 50 team and individual records last season. Leading that offense is senior quarterback Caleb Berry, who is on pace to become the school's all-time leading passer. His 2013 season was the best year by a Cardinal quarterback in program history as Berry set single-season records for completions, passing yards, yards of total offense and touchdown passes.
Berry is surrounded by numerous weapons as well. Lamar returns veteran receivers Reggie Begelton (junior) and senior Mark Roberts who set records of their own last season. Both big-play threats, Begelton led the Southland in receptions in 2013, while setting new single-season and single-game records for receptions. Roberts set the LU single-game mark for touchdown catches.
Sophomore Kade Harrington returns from a rookie season that saw him earn 2013 SLC Freshman of the Year honors, and Freshman All-America recognition. Harrington destroyed a 62-year old school record by rushing for 880 yards last season. Harrington was also a threat catching the ball out of the backfield finishing among the league's top 10 with 48 receptions for 376 yards and four touchdowns.
Berry will be protected by a front line that returns three of five starters from last season, but the biggest loss the offense may have to overcome is the graduation of center Kyle Gillam
. A durable athlete, Gillam held down the starting role since the program was resurrected for the 2010 season.
Defensively, the Cardinals are at the opposite end of the spectrum being in the unenviable task of replacing nine starters. Despite the numbers Lamar is facing due to attrition, the Cardinals' defense is not without experience. Several of the players LU is counting on this season earned starts throughout the 2013 campaign, and sophomore Omar Tebo could have made a case for league freshman of the year honors last season had it not been for the numbers recorded by his teammate.
In addition, former SLC Newcomer of the Year, Kevin Johnson, has made the move from receiver to safety which could be a key addition to the Lamar defense. He already enters the season expected to be one of the nation's top return men.
Much of the momentum entering the season has been centered around the preseason honors garnered by several LU players. In addition to the preseason All-America recognition Johnson has received, seven Cardinals have been named to preseason award watch lists for their respective positions. Several more Cardinals have been named to numerous preseason all-conference teams as well.
"The growth and maturity of this program is to the point now where we have returning players who have been seen by other coaches and media relations directors and our kids are receiving respect for their play on the field," said Woodard. "We knew that would come with time. I think everyone is really beginning to see that, and our current players want to raise the bar even higher."
The Cardinals will take to field Monday for their first workout. LU practices every night at 7 p.m. during the first week, which will conclude with a scrimmage Saturday at 10 a.m. The Cardinals have scheduled three scrimmages with the final two slated for Saturday, Aug. 16th and Saturday, Aug. 23rd.