NACOGDOCHES, Texas – The two-time defending Southland Conference Champion Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks reported for fall camp Thursday afternoon. Approximately 90 athletes checked into the dorms at 3 p.m., and took part in their first position meetings in preparation for the 2011 campaign.
"This is a very exciting time across the country, but especially for SFA," said J.C. Harper, the two-time SLC Coach of the Year. "The last two years have been very exciting for our program. Last year was a historical one becoming the first team in school history to win back-to-back titles, (Jeremy) Moses becoming the first player in SLC history to win the Walter Payton Award and having another player drafted by the NFL. But that was last season, and we are focused on winning games in 2011. We have a solid group of seniors who want to go out on top.
"Defensively, we have some of the top talent in the league led by players like Devin Ducote, Josh Aubrey, Ben Wells and Derrick Choice. As a coaching staff, we've grown to expect big things from our defense and nothing has changed this year," added Harper.
The Lumberjacks return 48 letterwinners, and 20 starters from a team that went 9-3 and finished ranked among the nation's top 10. Offensively, SFA will be looking to replace one of the nation's all-time leading passers, but Coach Harper, and new offensive coordinator Mike Nesbitt, are focused more on the nine returning starters on offense who have helped SFA lead the nation in passing each of the past two seasons.
"With all of the attention Moses received over the past several seasons, most people have focused on the fact that he has no more eligibility," said Harper. "But what most people tend to over look is that we return nine starters on offense, including two All-American receivers, and our line returns pretty much intact. In addition to that we have two capable quarterbacks who have been around the system for a couple of years now, plus we've brought in a strong group of talent."
While SFA graduated a few big names last season, several returners have made headlines during the offseason. Receivers Gralyn Crawford and Cordell Roberson and offensive lineman George Bias have been named to several preseason All-America squads. In addition to that, Ducote has been one of the league top tacklers over the course of his career, and now becomes the anchor of a very strong defensive unit.
The prognosticators believe that SFA will face some tough challenges if there are to become the first program to win three consecutive titles. At the annual SLC Media Day, SFA split with McNeese State as a favorite to with the 2011 title.
The 'Jacks will step on the field for their first practice Friday at 7 a.m. The workout is slated to take place on the practice fields behind Homer Bryce Stadium.