Bearkats close spring workouts with spring game

Apr. 20—HUNTSVILLE — As it prepares for its second year of FBS play, Sam Houston wrapped up its spring season after shifting focus and pushing the start of practice back.

With an emphasis on strength this season, the Bearkats spent the first eight weeks working to get stronger in the gym and getting that to transfer onto the the field.

Sam Houston moved its practice to Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays to allow themselves Monday, Wednesday and Friday to get into the gym.

"We do a lot of postmortem after the season and evaluate what we could do better. We thought we had to get stronger," Sam Houston coach K.C. Keeler said. "We love our strength coach, and it wasn't anything to do with him, but scheduling-wise, we had to do it differently. A lot of spring ball revolved around how can we get FBS strong. We didn't think a lot of people out-physical us, but we didn't out-physical anybody. We needed to make that move."

Now that the 'Kats had a different approach, they needed it to translate on the field during spring and after the first week, things were looking tough. However, after getting through a week and settling down, the Bearkats figured things out.

Getting in the weight room more was not the only change that Sam Houston made this offseason. With the graduation of Trevor Williams, the 'Kats lost a key piece of the locker room and on the field.

That was another part of this spring, that set the tone and laid the foundation of the culture.

Culture is something that Keeler always preached and has been a key to his success at Sam Houston as the team plays for each other, not for themselves.

"Every year is a brand new year, it doesn't matter how many people you have coming back," Keeler said. "One, two or three guys in a locker room can change that. It's important that in the spring you start developing that culture."

After the spring, the Bearkats are still unsure who their QB1 will be for the third consecutive season. Of the five QBs listed on their roster, only one has taken live game reps for the Bearkats. Graduate QB Grant Gunnell started the University of Houston game last season but never saw game action again.

Keeler and the Bearkats staff brought in Central Michigan transfer Jase Bauer to compete for the starting job and in the spring game, he moved the ball during his opportunities.

But currently, it is an uphill battle for every quarterback. Sam Houston has practiced most of the spring without Ife Adeyi, Qua'Vez Humphreys and other top weapons. But with them expected to be sidelined until the start of training camp, it is forcing reps to some of the newer guys.

Keeler noted for guys like Lonnie Adkism, a redshirt freshman from Corpus Christi, getting the reps was important to developing them. Getting guys near the bottom of the depth chart reps now is a positive, given what the Bearkats endured last season.

While the quarterback is the main question, Sam Houston needs to focus on the offensive line that allowed 73 tackles for loss and 20 sacks last season. Keeler hired Mike Bangtson to coach the offensive line from Stephen F. Austin.

As the Bearkats return nearly every member of the five up front, it will be a matter of time before they get acquainted.

Bangtson worked with Sam Houston offensive coordinator, Brad Cornelsen, at Virginia Tech so they two know each other and how they operate in games.

The strong thing about this season for the Bearkats is once against their defense. Under the new coordination of Skylar Cassity, the Bearkats remained posed to be strong. The most important thing was keeping senior Kavian Gaither on the roster. The senior has been a standout for the Bearkats in the last two seasons. Now he will have to transform into the leader of the defense.

Sam Houston had been saved from significant players leaving for the portal until earlier this week with Da'Marcus Crosby and Dakerric Hobbs entering. Crosby and Hobbs played in every game for the 'Kats, and their departure leaves the door open for guys like Caleb Weaver, David Fisher and Liberty transfer Jaylon Jimmerson to make noise in the Bearkats secondary.

"From the first scrimmage to the last scrimmage this is probably the most improvement that I have seen in 31 years as a head football coach," Keeler said. "The first scrimmage was raw and had a lot of personal agendas. We had to get rid of the nonsense and you have to go through that. From there we just took off. We competed and the guys were hyping each other up. I saw real growth."

With spring wrapped up, the Bearkats will have several more things before starting the season. First up will be more summer workouts before the 'Kats open their fall camp in late July.