Photo Courtesy: Henderson State Athletics
Arkadelphia (Henderson State)- The Henderson State Reddie football team hit the practice field for the first time on Monday as 120 players began fall camp with a goal of claiming another Great American Conference Championship en route to a National Championship title run.
The Reddies are ranked No. 9 in Lindy's Preseason Top 25 poll and No. 16 by the Sporting News. Henderson State is also picked to repeat as GAC Champions by nearly every publication.
Players returned to campus on Sunday and filled out required paperwork, went through physicals, were photographed and ended the day with position meetings before beginning practice Monday.
"Everyone is excited to get things started," said Coach Scott Maxfield. "Five or six years ago were talking about having a winning season and winning a conference championship. Now we have taken our program to another level and our goal is to compete for a National Championship."
The Reddies began their first day of fall camp with meetings before hitting the field. Following a short walk-through and stretching exercises the team went through a two hour practice session plus conditioning before breaking for lunch.
The team returned in the afternoon to review film and workout in the weight room.
"We have a lot of work to do before our first game," said junior wide receiver Darius Davis. "Life is too short and we have to take full advantage of what we have. There is a lot of talent on this team and we have some high expectations, but we will have to work together to achieve those expectations."
The Reddies have only one week of practice before classes begin. Henderson State will hit the field every morning this week at 9:30 a.m. On Saturday, the team will conduct a scrimmage beginning at 6 p.m. at Carpenter-Haygood Stadium.
The Reddies will practice in the early evening once classes begin with another scrimmage scheduled for 10 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 24.
Henderson State returns 11 All-GAC selections including eight on offense. In 2012, the Henderson offense led all of Division II in scoring (50.4 points per game) and was third in total yards (516.8 yards per game) and passing yards (377.6).
Quarterback Kevin Rodgers, receiver Robert Jordan, linebacker Keaton Stigger, offensive lineman RJ Taylor, center Kelton Hays and return specialist Israel Valentin have all been named to various preseason All-America Teams.
Beyond College Sports Network selected Rodgers, Taylor and Valentin to its Preseason All-America First-Team, while Jordan and Stigger are third-team picks.
College Football America Yearbook Encyclopedia selected Hays to its NCAA Division II Preseason All-America team.
According to D2football.com, Jordan is a second-team pick, while Rodgers is listed on the third team. Stigger is predicted to be a second-team All-American.
D2Football.com also named seven players to the Preseason All-GAC First-Team including Rodgers, Jordan, Taylor, Stigger, Hays, wide receiver Dustin Holland and defensive lineman Glennon Bobo.
The publication projected that Rodgers would repeat as the GAC Offensive Player of the Year, with Stigger garnering the Defensive Player of the Year.
College Scout Josh Buchanan of TonySoftli.com also selected the top 100 players in Division II.
Three Reddies were on the list, led by Jordan who is ranked No. 19th.
Buchanan's comments on Robert Jordan:
"The Henderson State product isn't big in size but makes big plays. He had 1,074 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2012 while also averaging 17.5 yards per punt return with two touchdowns. Jordan is no doubt one of the best athletes with good speed. The big question he must answer this year is that despite being so small does he have elite speed that NFL teams look for in order to take his name to the league?"
Rodgers also received a solid ranking as the 34th best player in the nation.
Buchanan's comments on Kevin Rodgers:
"Rodgers doesn't have the strongest arm but makes plays. He's a gun slinger who completed 66 percent of his passes with 4,002 yards and 41 touchdowns to earn first-team All-GAC and GAC Offensive Player of the Year honors in 2012. He improved heavily from 2011 where he had just 1,267 yards and 9 touchdowns as a redshirt freshman."
Stigger is listed No. 45 on Buchanan's list of top 100 players in the nation.
Buchanan's comments on Keaton Stigger:
"While there are linebackers more decorated below him, if you watch the tape you can see he's a legit All-American caliber player. Stigger earned first-team All-GAC honors each of the last two years and had 103 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, and 2.5 sacks last season."
Henderson State will start the season with back-to-back home games beginning with a September 7 meeting with Southern Nazarene at Carpenter-Haygood Stadium with kickoff slated for 6 p.m. The following week the Reddies will play host to non-conference opponent McKendree.