The Sam Houston State Bearkats football team will open the season at home against Midwestern State on Saturday Sept. 6, at 6 p.m. Five offensive starters return from a team that finished 4-7 a year ago. Forty-one lettermen from last year return for the 2003 season. The schedule gets no easier in 2003. Sam Houston State will face two NCAA Division I-A schools on the road. Other non-conference foes include two-time national champion Montana and 2001 I-AA playoff participant Northern Arizona. Offensive Coordinator James Ferguson landed two players on the first team All-Southland Conference pre-season offense, with both players getting voted in by the conference coaches. SHSU junior Vincent Cartwright was recognized as one of the top receivers in the conference. Joining Cartwright on the first team is offensive lineman junior Steve Izevbizua. Cartwright was second on the SHSU team in receiving last season, catching 38 balls for 392 yards. Cartwright will try to become the fourth Bearkat receiver to lead the SLC in the last six years, an honor that has not been held by an SHSU receiver since the 1998 season. Izevbizua will lead the offensive line at the center position. The offensive also placed tight end Devin Coleman on the second team. “Coleman missed last season due to a broken hand in the first game, and he is now healthy and ready to play,” said Coach Ferguson. On the offensive line senior three-year letterman Broderick Richardson (6-2, 280) and Travis Maxey (6-2, 285) bring experience to the line as starters at right guard and tackle. First team center Izevbizua (6-1, 315) will lead the line as a returning starter. Junior tackle Chris Louvier (6-5, 290) and sophomore guard Will Smith (6-4, 330) will start on the left side. Junior Steven Holliman (6-5, 255) and redshirt freshman Stephen Akindona (6-4, 260) fill out the offensive line. “The starters are ready for some action, but the backups are young and need a while to develop,” said Coach Ferguson. At tight end two senior lettermen Coleman (6-2, 255) and Michael Dernell (6-3, 240) both return. “These guys are good and have a lot of experience,” said Coach Ferguson. Perhaps the deepest position on offense is wide receiver where the Bearkats return a host of talented targets. “This is the strongest group of receivers that I have ever been around in my 23 years of coaching,” said Coach Ferguson. Cartwright is the top-returning receiver, but also returning are Cory Zeno (6-5, 190), Marcus Carter (6-1, 215), Corey Roberts (6-5, 225), Cody Crawford (6-1, 200) and Trent Joeckel (6-0, 180). These six receivers combined for 98 receptions for 1,084 yards last season. Also joining the team are two transfers, Bernard Campbell (5-8, 170) from Texas State (Southwest Texas State) and Jarrod Fuller (5-8, 170) form Trinity Valley Community College that will further boost the receiving core. “These eight guys can play at any time.” Said Coach Ferguson, “We have good height and speed at wide receiver with lots of talent.” At quarterback, the starter is junior Travis Tobaben (6-3, 218) who started in five games last year, Tobaben passed for 1,118 yards and three touchdowns in 2002. The backup is freshman Wade Pate (6-3, 200) and could be used a lot in the offensive plans this year. There were three other players fighting for the spot this spring: transfer Daniel Forrest (6-2, 210) from Trinity Valley Community College, redshirt freshman Adam Karas (6-0, 185) and Brett Hicks (6-4, 185). All could have a chance to play if there are any injuries during the year. At running back, Steve Smith (5-11, 175) is starting for the Bearkats. There are very talented backups behind Smith. Robert Sanders (5-10, 200), Jermaine Gasaway (5-7, 180) and Jason Godfrey (6-0, 215) should get plenty of playing time. Godfrey didn’t see much playing time last season as a freshman, but made the most of his time on the field. The Tomball native carried just 21 times last season but led the Bearkats with six rushing touchdowns. Coach Ferguson believes the offense is looking good but after a few games we will see how good we really are. He is ready to take the next step and play the tougher teams that are on the schedule.