Let the games begin

Standing as the last team in the Southland Conference to begin the 2006 season, Sam Houston State University will finally kick things off Saturday when they host Arkansas-Monticello.

Its been a tale of two seasons when looking at 2004 and 2005. Two years ago the Kats were in the national championship; last year they finished 3-7. It was a frustrating start for the Todd Whitten-era. However, everyone is expecting bigger things in 2006 and experience has a lot to do with it.

Even though improvements are expected, the Kats are still picked by the polls to finish fifth in the Southland Conference.

Wade Pate will begin the season at quarterback with Phillip Daugherty backing him up. However, the news everyone is waiting for is where newly transferred Rhett Bomar will fit on the club. Pate had a great spring and had a different demeanor about him. Daugherty had some bright spots as well after transferring from Texas Tech last season.

Bomar is still waiting on the NCAA to re-instate him and allow him to play in the regular season. While everyone is waiting on that decision, don’t sleep on the other two quarterbacks.

Part of the reason the Kats are so optimistic is the talented receiving core that is going to return from last year’s squad. Senior Brandon Perry should provide the senior leadership for Pate. He finished last season in top five in receiving yards with 236. Speedster Michael Malone will hold down the slot position and is primed for a big season. Preseason All-SLC first-team tight end Blake Martin should provide even more versatility to the bunch.

Junior Andrew Audelin will have to fill some big shoes with the departure of both Stevie Smith and Jason Godfrey. He will need to stay healthy because behind him is a crew of young backs.

On defense the Kats should be solid yet again. After sustaining a season in which they were forced to make plays to win games. With a better offense, they will now be looked on to just play their roles.

Perhaps the strongest part of the Kats team will be the secondary.

Chadd Oliphant, Braylon Linnear, Tony Jones and Derrick Harris could be the best secondary in the conference.

The Kats will be tested early on in the 2006 campaign.

After Saturday’s home game, the Kats will play four consecutive road games, the biggest of course being Sept. 30 in Austin against the defending national champion Texas Longhorns.

Next week will be a big test as well when they travel to Dallas to play the much-improved SMU Mustangs.

The road trip will conclude in Louisiana against NW State.

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