Breaking down the Bearkats

Finally the much-anticipated 2007 Bearkat football season kicks off tonight at 6 p.m. at Bowers Stadium with the Angelo State Rams coming into town. Coming off a disappointing ’06 season in which they went 6-5 (4-2 in conference), the Bearkats are hoping to regain a dominant home-field advantage after a few critical slipups.

“We absolutely have to play better at home this season,” SHSU head coach Todd Whitten said on Wednesday. “We lost three home games last season (Central Arkansas, McNeese State, Texas State-San Marcos). There were times last year where we played better on the road for whatever reason.”

There is little doubt that Bowers Stadium will see an increased fan base this evening and the main reason will be the new man under center, Rhett Bomar. The Oklahoma transfer will finally be unveiled to the Bearkat nation in hopes of becoming another famous quarterback along the lines of Dustin Long and Josh McGown. For Whitten, it has been a moment worth waiting for.

“I’m excited, we’re all excited,” he said. “I can tell you that no one will be more excited than Rhett, though. He’s sat out an entire year and he’s extremely anxious. He’s going to be great.”

The Kats and Rams (members of the Lone Star Conference) have a long history that dates back to 1965 when the two teams first met, with San Angelo winning 19-12. The Rams lead the all-time series 17-12. After a 3-7 record in 2006 under head coach Dale Carr, the Rams are predicted to finish sixth in the LSC’s South Division this season.

Despite those predictions, Whitten still feels the Rams pose a serious threat. “They are a good, solid football team,” said the third-year head coach. “We’ve had good battles for over 20 years. They’re going to be one of the better teams from the Lone Star Conference to come here.”

The Rams are returning their top rusher Daniel Thomas, leading tackler Daniel Smith and their two leading receivers. Sophomore Josh Neiswander is expected to be the starting quarterback after a camp battle with senior Jay Immel. The team does only have five seniors returning and 13 juniors on the roster.

One area of concern that Whitten and his staff is excited to see play out is the wide receiving core of Catron Houston, Darnell Jones and Justin Wells. The three receivers combined for only 17 receptions and 149 yards in 2006. With the departure of seniors Michael Malone and Brandon Perry, Whitten is looking for his young playmakers to step in and make an impact.

“It certainly is an issue,” Whitten said of the receivers. “We need them to step up and grow up in a hurry. They were a big focus in camp.”

More than anything the Kats are ready to hit other guys than their own. “We’re really anxious to get this thing going. We need to see our guys in action so we can see what we need to work on.”

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