This time last year, Tosin Aguebor was preparing for his first season in the Southern Conference, along with his teammates for the Mercer football program.
But Aguebor didn’t get the chance to compete against the Southern Conference programs after he went down with an injury in the preseason and missed the entire 2014 season. The junior linebacker continued his road back from that injury Wednesday as the Bears opened preseason practice at Five Star Stadium.
“It feels real great,” Aguebor said. “The last time I was out here pretty much was spring, and before that was fall camp, so just being out here with the team again is a great feeling knowing we’ll be working for something great this year.”
Aguebor was one of the original Bears, and most of the members of that group are entering their junior seasons. They led the Bears to a 10-2 finish in 2013 and a 6-6 record in 2014. The Bears were 1-6 in their first Southern Conference season.
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“It’s hard to believe they’re entering their fourth year, and if they decide to come back next year, and most of them will, they will be back for a fifth year next year,” Mercer head coach Bobby Lamb said. “That’s incredible to think about that.”
This year’s Mercer team includes the seven players who redshirted last year and 19 players who signed with the program in February. The Bears continue to grow their scholarship numbers to the 63 allowed in FCS play. They had 38 last year and will have 53 this season.
“It’s a great time for competition, and we’re going to see a lot of competition out here in our preseason camp, and that’s one of the things that is exciting,” Lamb said. “You have to make plays in practice in order to make plays in the game, so we have to trust the guys in practice, and therefore they’ll play in the games.”
The Bears open their season Sept. 5 at Austin Peay before hosting Stetson on Sept. 12 in their home opener.
“The first day is always exciting because it’s the first day,” Lamb said. “Unfortunately, we had to put on what I call the pajamas, helmets only. Basically it was a learning curve for our young freshmen. They have been here for five weeks, but it’s a different intensity when the coaches are out here, and I thought our leadership, our upperclassmen, did a great job of hanging in there and pulling those guys through.
“Like I told them at the end, we have to have all 95 of them on the same page, and until you get all 95 on the same page, you have a ways to go. We have a little bit of work to do, but that’s what preseason camp is for.”