Mercer football head coach Bobby Lamb likes what he has seen from his team early in preseason practice and the intensity should increase Sunday when the Bears work out in full pads for the first time this.
The Bears opened practice Wednesday, and they have worked out in shells (helmets and shoulder pads) the past couple of days.
“Full gear is always exciting because as an offensive player you can cut block and as a defensive player you can tackle to the ground,” Lamb said. “That’s always a big step for both sides of the ball.”
Lamb has seen some steps forward through the first few days of practice. There are plenty of key players returning on both sides of the ball, including quarterback John Russ, running backs Alex Lakes and Tee Mitchell and wide receiver Chandler Curtis on offense and Tyler Ward, Tosin Aguebor and Alex Avant on defense.
But there are new names to keep an eye on, including redshirt freshman linebacker Isaiah Buehler and true freshmen like cornerback Stephen Houzah, wide receiver Marquise Irvin, linebacker Will Coneway and offensive lineman Mitch Mathes.
“Traditionally day three and day four are a little bit tougher because everybody’s kind of sore,” Lamb said. “But I really thought they fought through it (Saturday). It’s a little bit warmer here than it was (Friday). They really paid attention, and we really had some good plays out there on the offensive and defensive side. You really can start to see some of the upperclassmen kind of separate themselves because they have been through it, they’re a little bit more mentally tough.
“But we do have some freshmen that are still making plays.”
The Bears finished 6-6 last year, including 1-6 in their first Southern Conference season. They open this season Sept. 5 at Austin Peay.
“I’m very excited,” Russ said. “We’re a year older and a year more experienced; 6-6 isn’t good enough, and that’s what we’ve been preaching. Now we just have to finish.”