Bobby Lamb said several times during the offseason that the goal for any college football program is to redshirt most of its true freshmen.
Lamb also said his Mercer program isn’t quite there yet.
So many members of the latest class of Bears who signed in February will be expected to help the team this year. In addition to the seven players who were redshirted in last year’s class, Lamb likes what he has seen out of his new group.
“The new guys have done well, and we’re going to need them,” Lamb said before rattling off names of players who had caught his eye.
The group includes true freshmen Stephen Houzah, a cornerback; Marquise Irvin, a wide receiver; Dorian Kithcart, a defensive lineman; Mitch Mathes, an offensive lineman; Will Coneway, a linebacker; and Chase Westfall, a tight end. And that’s just the start.
The Bears also are counting on many of the players who redshirted last year, and Lamb singled out tight end Sam Walker, linebacker Isaiah Buehler and defensive lineman Austin Wysor.
Again, that’s just a start.
“It’s a blessing that I can be out here,” Buehler said. “My coaches and teammates have been big supporters for me. But my talent isn’t just my talent. It’s my guys behind me, and they’re making plays, and it’s our whole group.
“I’ve been able to get back out here and get back to form. It’s going to take some time, and I know that, but I’m working hard; we all are.”
That includes the true freshman group, and Houzah, who should be familiar to Middle Georgia fans after playing at Lakeside-Evans in GHSA Region 2-AAAAA against Houston County, Jones County, Northside and Warner Robins.
“I like what I see out of the older guys, and they can teach me and show me things, and I’m picking up things well,” Houzah said of his first preseason with the Bears. “I just want to make an impact and play my role. It’s a lot different from high school. They’re showing me the technique and the little things that are going to get us to the next level.”
Buehler thinks his redshirt season took him to another level, and he is ready to prove that in the season opener Sept. 5 at Austin Peay.
“I learned some leadership skills from the guys above me, the D-linemen and the other linebackers and the defensive coaches and our head coach, Bobby Lamb,” Buehler said. “I think I can give (the true freshmen) some knowledge and help them because they’re just like I was, not knowing where to go or what to do or what’s going on. But so far, they have been doing really well and just getting up to speed.
“It’s sort of surreal to think I’ll be finally playing my first college game. Going in, I will probably be a little bit hyped up, and I’m excited to play with this group of guys. If we keep working and keep with the effort, it’s going to show up.”