Booneville, Miss. – The Northeast Mississippi Community College football team is back in town a week earlier than a majority of students and ready to tackle the challenges of a fresh season.
The Tigers, who start their 59th campaign on the gridiron overall later this month, officially reported for the start of fall camp on Monday, August 6. They also completed their inaugural practice of the new year that morning.
"We're excited about the opportunity to get our guys rolling," said Northeast head coach Greg Davis. "We've got a lot of talent and that's very evident. The biggest thing right now is working on team chemistry and finding our niche as a group. I think that will come."
Northeast took the practice field adjacent to Tiger Stadium with no pads and helmets only during its first session of the season. Offense and defense went through individual training and also came together for several drills as well.
The Tigers plan to get a total of six practices in, weather permitting, with a mandatory off date prior to fall semester classes getting underway on Monday, August 13.
"This week by far is as critical as it gets," Davis said. "It's really probably too short. We're going to cram a lot of material in them for five days and then after that it's a review. It's a lot, especially for the freshmen."
The good news for Northeast is that its freshman class is laden with talent, including University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) transfer D.D. Bowie at wide receiver and defensive lineman Isaiah Forte of Montgomery, Ala., just to name a few.
Another area that the Tigers boast a prized newcomer at is in the special teams department. Michael Baugus joins the squad after a sensational career at nearby Corinth High School.
Baugus was a Mississippi Association of Coaches (MAC) Class 4A All-State selection following his senior campaign after averaging 38.1 yards per punt and totaling 41 points between extra points and field goals.
"I've probably never been more excited for a football season in my life," said Baugus. "The guys want to be here. People are here to work and get better everyday. They have high expectations for each other and nobody is allowed to slip up."
Perhaps nobody looked forward to the beginning of fall practices more than returning quarterback Zac Oden, whose true freshman year was halted during Northeast's week two matchup against East Central Community College due to an injury.
The Montevallo, Ala., native completed 17 of 29 passes for 229 yards and a touchdown in just over five quarters prior to his season ending mishap. He was an Alabama Sports Writers Association (ASWA) Class 3A All-State pick at the prep level.
"It's always nice to get back into the swing of things," Oden said. "When you grow up playing football your whole life and that's all you want to do, it's kinda tough sitting out. But I had a good spring and I'm excited for everybody getting out here."
The Tigers will work their way into full pads later this week as they simulate the pace of a game inside the Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges (MACJC) on a daily basis.
Northeast opens the 2018 campaign on Thursday, August 30 at Southwest Mississippi Community College with kickoff at 7 p.m. from John I. Hurst Stadium. The Tigers' first home contest is one week later on September 6 versus Copiah-Lincoln Community College.