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This item originally appeared in the June 24, 2004, issue of The Tech Talk.

By KYLE ROBERTS

Sports Writer

Summer is in full swing for the Bulldog football team with only 74 days left until noon kickoff against Western Athletic Conference foe Nevada at Joe Aillet Stadium on Labor Day.

"The summer has been going great," head coach Jack Bicknell said.

"The kids have been working out extremely hard four days a week under new strength coach Yancy McKnight and getting ready for fall camp."

The Bulldogs are coming off a 5-7 season (3-5 WAC) in 2003, their second losing season in a row, but Bicknell said he is looking forward to a good year even with a tough schedule.

"The schedule is extremely challenging," Bicknell said. "It's probably one of the toughest non-conference schedules in the country for sure, and it gets even tougher when you add that to our conference schedule. This year we will play seven teams that made a bowl appearance last year, so that makes our schedule as a whole very difficult. But even so, we're excited to be playing the big teams to get us in the national spotlight and help push our program forward."

Tech's schedule consists of back-to-back road games in September against big name programs in the University of Miami and the University of Tennessee and will hit the road again two weeks later to take on Auburn.

Along with a tough schedule, Tech must find a replacement for four-year starting quarterback Luke McCown, who was selected in the fourth round of the National Football League draft by the Cleveland Browns draft, as well as other graduating seniors.

"We've had a lot of guys step up for leadership," junior wide receiver Eric Newman said. "It seems like there's been somebody in each key area on offense and defense taking initiative over the summer."

Newman finished the 2003 season with 212 receiving yards and one touchdown.

"We're looking to win at least seven games," Newman said.

"That is, of course, if we show up to play. If not we could be in for a long year."

The Bulldogs also have a daunting task of choosing a starting quarterback, as none on the projected depth chart have taken a regular season snap.

"The quarterbacks had a good spring," Bicknell said. "I feel like juniors Donald Allen and Matt Kubik are just a little ahead of red-shirt freshman Zac Champion, but I expect Champion to have great improvement over the fall."

On a positive note, junior Ryan Moats returns after posting 1,300 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns in just 10 starts in 2003.

"We're excited about Ryan," Bicknell said. "He had a great year last year and proved he's an outstanding player. Obviously, this year he will get the ball a whole lot more as he's the feature of the offense right now."

Moats was picked by Collegfootballnews.com as the WAC's Preseason Offensive Player of the Year and is Tech's lone preseason All-American candidate.

"He's a great player and a great person," Bicknell said.

"He's also very exciting to watch, and we're looking for him to have a great year."

Tech also must replace four-year starters Josh Scobee and Dustin Upton on special teams. Scobee was drafted in the fifth round by the Jacksonville Jaguars and ended his career at Tech as the school's all-time scoring leader among Bulldog kickers.

"Special teams are a big question mark going into the season," Bicknell said.

"We're expecting, just like four years ago, for a couple of guys to come in and take starting roles, and right now it's up in the air."

The Bulldogs also hired Tim Rose as the new defensive coordinator to take the place of former defensive coordinator Rick Smith. Tech finished last in the country in total yards allowed in Division 1-A in 2003.

"We're excited about our defense this year," Bicknell said. "We're looking forward to our new defensive coordinator Tim Rose, who brings a lot of energy to the field."

With a change at defensive coordinator comes a new defensive scheme for the Bulldogs: the 3-4.

"I personally believe the 3-4 will be very beneficial for the team," Bicknell said. "It's something that will present problems for opposing offenses. We have the depth at the linebacker position to throw offenses out of sync with different rushers."

Even with all the changes, Bicknell said that he is confident that the Bulldogs will have a good season.

"We are looking forward to this year," Bicknell said.

"There's no question that the coaches and players have had great attitudes. We all believe that we have a good team assembled and our main goal is to win the conference."


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