ABILENE, Texas - Hardin-Simmons' football team reported 167 players for the first day of fall drills.
"We are excited to get going," said third-year head coach Jesse Burleson. "We have put a lot of work since the final game of last year to get to this point and this is where all of that hard work pays off.
"Every position is up for grabs and we are ready to get the best 22 on the field. I probably shouldn't say this, but it is what we believe, we expect to go 10-0, win the conference and go to the playoffs. Looking at anything less sells us short as a team.
"That is not a shot at anyone we play, it will be tough and we know that and are prepared for that. We play two of the top four teams in the nation this year, plus another very good Willamette team and our conference schedule. The road is not easy but we like the challenge.
The Cowboys return a bevy of weapons from an offense that led the nation in passing and was second in scoring a year ago. HSU will have to replace record-setting quarterback Logan Turner.
"We have people that we feel can play with anyone in the country, we have some guys that are as good as we have had in this program. We think we stack up. Obviously, we lost a very good quarterback, but we have several guys in that room that can win football games for us, it is our job to find the right one."
Defensively, the Cowboys took some lumps a year ago, but part of that was intentional and with a stock pile of young defensive players now a year older and more experienced the expectations are high for the defense.
"We knew we were going to have some inconsistencies on defense last year, we played a lot of freshmen and sophomores," said Burleson. "That was by design. We recruited a lot of good players, but they had to learn on the run."
"To get where we want to be we have to be letter defensively and those young guys, who are very talented, received some lumps there is no doubt. That will make us better. We expect that we will be more consistent and we are a year stronger. We expect with this many returners we will be able to build around them and keep getting better."
HSU will open its season on Sept. 6 at Willamette (Ore.) at 9 p.m CST.
Information for this story provided by HSU Athletics.