ACU welcomes 104 players to fall camp

August 2nd, 2017 - ABILENE – Arguably the most anticipated season in ACU football history got its official start Wednesday when the new coaching staff welcomed 104 players for the start of fall camp.

Most of those players have been on campus through most of the summer attending classes and going through workouts, which have been supervised and run by team members.

In a season of firsts, Thursday morning’s might be one of the biggest as the team will practice for the first time on the turf at Anthony Field at Wildcat Stadium, ACU’s new on-campus football home. ACU hasn’t played a game on its campus since a November 1958 game against Howard Payne, which was played at Elmer Gray Stadium because a torrential downpour left the field at Shotwell Stadium an unplayable mess.

The last time ACU had an on-campus stadium to call home was 1938-42 when the Wildcats played in A.B. Morris Stadium, which was located on the site of the current Mabee Business Building on the east side of campus. But the Wildcats will go through 19 practices and three scrimmages between Thursday morning and Aug. 26 before settling in for the 2017 season, which opens on Saturday, Sept. 2, at New Mexico.

Two weeks later on Sept. 16, the Wildcats open their new home stadium when they host Houston Baptist in the Southland Conference opener at 6 p.m.

But the new stadium isn’t the only reason for excitement around the football program. With four years of transition behind it, the Wildcats will be fully eligible in 2017 to compete for a Southland Conference championship and earn a spot in the NCAA Division I FCS playoffs.

And the Wildcats also have a new coaching staff in place, led by Adam Dorrel, who was hired in December 2016 and carries with him the best active winning percentage in college football at 90.5 percent (76-8).

“I’ve tried all day to stay focused on one task at a time and not get too far ahead of myself,” Dorrel said. “But all day my thoughts have been going toward Thursday morning and the first practice. I went for my daily run at lunch and I had a chance to go into the stadium and walk around on the field and that was special.

“The last eight months have been challenging at times, and rewarding at times,” he said. “To finally get all the players here is a good feeling. A lot of people have put in a lot of work to make this day happen and now we get to the good part, which is the X’s and O’s.”

The Wildcats return 44 lettermen, including 14 starters from last season’s 2-9 team. Picked to finish eighth in the Southland Conference by the league’s head coaches and sports information directors, the Wildcats al return first team pre-season all-conference selections in senior middle linebacker Sam Denmark and senior placekicker Nik Grau.

ACU has nine returning starters on offense, and also returns senior wide receiver Carl Whitley, who missed the entire 2016 season after suffering a knee injury in the penultimate game of the 2015 season. According to the defensive depth chart, only three players who finished the 2016 season as starters return in 2017: Denmark, defensive end Dylan Douglass and cornerback Adonis Davis.

However, Bryson Gates – who started at outside linebacker – returns, but is listed as a starter at defensive end. And Royce Moore, who started at safety, also returns, but is listed as the starter at strongside linebacker entering camp.

Grau also returns as the placekicker, although the Wildcats have to fill the punter spot, as well as holder and deep snapper. ACU brought in junior college transfer Simon Laryea from Mesa Community College in Arizona to handle the punting duties, but the deep snapper job is up for grabs, as is the job of holding for PATs and field goals.



• The Wildcats have added 10 four-year college transfers to their roster since Dorrel took over: defensive tackles Daytrieon Dean (Arkansas) and Jaleel Carter (Fresno State), cornerback A.J. Greathouse (Cal), linebacker Christian Jordan (Ouachita Baptist), offensive lineman Bill Weber (Toledo), linebacker Melvin Brown (Memphis), cornerback Aneas Henricks (UTSA), safety Erik Huhn (Texas), safety Charleston White (Washington State), and cornerback Cydney Calvin (TCU). The ACU coaching staff is waiting to hear from the NCAA on the eligibility of two more transfers: one offensive lineman and one defensive back.

• The Wildcats have suffered some casualties since the end of spring training with the defection of offensive tackle Riley Mayfield, who graduated in May and is now playing at North Texas as a graduate student. … The Wildcats also lost their leading returning wide receiver, D.J. Fuller, to eligibility issues. He’s scheduled to redshirt this season and return to the field in 2018. And just two weeks ago, the Wildcats learned that transfer offensive lineman Keaton Bates (SMU) was academically ineligible. He will not return to the program.

• Season tickets for the 2017 campaign are still on sale at ACU director of athletics Lee De Leon said the goal for this year was 1,000 season tickets sold, but that total is already more than 1,600 season tickets. The new goal is 2,000 season tickets. … ACU sold less than 100 season tickets last year in its final season at Shotwell Stadium.

• For those interested in single-game tickets, those will go on sale online on Aug. 16.

• The game time for ACU’s season-opening game at New Mexico has finally been set. The Wildcats and Lobos will get the 2017 campaign started at 6 p.m. (Mountain time; 7 p.m. Abilene time) from Dreamstyle Stadium in Albuquerque, N.M.

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