126 Yellow Jackets reported for preseason workouts on Wednesday and took the field for the first practice on Thursday in 100+ degree weather. First year head coach Roger Geise and his staff look to change things and are excited about the 83 freshman and transfers that will complement the 43 returners this year.
"I am very excited in the athletic ability of this year's freshman class," said head coach Roger Geise. "This freshman class is better than we expected and there will be some that will make a contribution on the field this season."
HPU returns nine players on the offensive side and six on the defensive side. Returning starting quarterback Thomas Head and kicker Mitchell Bailey lead the group of 43 returners. Head played in eight games and started the last several for the Jackets throwing for 383 yards with 3TDs. He also rushed for 298 yards with one TD.
Senior Mitchell Bailey, who was an Honorable Mention All-Conference selection in 2009, will bring experience to the kicking game.
Adrian Lighteard will also be a key offensive returner at running back. Lighteard ran for a team high 681 yards with three TDs in 2011. He caught 10 passes as well with two ending in TDs.
"The returners have retained almost all of what we went over offensively and defensively in the spring which will make for a smooth transition to start the season." Geise added.
The Jackets went 1-9 in 2011 under former head coach Steve Fanara. Howard Payne will kickoff the 2012 season on September 1st at 6:00 pm in San Antonio versus Trinity University. After playing Southwest Assemblies of God University on the September 8th at home and Wayland Baptist University on the road September 15th , the Jackets will take an open week then have a conference game with Louisiana College on September 29th in Pineville, LA.