First in a series of 2012 opponents for Ole Miss …
As first-year coach Hugh Freeze describes his team as being in the college football “wilderness” right now, there aren't high expectations for wins.
Defeating Central Arkansas in the first game of the Freeze Era will be an expectation, however.
It's not that UCA is not competitive. It's just the whole FCS (I-AA) vs. FBS (I-A) thing. An FCS team winning … well, it happens once in a while.
But it shouldn't happen twice in three years.
And while Freeze and co-defensive coordinator Dave Wommack each say they have about a half dozen players who can compete in the SEC – they're working to develop the rest of the cast – that's still about a dozen SEC players on the roster, which is 12 more than UCA has on its roster.
The Bears are quite competitive at their level, and they've enjoyed stability through the years. Head coach Clint Conque has been at the school since 2000, getting ready for his 13th season. He's 89-51. UCA has gone 45-25 since moving from Division II to FCS.
I remember Conque from his playing days at Nicholls State in Thibodaux, La.
The Bears will break in a new quarterback but return the top two running backs from a team that went 9-4 and lost in the second round of the FCS playoffs.
Jackie Hinton (5-10, 210) rushed for 673 yards and four touchdowns last season. He was followed by Anthony Blackmon (5-10, 206), who gained 302 yards and a touchdown last year.
The big name in the spring, though, was true freshman Wesleigh Foster (5-11, 186), who had a 50-yard run and finished with 120 yards on eight carries in the spring game.
The apparent starter at quarterback will be junior Wynrick Smothers (6-1, 208), who was 7-for-12 passing for 96 yards in the spring game. He also scored on an 87-yard run.
Smothers, a junior, appeared in five games last year, passing for 374 yards, a touchdown and three interceptions.
Ole Miss fans will remember Jesse Grandy, a former receiver and punt returner under Houston Nutt.
A Pine Bluff native, Grandy transferred to a lower division, so he was eligible to play immediately and did not have to sit out the 2011 season. He led the Bears in receptions (49), receiving yards (788), average per catch (16.1) and touchdowns (9). Though he appeared in all 13 games he started only four.
Defensively UCA allowed 28.7 points and 408.5 yards a game last season.