Head coach Adam Dorrel is optimistic as the Wildcats begin preparation for the new season, finishing its 2019 bout just 5-7.
“I’m just excited to be back talking football,” Dorrel said Wednesday. “I’m very proud of our institutions, starting with our president and athletic director. I feel like they’ve been very forward-thinking throughout all this. They’ve put us in a position to have football this fall.”
Southland conference commissioner Tom Burnett said the conference football season will proceed as scheduled. Fan attendance will ultimately be left for each university to decide.
The Wildcats allowed nearly 30 points per game to opponents last season. While losing some key pieces last year, senior linebacker Jack Gibbens is hoping to be a positive part in rebuilding the defense.
“We definitely lost a lot of production off our defense last year,” Gibbens said. “We don’t have a lot of guys who have taken a ton of snaps, so we’re just reinstalling our defense from scratch and just really hammering home the basics.”
Gibbens was one of two Wildcats to post over 100 total tackles in the 2019 season.
Junior wide receiver Kobe Clark is expected to be a key piece on offense for the Wildcats. In 2019, Clark broke ACU’s single-season receptions record and hopes to continue his success on the field as a leader.
“I think the biggest thing is vocal leadership,” Clark said. “I’ll voice my opinion on whatever I think I need to voice it on. Obviously I need to help [the offense] get into the playbook as well, and a lot comes down to recognizing coverages.”
COVID-19 impacted football camps and canceled spring ball. Because of the virus, Dorrel is focused on slowly getting his team back into the normalcy of a typical season.
“We’ve made some adjustments on how we’re going to practice,” Dorrel said. “We’ve just taken the approach that this football season is going to be a marathon, not a sprint, and we have to be really smart on how we’re going to train. We’re really going to dive into fundamentals early in August.”
Following former quarterback Luke Anthony’s decision to transfer from ACU, the quarterback slot remains open and it’s unknown who will ultimately fill that hole for the Wildcats.
“We have four guys in our program right now I’ve been very impressed with,” Dorrel said. “If you want to have a good offense, you have to have a strong leader in that room. I think all four of those guys have done a really good job; It’s going to be great battle.”
Junior quarterback Sema’J Davis is the only Wildcat quarterback to start a game for ACU. Davis replaced an injured Anthony Oct. 5, 2019 against Lamar. Davis went 18 for 26 for 159 yards and two passing touchdowns. He also carried the ball 10 times for 65 yards.
Meanwhile, junior transfer Payton Mansell sparked interest to some after being highly recruited out of high school. Mansell ultimately committed to Iowa and saw limited minutes in his time with the Hawkeyes.
In his two seasons, he completed five of his eight passes for 83 yards and an interception. He also ran eight times for a total of 31 yards and a touchdown.
The former three-star recruit will have the chance to compete for the starting job in the coming weeks.
ACU is scheduled to face Texas A&M at College Station Sept. 5.
“I’m really excited to get going again,” Dorrel said “This is going to be my 20th year with college football, and I’m really as excited as I’ve been since my first year coaching college football.”