Freshman dominate Mercer’s return season

Mercer schedule

Aug. 31; Reinhardt; 6 p.m.

Sept. 14; Warner; 6 p.m.

Sept. 21; Berry; 6 p.m.

Sept. 28; Drake; 1 p.m.

Oct. 5; at San Diego; 4 p.m.

Oct. 12; Valparaiso; noon

Oct. 19; Carnegie Mellon; 1 p.m.

Oct. 26; at Campbell; 4 p.m.

Nov. 2; at Davidson; 1 p.m.

Nov. 9; Jacksonville; TBA

Nov. 16; at Marist; 1 p.m.

Nov. 23; Stetson; 4 p.m.

It took more than 70 years for the Mercer Bears to get back on the football field, but just 27 minutes to sell out their first game.

The Bears will play Reinhardt on Aug. 31 in Macon, and sophomore quarterback John Russ said his team is eager to take the field.

“Everyone’s expectation is to win the game, but we understand that we have a bunch of freshman on this team and that we’re very young.”

Mercer’s last game was a loss to Chattanooga in 1941, before the decision was made to disband the program. Coach Bobby Lamb said this season’s team is stocked mostly with freshman and sophomores.

“We have 61 guys that have been around a year and 34 guys who are brand new,” Lamb said. “The real scary part for us is 61 of (the players) are redshirt freshman and the other 34 are true freshman. … So it’s going to be an interesting dynamic for our year.”

Mercer will play in the Pioneer League with teams such as Drake, Dayton and San Diego. Lamb acknowledged his team will play teams with much more experience.

“You have a lot of really good teams (in this conference) spread throughout the country,” Lamb said. “The different dynamic that we’re dealing with is that they’re all programs that have juniors and seniors and some fifth-year seniors, and we’re playing with all freshman. From a win-lose standpoint you can’t really sit here and say we’ve got to win this many (games), however what we like to do is build a foundation. This is more of a foundational year for us.”

After his team spent 2012 practicing against one another, sophomore tight end Grant Radakovich, the son of former Georgia Tech athletic director Dan Radakovich, said it was hard practicing for the game without actually playing in one.

“Last fall and spring we practiced a total of 17 weeks, and it’s hard to be a football player when you don’t have any games to look forward to, so that’s kind of a reward,” Radakovich said. “It’s nice to put pads on and play a team that’s not ourselves.”

Radakovich said the Bears have put in many hours trying to prepare for the season and beyond, but as preseason camp started some of the players were a little confused entering a new program.

“When we first got here everyone didn’t really know who we had, but now that we’ve gone through some practices we’re starting to figure out who everyone is,” Radakovich said. “We’re pretty strong at receiver. They’re all doing a really great job. I think we’re really growing and developing and when the season starts we should be ready to go.”

Lamb brings 24 years of coaching experience to the Bears, as he coached for Furman from 1986-2010, the last nine years as head coach.

Although they’re young, Lamb said expectations for his team are to develop on offense and defense and set a foundation for the years ahead.

“We’re looking to develop a system on offense, defense and special teams and stick with the system,” Lamb said. “Hopefully develop an identity that we can have throughout our career here at Mercer. The big thing right now we have is to take the time to fix our offensive and defensive skills around the talent that we have, and then you can go recruit to what you have after that.”