HENDRIX: Youth a strength, weakness for Warriors

Conference: Southern Athletic Association
Coach: Buck Buchanan
2012 Record: N/A (resuming football for first time since 1960)

There are more questions than answers yet, but the enthusiasm is high and the excitement palpable as Hendrix College prepares to kick off its first football season since 1960.

When the Warriors play host to Westminster College at Young-Wise Stadium in Conway on Sept. 7, it will mark the school’s first football game since Hendrix defeated Ouachita Baptist, 7-6, in November 1960.

“It’s what you’ve prepared for the whole time,” said Buck Buchanan, hired in March 2012 to resurrect the Warrior program. “You’re always looking to the future, but sooner or later, it’s go- ing to hit you right in the face.”

About 60 freshmen, including just a handful of redshirts, will make up the Warrior roster for 2013, when they’ll play six home games during a full schedule in NCAA Division III. Hendrix will play in the Southern Athletic Association, where it will face foes Birmingham-Southern, Millsaps, Berry, Centre, Rhodes and Sewanee.

With the Warriors not reporting until Aug. 14, Buchanan was not ready at press time to talk with many specifics about personnel. But that is part of the appeal of starting or resurrecting a program, which he has done before at Louisiana College.

“We’re going to evaluate everybody every day,” he said. “Everybody’s a potential starter. That’s also one reason we kept our numbers fairly low for this year. We’ll have close to 60 guys engaged in the program. If they’re engaged, everybody feels like they’re a part. If we have 100 freshmen, that’s all fine and dandy for recruiting, but there’s 40 or 50 who wouldn’t be playing. We didn’t want 50 guys staying in the dorm every night feeling bad about that.”

The Warriors will also lose a couple of their 25 practice opportunities to orientation.

But Buchanan said he believed his staff had been effective in evaluation of recruiting for the non-scholarship program. Academics has to be a big part of that. But he hasn’t been promising starting positions based on recruiting videos.

“I thought we did a good job of selecting very good students and some guys that can really play, but they’ve got to do it on our field now and assimilate to college and do all the little things it takes to be successful beyond high school,” he said. “Everybody’s got to play hard; the question is how long can you play hard? We’ve got to add an extra 12 minutes to everything these freshmen have ever done.”

But a couple of players from the 501 are expected to make their marks on the Warrior program early.

Seth Peters (5-11, 183) finished his high school career as Greenbrier’s quarterback last fall. Jake Steward (6-0, 180), a defensive back from Vilonia, finished 19th in the Arkansas High School Decathlon in May.

“We obviously expect a lot out of Seth,” Buchanan said. “He’s a great local young man, a great student who will be a pre-med major. We feel like we got a good athlete in him and a guy who can be a good leader for us. We’ve got him at quarterback right now, but he is a gifted athlete and has the ability to do more than that.

“Jake is a good leader for the defense. We have him at defensive back, but we could maybe move him to outside linebacker, and he’s as good as gold. He’s a great young man. He’s pre-law, so between him and Seth, we’ve got pre-med and pre-law covered. You couldn’t ask for two better young men.”

The Warriors’ major strength and weakness is the same — youth.

“We will have enthusiasm, and they will be excited to play,” Buchanan said. “Most of the time, freshmen don’t get to contribute. Our biggest strength will be we’ve got smart players. We expect a strength to be knowing what we need to do every day. Now conversely, we don’t want a debate on how to do that. We just want to do it.

“But we know we’re going to pay for some experience along the way with our youth. We’ve got to learn from our mistakes because there are no older guys to teach them, but in the long run we want to build a solid foundation for the future.”

He said the major expectation for the Warriors would be to establish a championship program. That begins this season.

“Short-term, we’re always playing to win, but in the long-term, we’re trying to establish the things it takes to build a program over time,” he said. “We want to be clear and consistent with what we do. If we take shortcuts this year, we’ll never get to where we want to go.

“I think our guys realize the expectations of other people may not be what ours are, but we always want our guys to be overachievers. There’s no NCAA rule that says freshmen can’t win.”

Sept. 7 Westminster (Mo.)
Sept. 14 at Birmingham-Southern
Sept. 28 Southwestern (Texas)
Oct. 5 at Millsaps
Oct. 12 Washington (Mo.)
Oct. 19 Berry
Oct. 26 at Austin
Nov. 2 at Centre
Nov. 9 Rhodes
Nov. 16 Sewanee