(STATS) - Samford just might be the wild card in a Southern Conference football race that is on the rise again.
The Bulldogs lost plenty of top players after last season, but they have terrific young talent that appears capable of beating any team in the conference.
The spring has been an important time for second-year coach Chris Hatcher's team, which wrapped up its practices with a 90-play scrimmage at Seibert Stadium on Saturday.
"It's an exciting time," Hatcher said. "I think we have a lot of good youth, we have a lot of energy, we have a lot of excitement surrounding the program and we expect to have a big year next year."
Samford finished 6-5 overall and 3-4 in the SoCon in Hatcher's first season in Birmingham, Alabama. But the development of quarterback Devlin Hodges as a freshman suggested he is a future star, and the Bulldogs have the conference's reigning freshman of the year in wide receiver Kelvin McKnight. They return eight starters on offense, including first-team All-SoCon honorees Karel Hamilton (wide receiver) and Armando Bonheur (offensive line), and seven on defense, led by All-SoCon free safety Jamerson Blount.
Hodges threw three touchdown passes in the scrimmage - a 25-yarder to running back Roland Adams, a 10-yarder to running back Justin Curry and a 4-yarder to McKnight. Quarterback Drew Pederson also hit wide receiver Luke Hill for a 4-yard score.
The defense also had big moments, totaling three turnovers and five sacks.
"The defense today looked exceptional, which is good to see," Hatcher said. "We're coming along over there, and we're making some good plays on offense. It was a good day, and we had a nice crowd here and we look forward to the season."
Samford will open its season on Sept. 1 by hosting Mars Hill.