August 21, 2017

(STATS) - Russ Huesman was expecting to walk the Richmond campus and introduce himself when he returned as the new head coach in December.

Richmond's defensive coordinator from 2004-08, Huesman left the CAA Football program to become Chattanooga's head coach just three days after he helped the Spiders capture the 2008 FCS national championship.

Much to Huesman's surprise, so much has gone unchanged while he was gone.

"Eight years seems like a long time, but in the grand scheme of things, it's really not," Huesman said. "But in my mind I'm thinking, 'Everybody's gone, it's completely different.' When I decided to take the job, I was looking at all the media guides and supplements and the website, there were 18 people still here between coaches and administrators. I'm walking down the hall and it was like, 'Hey, Russ, how you doing?' That transition made it really, really easy."

What also hasn't changed are the high expectations in the Richmond program, so the transition will get a little tougher for Huesman beginning Sunday night. The Spiders, No. 7 in the STATS FCS Top 25, open their 2017 season in a highly anticipated matchup at No. 3 Sam Houston State.

Both teams advanced to the quarterfinals last season after reaching the semifinals in 2015.

The meeting is the first between the two programs, but it's not that way for either head coach. Sam Houston's K.C. Keeler coached for 11 seasons in the CAA at Delaware, going 5-6 against Richmond. Also, in an oddity, Huesman and the seven staff members who followed from Chattanooga have a second straight matchup against Sam Houston - the Bearkats eliminated Chattanooga in the playoffs.

"We know they're really good," Huesman said. "They've got unbelievable skill kids. They've got probably the best player in college football at the quarterback (senior Jeremiah Briscoe, the 2016 STATS FCS Walter Payton Award winner). We understand the challenge that we have going down there, it will be a big-time challenge."

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