SHAWNEE—While the Bison are still in camp, salivating for their first game, one practice is in the long-term plans for Oklahoma Baptist University’s (OBU) football coaches and players.
“We have a goal to practice on Nov. 13,” said Bison head coach Chris Jensen. “We have a goal to be practicing after Week 11. To be able to do that means our season is continuing. It means we’re in a bowl game or in the playoffs.”
OBU is coming off back-to-back 2-9 seasons. They’ve been near the bottom of every preseason Great American Coaches poll. Those were years without a NCAA postseason possibility.
“The preseason polls are other peoples’ opinion, and we don’t define ourselves based on what other people think,” Jensen said. “We haven’t talked about the poll. Our goal is to be the very best we are capable of being. We’d love to be Oklahoma state champs—to win every game against Oklahoma schools and we have a goal of a Great American Conference (GAC) championship. We want to win on the football field, but there are other things we want to get better at. You always have to get better on and off the field.”
Team chemistry will be an important aspect of the team’s success and the early signs look amazing. After a full week of camp—after the depth charts were released and a pecking order started taking shape—all 122 football players that moved in Aug. 4 were still in camp.
“Chemistry has been really good,” Jensen said. “I’m really pleased with how everyone has come together. I think the returning guys understand that part of their jobs is to bring the younger and new guys in. We realize the establishment of family. That’s a credit to our older players I think it was a benefit to bring guys in at the earliest possible date was good. It let us do some team building and we’re still 100 percent still here.”
Returning at quarterback is Dez Stegall, who established school records last season with 2,255 passing yards, 2,414 yards of total offense, 118 completions and 19 touchdown passes.
The running back slot could be as exciting as last season when Isaiah Mallory rushed for a school-record 1,083 yard and nine touchdowns, earning first-team All-GAC honors.
What the defense lacks in experience, it is making up in the excitement of possible playing time for new players.
Defensive lineman Houston Tyler and linebackers Tanner Robertson and Dante Foster return as starters, along with part-time starters Jason Lee, Dennis Nguyen and Matthew Tigert, but Tyler, Robertson and final game two-deep cast member Patrick Boxie started camp on the sidelines.
The coaching staff, headed by Jensen with offensive coordinator Grant Gower and defensive coordinator Paul Smith, who has been a part of the program since 2013, includes long-time members Jason Melot, Brandon Morris and Greg Gothard, as well as second-year coach Christian Doty. Justin Gordon and Alec Petrocelli joined the staff in time for Spring Practice, with student assistants Clark and Gage Wimer also on board, with Brady May joining the staff this summer.
The opener is Sept. 2, at home, against East Central University in a contest that will be streamed live by ESPN3. It marks the first Bison football game ever as a full member of the NCAA. That distinction means the possibility of a postseason and that has caused a bit of a stir.
“I think there is a (higher level of excitement) just because of the possibility of what’s out there. Living with any potential for restriction is in the back of your mind. Having that lifted does create a different level of excitement,” Jensen said.
And the bar is raised and a goal set for a Nov. 13 practice date.