Everybody in the Southern Conference begins the 2013 season this week, and while several teams are playing up against Football Bowl Subdivision competition — Elon faces Georgia Tech, Western Carolina opens against Middle Tennessee State and Samford faces FBS upstart Georgia State — it’s Wofford who is likely facing the toughest test, in terms of speed, anyway.
In fact, when coach Mike Ayers was asked by a Baylor beat writer about the team speed the Terriers expect to see on Saturday in Waco, Texas, against the Bears, Ayers laughed out loud.
It took him a moment to compose himself, and he mentioned the NFL team whose training camp is on Wofford’s campus in Spartanburg, S.C.
“I’ll put it like this,” Ayers said, still with a hint of a laugh. “The closest we saw to Baylor’s speed was when the (Carolina) Panthers were here for their training camp. We didn’t get to practice against the Panthers, so we don’t know.”
The Terriers (9-4, 6-2 SoCon in 2012) lost quarterback Brian Cass, four offensive linemen and all-everything running back Eric Breitenstein to graduation, but Ayers hopes there’s still enough experience to translate into a successful season.
“We’ve looked over the past decade and tried to find common denominators of success,” Ayers said. “For us, the biggest thing that stood out was that if we start the season with a group of guys who had some experience, and we those were the guys you ended up with, we were winning championships and going to the playoffs.”
The quarterback situation is still up in the air.
“All three of them are going to play,” Ayers said. “As far as who’s the guy right now, we’re still heading in that direction.”
Baylor hosts the Terriers at 7:30 p.m.
A man down and a long trip
First-year Appalachian State head coach Scott Satterfield, former quarterback and long-time assistant at ASU, knows plenty about the Montana Griz. Satterfield knows what happens when the Mountaineers (8-4, 6-2 in 2012) have been to Missoula, Mo., and it didn’t end well.
“We’ve been out there twice,” Satterfield said, “and we’ve not won out there.”
If third time is going to be the charm, Appalachian State will have to do it without last year’s SoCon Freshman of the Year, Sean Price, a wide receiver who caught 81 passes for 1,196 yards in 2012.
Price and teammate Kalik Barnes are suspended indefinitely. Price was arrested for being intoxicated and disruptive, according to the Charlotte Observer.
The date Price’s return to the field is unknown.
“We’re just going to take it day by day,” Satterfield said. “There are several things that he’s going to have to do, and once they have been met, we’ll see see where we’re going to be at that point in time.”
One for the gipper
Samford coach Pat Sullivan will miss the team’s season opener against Georgia State in the Georgia Dome as he recovers from back surgery.
“He’s making progress,” said Bill D'Ottavio, Samford’s defensive coordinator and associate head coach. “He was out at practice a couple of days this week, and he’s coming along well. (The players) understand the situation. I wouldn’t ever say that it’s easy, but we have a plan in place and our kids have handled it well. The bottom line is we all want coach to get better.”
Georgia State plays host to the Bulldogs on Friday at 7 p.m.
Around the SoCon
Chattanooga opens the 2013 season at home against UT-Martin on Thursday at 7:30 p.m., while Western Carolina also opens on Thursday, at 7:30 p.m., against MTSU. Georgia Tech plays host to Elon at noon on Saturday.
There are three games slated for 6 p.m., starts on Saturday — Charleston Southern at The Citadel, Furman at Gardner-Webb and Savannah State at Georgia Southern.
Matt Yogus may be reached at (912) 489-9408.