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Harding Football Reports Friday
Harding football expects more than 130 football players are scheduled to report Friday for the first day of fall practice.
The doors open at the Dr. Jim Citty Football and Athletic Training Complex at 8 a.m., and players have until 4 p.m. to report. Following dinner, players will return to the Citty Complex for meetings and physicals.
On Saturday, Harding players will receive their equipment, attend offensive and defensive meetings, and participate in the first practice at 7:30 p.m. at First Security Stadium.
Harding head coach Ronnie Huckeba's 2012 team enters the season on a mission to prove that it is every bit as good as its 2011 statistics showed and much better than last season's record indicated.
In 2011, Harding football led NCAA Division II in rushing yards per game. The Bisons led the nation in sacks, led the Great American Conference in both total offense and total defense, and outscored their opponents by more than 100 points. But all those impressive numbers led to only a 4-7 overall record, thanks in large part to 26 lost fumbles.
The challenge for the 2012 squad is to continue its rushing success in its third season in the flexbone offense while limiting costly turnovers. When Harding runs the flexbone effectively, it is beautiful to watch and nearly impossible to stop.
The Bisons have ranked in the top five nationally in rushing offense each of the last two seasons and produced 38 rushing touchdowns from 13 different players in 2011. But turnovers have been a factor in the final outcome. Harding had a +11 turnover margin in its four wins and a -16 turnover margin in its seven losses.
Senior Kelvin Martin started four of the last five games at quarterback last season and enters as the projected starter. He was second on the team with 540 rushing yards and nine touchdowns in 2011.
The backfield will include sophomore fullback Donatella Luckett, who averaged 6.5 yards per carry and returned two kickoffs for touchdowns last season. The Bisons have numerous options at slot back, including sophomore Ahmad Scott, who averaged 9.9 yards per carry on 29 attempts last season.
Defensively, Harding returns nine starters off a team that recorded a GAC-leading 28 sacks and added 14 interceptions and 10 fumble recoveries. It was a big-play squad that scored a school-record six defensive touchdowns.
Seven of Harding's returning starters are seniors. Defensive end Josh Aldridge led Harding with 12.5 tackles for loss and led the GAC with 7.5 sacks. Nose guard Matt Buehler, at 6-1, 295, is a solid run-stopper and had 27 tackles last season.
Roderick Cohn, who both earned honorable mention All-GAC honors in 2011.
Harding's special teams units will need to fill several openings during fall practice. The Bisons will have newcomers at kicker, punter and deep snapper.
Harding has a difficult schedule in 2012 with only four home games. The Bisons play non-conference games at nationally-ranked North Alabama and at future GAC opponent Southern Nazarene. Home opponents include East Central (9/29), Henderson State (10/13), Arkansas Tech (10/27) and Southwestern Oklahoma State (11/10).