Central Arkansas has no problem finding motivation


POSTED: Saturday, August 22, 2009


Most teams have targets to focus on entering a season.

A conference championship. A postseason berth.

Central Arkansas had neither of those incentives the past three years. Not that the Bears have lacked motivation over that span.

Central Arkansas is entering the last year of the four-year transition period for a program moving up from Division II, meaning the Bears aren't eligible for a spot in the Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA) playoffs until 2010.

But they haven't been content to simply play out the waiting period. Last season, the Bears finished 10-2, with a 6-1 mark in league play, and placed 11th in the FCS national rankings. But Texas State, at 5-2, was recognized as the league champion and went on to the postseason.

“;Our kids got rings and they say 'No. 1' and they earned it on the field,”; UCA coach Clint Conque said.

“;To go through a four-year process, you have to have a very high-character guys in this locker room. They love the game and they show up to play each week.”;

Though they proved they can handle themselves at a higher level, consistently performing at that level is the Bears' next task.







Sept. 4Central Arkansas
Sept. 12at Washington State
Sept. 19at UNLV
Sept. 30at Louisiana Tech
Oct. 10Fresno State
Oct. 17at Idaho
Oct. 24Boise State
Oct. 31at Nevada
Nov. 7Utah State
Nov. 14New Mexico State
Nov. 21at San Jose State
Nov. 28Navy
Dec. 5Wisconsin





The Bears, picked fourth in the Southland Conference's preseason coaches poll, have been hit by injuries in fall camp, hampering the development of an offense looking to replace several key performers.

Willie Landers, the team's top returning receiver, suffered a knee injury in the team's first practice and had season-ending surgery on his ACL on Tuesday.

Quarterback Nathan Dick, a sophomore transfer from Arkansas, has missed practice time due to a triceps injury, while senior Robbie Park has tightened his hold on the starting job.

Park completed six of 11 passes for 111 yards and led two scoring drives in a scrimmage last Sunday. He attempted just 24 passes last season while backing up FCS All-American Nathan Brown, who threw 31 touchdown passes against four interceptions last season.

While Dick started Arkansas' last two games last season—throwing for 333 yards and three touchdowns against Mississippi State—Conque said the Bears will “;hang our hat with Robbie Park.”;

Running back Brent Grimes returns after rushing for 21 touchdowns last season. He'll run behind a rebuilding offensive line led by 6-foot-7, 320-pound senior Lane Friewald.

While the offense reloads, defensive end Larry Hart, the reigning SLC defensive player of the year, returns to lead a unit that led the Southland in scoring defense and returns eight starters. Hart had 12 sacks among his 21 tackles for loss last season. All-conference performer Taylor Scott also returns in the middle of the line. Linebacker James Lancaster had 11 tackles for loss last season.

“;The defense has been the shining star in camp,”; Conque said. “;We have very high expectations for our defense.”;