Above photo by CJ Halloran/@cjhall_photography
BELTON, Texas- There are less than 20 days until the season kicks off for the UMHB football team, and everything is progressing well, according to head coach Pete Fredenburg, who was interviewed on Fox Sports Central Texas Radio on Monday afternoon.
In fact, it may be progressing better than in years past, considering the Cru return the majority of last year’s team, who benefited from the abbreviated five-game spring season that culminated in yet another ASC title.
“Oh my gosh,” Fredenburg told co-host Ward Whites when asked if the spring season had helped his team get further ahead of schedule entering preseason camp. “We’ve got guys that went through seven weeks of spring training in the fall, then they went through a seven week season in the spring. Freshman guys that have had a tremendous amount of coaching, playing and expectations of our program. It is very exciting.”
The enormous depth on this year’s team is a large contributor to that excitement surrounding the program, considering the Cru only lost a total of three starters from the spring. In addition, running back Justin Theriot, a former JUCO All-American who rushed for 148 yards in 2019 but did not play at UMHB last year, has announced he is rejoining the program, as is Aaron Sims, a speedy returner on the 2018 National Championship team.
The addition of Sims is huge for the UMHB special teams unit, which also features the ASC’s reigning Special Teams Player of the Year in KJ Miller. The duo, who last played together in 2018, had a major role in the Cru’s 2018 National Championship, with both averaging over 20 yards per punt return. They combined for eight touchdowns off punt returns; Sims tallying five and Miller with three.
“I can’t remember how many punt returns we had in ’18, but both of those guys are back in KJ Miller and Aaron Sims,” Fredenburg said on Fox Sports Central Texas. “Both are capable of breaking a ballgame open and they’ll also be on kickoff returns.”
A result of the incredible depth on this year’s team is that playing time will be at a premium, something Fredenburg said may make it hard for the Cru’s freshmen to see the field early.
“We’ve probably got one of the strongest groups of freshmen we’ve ever had,” Fredenburg told co-host Ward Whites. “They’re going to have a difficult time getting in on the varsity because we’ve got so many good players back.”
Along with the freshman, UMHB secured multiple transfers during the late spring and summer, all of whom have the goal to compete for playing time. Due to COVID precautions, Fredenburg said that practices have been split up, with the returners getting work in early in the morning while the newcomers see the field in the evenings. This has allowed him and his coaching staff to evaluate the squad’s freshmen and transfers a little closer in the early weeks of preseason camp.
“[The split practices] give [our coaches] a great opportunity to evaluate everybody,” Fredenburg said on Fox Sports Central Texas. “It gives our freshmen and transfers an opportunity to show what they’re capable of doing.”
He noted that the entire team is “enormously confident” here in the early days of preseason practice, which has allowed them to begin the year in stride.
“I think they’re enormously confident right now,” Fredenburg said on the radio broadcast. “They understand what we’re trying to do. Their coaches are all back, the players are back, and it’s a real positive deal that you don’t have to retrain a bunch of guys.
“And again, I feel confident with the quality of freshmen that we have. If we can let them have a year to grow and develop, they’re going to be awesome as well.”
Considering the high number of returning starters, and the number of game reps his team got in the spring, Fredenburg was asked if he will back down the intensity during preseason practice.
“No, we’re going to go full steam ahead,” Fredenburg said on Fox Sports Central Texas. “We feel good about what we’ve got in the personnel. Our expectations, as you know, are very high and our players expect that and that’s what we’re going to do.”