After back-to-back 5-6 seasons, Southwest Missouri State coach Randy Ball hopes the Bears don't roll a turkey this fall.
If the Bears do improve, it will be in large part because quarterback Austin Moherman and tailback Janson Ringena are back for their senior seasons.
Austin Moherman, a 6-foot-5, 220-pounder from Newport Beach, Calif., set an NCAA I-AA record with 20 straight completions against Indiana State last season.
Moherman threw for more than 1,900 yards last fall, but will miss SMS player of the year Jeff Hewitt who hauled in a school-record 18 touchdown passes during his three-year career.
Wide receiver Sean Adams is back for his senior year with 75 career catches, but Antonie Reed is the only other letterman wide receiver.
Ringena, a 5-11, 200-pounder from Iowa City, Iowa, has led the Bears in rushing each of the past two seasons. He had 944 yards in 1999 and 870 last season despite being slowed at mid-season each year by shoulder injuries.
Junior Beno Gore, a former Olathe North standout, is a back-up tailback.
The offensive line returns four starters from last year, plus all-Gateway Conference candidate tackle Justin Craun will return after missing last year with an injury.
The defense is led by ends Mario Turner and Enoch Smith, while Anthony Teal spearheads the linebacking corps. Linebacker P.J. Jones and safety Mike Gailey will also have an impact on defense, which returns five starters.
Kicker Brian Long made 28 of 29 extra point attempts and 11 of 17 field goals attempts to lead the Bears in scoring last year with 61 points.
SMS last had a winning season in 1996, when it was 7-4.