Few, if any, college football coaches battle attrition more than Eric Brock.
Now in his fifth season as head of Haskell Indian Nations University's program, Brock usually has rosters populated mostly by underclassmen.
So as the Fightin' Indians arrive on campus today for the start of preseason drills Monday, it's hardly surprising when Brock says: "We're expecting a lot from our red-shirt freshmen."
Brock's quarterback will be a second-year freshman. So will his starting running back.
Marlon Dick, a 6-foot-3, 225-pounder from Burns, Ore., won the QB job in the spring when he completed eight of 12 passes for 99 yards in the final scrimmage.
"It's his job to take away," Brock said.
Dick's competition will be Victor Ramos, still another red-shirt freshman.
Ramos, a 5-10, 185-pounder from Phoenix, was running neck-and-neck with Burns in the spring until slowed by an ankle injury. Ramos completed four of seven passes for 58 yards in the last scrimmage.
Dick and Ramos were so promising going into spring that Brock shifted Kaleb Harris, a two-year starter at QB, to wide receiver. Harris threw eight touchdown passes last fall, but also tossed 17 interceptions.
Now Harris has joined the attrition list. The 6-foot, 175-pound junior from Claremore, Okla., told Brock this summer that he planned to transfer to a school in Oklahoma.
"He said it was because we didn't have the degree program he wanted," Brock said. "He wants to go into coaching."
HINU offers degrees in elementary education, but not secondary education.
Even without Harris, Brock still has two quality wide receivers in Kevin Penass and Hunter Smith.
Penass, a rangy 6-3, 190-pound junior from Keshena, Wis., was the most outstanding performer in the spring finale with five receptions for 96 yards and a touchdown. He was the Tribe's second-leading receiver last year with 30 grabs for 225 yards and a touchdown.
Smith, a 6-foot, 190-pound junior from Colcord, Okla., missed half the 2005 season with a rib injury, but had four receptions for 66 yards and a TD in the spring game. Smith caught 23 passes in just five games in '05.
"He was leading the conference in catches before he cracked that rib," Brock said of Smith, "but he's 100 percent now."
Penass and Smith will help soothe Haskell's most notable graduation loss - wide receiver Cody Wilson, who caught 61 passes for 833 yards last fall.
A puny running attack contributed to Haskell's 4-7 record in '05, but Brock expects more balance this fall with Bubba Wills at tailback. Wills is a 6-foot, 200-pounder from Skiatook, Okla., who sat out last season.
In the spring finale, Wills carried only six times and gained 17 yards, but he also showed he can catch the ball out of the backfield when he latched onto a 19-yard screen pass from Dick.
"He's been very consistent," Brock said of Wills. "He's a hard runner, and he accelerates to the hole real fast."
Meanwhile, the offensive line should be solid with the return of senior tackle Kelvin Starks (6-1, 290) and junior center Stephen Morgan (6-1, 240).
On defense, two projected starters - linebacker Antonio Hayes and safety Terrill Denny - were held out of spring work due to injuries, so Brock will watch them closely when drills begin.
Among the other seasoned defenders expected back are senior tackles Blaine Wise and Peter Bitsui, sophomore linebacker Mario Torres and sophomore defensive back Micah Swimmer.
Haskell's top newcomer may be Victor Martinez, a 5-8, 185-pound defensive back from Bartlesville, Okla. Martinez was named the most outstanding player for the Oklahoma team in the Jim Thorpe Indian All-Star Classic last month in Lawton, Okla.
Brock is also high on two other defensive newcomers - freshman linebackers Stacy Nofire (Broken Arrow, Okla.) and Trevor Rouse (Hugo, Okla.).
Haskell's players are scheduled to undergo testing on Monday, then begin two-a-day drills without pads on Tuesday. Sessions are set for 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. to avoid the heat. Pads will go on Thursday.
HINU's opener will be Aug. 26 against Peru State.