CEDAR CITY — Southern Utah University football opened its fall camp on Thursday. The Thunderbirds are entering their third season in the Big Sky Conference in 2014 and are coming off the program's first appearance in the FCS playoffs in the 2013 season finale.
The team is practicing daily from 9:30 to 11:10 a.m. with two-a-days scheduled for Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, beginning on Aug. 7. The team will break from its routine Aug. 18 through Aug. 20 for Camp Thunder, a two-night team-building activity. The team will then return to its normal schedule on Aug. 21 and continue through the first day of classes on Aug. 25 when it will begin its in-season schedule.
"Going into fall camp we'll be looking to see how quickly the team can get back to where we ended in the spring," head coach Ed Lamb said. "If we can pick up where we left off in those first 10 practices then we will really have the chance to improve."
Lamb, entering his seventh season as head coach, will be looking the most at the offensive line and linebackers where the Thunderbirds experienced the most turnover from last season.
"The least proven groups we have are the offensive line and linebackers," he said. "We will need to see how our young players will develop and who will step forward."
The preparations will lead up to Southern Utah's 2014 season opener at the University of Nevada on Aug. 30, kicking off one of the toughest FCS schedules in the nation. The game in Reno will be followed by another road contest at Southeast Louisiana, a 2013 FCS playoff qualifier, on Sept. 6.
The Thunderbirds will host their home opener on Sept. 13, welcoming South Dakota State (another 2013 FCS playoff qualifier) to Cedar City for Homecoming weekend. SUU then travels to Fresno State, facing its second FBS opponent of the season, on Sept. 20 before returning home to Cedar City to host Weber State in both teams' Big Sky Conference openers on Sept. 27.
Southern Utah will continue conference play at Cal Poly on Oct. 4 and then host Big Sky favorite Eastern Washington on Oct. 11. The Thunderbirds defeated EWU in the previous meeting in Cedar City when SUU upset the then No. 1-ranked Eagles, 30-27, in 2012.
Three more conference games will follow with road contests at Idaho State (Oct. 18) and Sacramento State (Nov. 8) bookending a home matchup with North Dakota on Oct. 25. Those games will lead up to a home game against the University of Montana on Nov. 15, marking the first time that the Grizzlies have met the Thunderbirds in Cedar City.
SUU will close out the season at Northern Arizona — its fifth 2013 FCS playoff opponent — on Nov. 22, playing in the third Grand Canyon Rivalry game for the HintonBurdick Grand Canyon Trophy which has been won by the visiting team each of the past two seasons.
Kyle Cottam is an assistant athletics media relations director at Southern Utah University. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.