MIAMI — After a nine-week break from football activities, more than 140 prospects are expected to register Sunday for the beginning of the July workout session on the campus of Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College.
Mixing academics with athletics, the four-week session of Monday, Wednesday and Friday workouts will feature shorts, t-shirts and helmets. No live drills are allowed.
First year head coach Zach Allen, along with his new coaching staff, will deal with the administrative side of getting the program started on Sunday.
Activities on Sunday revolve around the student-athletes checking into the dorms, enrolling in classes to either get ahead academically or get caught up.
“We want to make sure each recruit is in the right classes and make sure they are where they need to be when classes start Monday,” Allen said. “Then, our coaching staff will make sure they are in the dorms, have a physical (or take one) on file and that their health insurance is up to date.”
“We’ll have 80 players returning from our spring program,” Allen said. “We had a really good, competitive spring. Then we’ll have between 60 to 70 guys that we recruited last February, along with walk-ons and a few guys were looking for a home
throughout the spring.
“We’ll be right around the 140 to 150 number.”
During the down period between the spring and summer sessions, a few Golden Norsemen decided to make the journey to the four-year level.
Although tagged to be a starter at a safety spot, redshirt sophomore Greg McCalister, from Oklahoma City Millwood, transferred to Missouri State University in Springfield.
McCalister ranked fifth overall on the team last season with 36 solo tackles and 19 assists.
He recorded one quarterback sack for minus-11 yards and five tackles behind the line of scrimmage for minus-12 yards.
McCalister also forced one fumble and deflected two passes in 11 games.
Redshirt sophomore defensive lineman Caleb Colvin, from Owasso, signed with North Texas in Denton.
Recruited to NEO in 2016, Colvin missed last year with an injury.
Defensive tackle Forrest Merrill, a redshirt sophomore from Willard, Missouri, joined the Red Wolves of Arkansas State University in Jonesboro. Merrill also played for NEO in 2016 before an injury forced him to the sidelines last year.
“These players were able to reach their goal by coming to NEO, buying into our program and working hard day-in and day-out both in the classroom and on the field to become better,” Allen said. “That’s our ultimate responsibility to help each individual player set goals and reach those objectives.”
Last season the Golden Norsemen finished in a tie with Trinity Valley for the Southwest Junior College Football College regular season title with a 5-3 record.
NEO defeated Trinity Valley Cardinals, 26-10 at Athens, Texas, to win their fifth post-season SWJCFC championship.
Following a 30-20 loss to Independence, Kansas, in the inaugural Midwest Classic Bowl presented by Downstream Resort at Red Robertson Field, the Norsemen posted a 9-3 overall record.
“We will try and hit that ‘fast forward’ button as fast as we can as coaches to return to the aggressive, competitive atmosphere that we had in the spring,” Allen said. “There aren’t any shortcuts.
“As coaches we have to make sure that the new guys understand the culture that’s been built here and the expectations and standards that we’ve set,” Allen said. “Also, we want to make sure that the guys that have been here for a year or two can keep accelerating in their path to their goal.
“It’s a fine line that you adhere to in making sure that everyone is going in the same direction,” Allen said. “Even though starting off it may be a different foot for different players.”
Each assistant coach will make sure that their players are clear of the expectations during the first few days of practice.
“We want them to fully understand what it takes day-to-day to be a college athlete,” Allen said. “Then, we need to make sure that the guys we want to step into leadership roles can instill those responsibilities to a whole new crop of guys.
“If our incoming freshmen have done the work before hand, are in really good shape and is also in the frame of mind that ‘yes, it’s going to be hard, but I’m going to get up every morning and attack the tasks in the classroom, on the field and in the weight room,’ then I would not be surprised at all if we had quite a few freshmen pushing for a starting job,” Allen said.