But the Southeast Missouri State football team hopes Friday's first practice of preseason camp set the tone for what the Redhawks envision being a bounce-back season.
"It's amazing to be out here again. We were looking forward to it," All-American senior linebacker Blake Peiffer said. "We wanted to come out and start out in a good pace, get the energy up. We want to set the tempo for the season."
Said senior tailback Levi Terrell: "We're glad to be back out here. It really got me excited. I'm ready to see what the rest of this camp brings. Coming off last season, everybody wants to change that. This is a real tight-knit group."
The Redhawks dipped to 3-8 overall and 2-6 to tie for seventh in the nine-team Ohio Valley Conference last year.
Senior offensive tackle Evan Conrad, who is a preseason All-American like Peiffer, said a strong summer of voluntary workouts gave the Redhawks a good boost entering preseason camp.
"We had a really good summer, 60, 70 guys were out here," Conrad said. "You always get excited, especially at the beginning of the year. You get a fresh start, a fresh slate."
Southeast's initial practice of preseason camp was an afternoon session at the Rosengarten Athletic Complex that lasted about three hours. The only equipment donned was helmets, per NCAA regulations for the opening practice.
"I thought it went real well," said sophomore quarterback Kyle Snyder, a transfer from Ohio University who enters camp as the clear-cut starter. "You can tell everyone's pumped. Going into fall camp everybody is always motivated."
Southeast coach Tony Samuel gave the first practice a passing grade. He especially liked the Redhawks' energy and enthusiasm, which he believes is much greater than a year ago.
"The thing that jumps out to me more than anything, this is a real enthusiastic bunch," he said. "An emotional group, more than last year. That can't hurt.
"A lot of them were around this summer. They're kind of used to being around each other. It seems like there's a lot of retention."
Samuel said he thought the Redhawks handled the heat and humidity well.
"We had a fair amount of plays for the first, hot practice," Samuel said. "They're in good shape. Now we've got to get them in football shape. When we get the pads on, we'll have a good feel for the conditioning."
Southeast won't have to wait long for that. The Redhawks' initial full-pad workout will be Tuesday, which also marks the first of four two-a-day sessions. The first of two scrimmages is set for Aug. 11.
The Redhawks open the season Aug. 30 at Football Bowl Subdivision member Central Michigan, which reportedly is paying Southeast $300,000. The money goes toward the university's general athletic department revenue.