The UCA Bears’ football team is eager to begin their season, in a new conference with sixth year senior Breylin Smith at quarterback, and wide receiver Lujuan Winningham returning as well.
Starting on September 4 vs. Arkansas State at Jonesboro, the Bears will begin their season in what some would call a stronger conference than what the team is usually up against.
When asked if this new conference schedule could be daunting at all, head coach Nathan Brown responded: “I think we are just excited about the change. When there is something new it always gives you renewed energy and excitement. I think the A-Sun conference has the potential to be one of the best FCS conferences in the country. We are very excited to be a part of it.”
Wide receiver Lujuan Winningham also believes the new conference is something to be excited for the team. “I think everyone’s excited, seeing the same faces and jerseys you used to every year gets boring sometimes. We’re going out to prove we’re the team we say we are despite who’s across from us.”
This is the first season the football team gets to play after having a shortened football schedule the previous season due to covid. This means the team will be returning to a full crowd of fans in a normal fashion- but with masks included.
“It’s always fun playing in front of a bigger crowd, the atmosphere kind of gets me going. But after the purple and grey scrimmage we had you can definitely tell that it’ll be a fun year” (Winningham).
Coach Brown expects the crowd to be a huge factor moving forwards this year as well. “As far as I know most venues will be full capacity and that excites fans. A lot of people have
gone over a year without being at a live event so I would expect a lot of excitement and energy from not only our crowd and fans but the opposing teams we play.”
Though some of the opposing teams may have just as much energy from the crowd, Coach Brown has confidence in his players- including quarterback Breylin Smith.
“I have always had confidence in Breylin. He is a special player with some of the best QB skill sets I have ever been around. I think about the world of Breylin and how he leads our team. I am excited for him to have a huge year on and off the field.”
Lujuan Winning is confident in the team as well. His personal expectations for the offense led by himself, Tyler Hudson, and quarterback Breylin Smith are set high.
“The expectations going into this year are the highest they’ve ever been for us. We feel like this is our year in a sense, but we just have to go out there and do what we’ve always done and deliver.”
After having a shortened football schedule the previous season, players are relieved to be back to a full 12 game schedule.
“It’s relieving that we’re able to get back into routine. “We still managed to play 9 games last year so it won’t be that much of a getting used to period towards the end but it definitely feels good returning back to normalcy” (Winningham).