Valdosta, GA - In Matt Pierce's final season at Valdosta State, expectations can't be any higher. The Blazers are preseason ranked number one in the Gulf South Conference.
"We got a lot of guys coming back and I know that everybody has that same sour taste in their mouth," Pierce said. "And we know what to correct from last year in order to make a stronger push toward the end of the year."
The end of the 2011 season wasn't easy to tackle. The Blazers playoff hopes were crushed by North Alabama in the final minute.
"It burns in me, everyday," said Edmund Kugbila, a senior offensive tackle. "It hurts because we know that mental fortitude was the difference between us making the playoffs and being 9-1 during the season."
It's a reminder that provides motivation. Head Coach David Dean said his players physically "in great shape." But he's hoping to have them ready for the mental part of the game.
"We're out here for two hours, a little over two hours, pushing themselves running to the football, running routes with the helmets, with the shoulder pads," Dean said, "and having to think 'what is my assignment? What do I need to do on every single snap?'"
The 16 seniors have accepted that challenge.
"Last year we had a lot of talent and I think guys took that and they just kind of fell off toward the end of the year," Pierce said. "This year I don't that's going to happen. I don't think these seniors are going to allow it to happen."
The Blazers first preseason scrimmage will be next Saturday, August 18th at 3:30 pm.